WHAT IS IT? A co-op focused looter-brawler set in Marvel’s Avengers universe
EXPECT TO PAY $60
DEVELOPER Crystal Dynamics
PUBLISHER Square Enix
REVIEWED ON Radeon 5700XT, Intel i7-4790K, 16GB RAM
As I continue chip away at Marvel’s Avengers after its campaign ends, and its hearty story recedes in the rearview mirror to be replaced by the stark plains of samey missions, it reminds me of the duality of so many superheroes. It straps on its tightest, glossiest spandex for the campaign and dazzles with its moves, but once that adventure ends and it returns to the daily grind of a multiplayer-oriented endgame, it blurs into the crowd. Inoffensive, yet indistinguishable but for IP it’s adorned with.
The frustrating thing about Marvel’s Avengers is that for the first few hours, you see hints of what it could have been—a visually spectacular and narratively wholesome adventure that does service to the IP—before its functional but unoriginal gameplay loop really takes over and you realize that that’s the actual game you’ll be spending most of your time with.
The campaign offers a simple story, following future Ms Marvel Kamala Khan as she seeks to reassemble the Avengers following a disaster that creates a wave of new superheroes labelled as ‘Inhumans’. You’re pitted against MODOK, who’s intent on wiping out all Inhumans with the help of AIM’s Scientist Supreme Monica Rappaccini and her huge army of robots.
A pretty regular Marvel setup then, albeit animated, voice-acted, and written right up there with the best games of this generation (it was made by the same lot who made Tomb Raider, after all). I found myself actively looking forward to the cutscenes and snippets of in-game banter, wooed by the harmony of acting and animation that trickles right down to a level of nuanced expressions and body language rarely seen in the medium.
The relationship between Bruce Banner and Kamala Khan, for instance, unfolds beautifully. Banner’s unsure body language, and the mix of irritation and avuncular care he shows towards Khan—whose chirpy teenage optimism is just what 2020 needs—is a masterclass of voicework and mocap. It also elegantly addresses the fact that, to a 30-plus curmudgeon like me, the fresh-faced Khan can be kind of annoying, but her convincing character arc soon gets me completely onboard.
Given the amount of big names the campaign has to introduce, it’s understandable that not all the relationships get the same level of attention, but each character still comes with their own sass and big personality that punctuates your progress as you bring the Avengers’ floating command center back to life. The villain MODOK, with his pustulant, hypertrophic head that seems to swell up with every scene, is brilliantly brought to life, turning one of Marvel’s goofiest-looking characters into a memorable, eerily soft-spoken villain.
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