Marvel’s Avengers is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. Joseph Pugh conducted this review on a standard PlayStation 4 system.
This review contains a lot of gifs, you may need to allow them time to load properly if you have a slower connection. Note, the compression on the gifs does reduce the quality but was required to lower the file size. This review contains spoilers that were revealed during the games marketing.
Avengers is an action-adventure superhero game that you can play solo or in online co-op with up to three friends. You step into the shoes of six Avengers in a story-based campaign and a bunch of missions under the Avengers Initiative.
Each Avenger has their own skill trees and gains levels over time. You also acquire gear that influences your hero’s statistics and can come with various perks. This allows you to kit out each Avenger according to your own play-style and preferences.
Much of the game is focused on taking the fight to the bad guys as popular superheroes in one of the most physically satisfying combat systems in gaming to date.
The game’s opening is incredibly cute and instantly connects Marvel fans with the game’s protagonist, Kamala Khan. The first time you take control of Ms. Marvel is five years before she takes on that moniker. Back when she was just an eager fangirl who was absolutely stoked to meet her favorite Super Heroes on Avengers day.
You walk through the celebration as she loses her mind at all the cool superhero stuff. Her interactions with the big heroes themselves is super adorable. The entire opening has a ton of nods to the source material and possible hints at things to come in post-launch content.
Her personality permeates the entire game, even when she fights alongside the Avengers. She remains a young super fan trying to come to terms with herself and her relationship with the heroes she idolizes, while also witnessing their flaws and conflicts. Her voice actress does an incredible job playing the part believably and will easily win your affection.
It’s an interesting perspective to view the Avengers from as this isn’t an Avengers origin story. They have been established for a long time prior to the game. It is Kamala, like the player, that is new.
You don’t just play as Kamala in the campaign. You take on the role of every Avenger during the story. The rest of the cast does an equally great job at portraying their characters. Notably, I was most concerned about Tony Stark.
The game is modeled after the comics more than the movies, but it’s impossible to separate certain aspects, and it speaks to Robert Downey Jr’s talents that it’s so difficult to remove him from the character. Yet Nolan North is able to suit up without breaking a sweat.
Tony Stark is the cheesy, self-absorbed, and sarcastic genius everyone loves. The first mission where you play as Iron Man (aside from the prologue) captures his essence perfectly, and by the time Tony made a “It didn’t spark joy” joke, I was already sold.
Much of the campaign’s missions play out like something you might see in the Uncharted games with big set pieces and cinematic moments, all without ever sacrificing the gameplay.
Most of them are tailored to one of the six Avengers, and the whole campaign is an enthralling experience. It ends with a really neat boss fight where you switch between each of the Avengers at different points throughout the battle that I really enjoyed.
Super Powered Beat Down
In one mission, I charged an AIM keeper as Captain America and super kicked him. The fool flew backwards from Cap’s superhuman strength and collided with a railing, flipping over it like a scene straight out of The Winter Soldier.
I sent one robot slamming into a wall with a swing of Thor’s mighty hammer before throwing it, as it collided with another foe, the force carried it through the air. When they slammed into a wall, it remained pinned by Mjolnir’s immovable weight while I punched another idiot dumb enough to attack the Son of Odin.
I dove through the air like a fighter jet as Iron Man, unleashing a bombing run of rockets before switching to repulsors to take out a few wall-mounted turrets. Then switching to lasers, I dove downward into the fray, spinning stylishly and hitting a swath of enemies before calling in the Hulk Buster suit to do some smashing.
The combat in Avengers is physical and weighty. You can send enemies flying with a ton of attacks, and they crash into objects and each other in a very satisfying manner. They even take additional damage and stun from the impact. Bits and pieces from the robotic enemies shatter and fly off in a satisfyingly destructive manner.
A lot of objects break or explode, and pretty much every fight in the game feels like a big battle you would find in the MCU. The enemies mostly consist of humans and robots from AIM. But there is a massive variety within those archetypes, and each one requires a different approach.
Some enemies might freeze you with cryo-tech, fire homing rockets, or phase and teleport around. Many of the robots feature superhero-like powers to match the Avengers on equal footing. The combat can actually be quite challenging for a game with such mainstream appeal.
If you just want to beat stuff up, you can always turn down the difficulty. Otherwise, you have to learn the ins and outs of each Avenger and the enemy types, what attacks you can dodge, which ones can be countered or what projectiles can be shot down. You can’t simply button mash, and you have to stay aware of the battle raging around you. Spamming the dodge or counter buttons won’t work either, they have to be properly timed.
You can freely target enemies by aiming the stick toward them, even mid-combo. And you can cancel out of animations to dodge. Each Avenger shares a similar core. Meaning they can perform combos and dodge, but they otherwise play and feel very differently.
This makes each combat encounter a type of puzzle, as you identify what enemy types you need to target first and how to flow your combat plan together. In addition to normal damage, you also inflict stun on enemies, and when the stun meter is full, you can perform a cinematic high damaging take down that also heals you.
Healing is another aspect you have to take into account. Your health (called willpower) doesn’t normally regenerate, but take-downs can help refill it. You can also find health picks ups in the world.
The chaotic yet smart nature of the combat means teamwork can go a long way. A person playing Iron Man should prioritize the ranged and aerial enemies while also taking out turrets for example.
Don’t fret if you want to play solo though. The AI companions are exceptionally competent and carry the skills and gear you give them. They won’t win for you, and they do occasionally go down (but so do players). Yet anytime I caught a glimpse of them, they were doing what they were supposed to do, and it further added to the massive battle feeling.
They are also great about picking you up if you go down, and more than once something would happen that would make me smile. Such as knocking an enemy in the air as Cap, only to watch Thor’s Hammer collide with it and carry him away a moment later.
I have no problem recommending Avengers as a solo game, it’s how I played most of the time. Though this was due to a scaling system I disagree with. When my partner decided to play with me, it was not enjoyable for either of us.
The enemies scale to the lowest player. She was power level 1, and I was in my 50s when she first started. This made me invincible and able to one-shot every enemy in the game. A more elegant solution would have been to scale a players power up or down, not the baddies. Luckily I found the AI to be more than enough company to be enjoyable.
The overall combat feels incredible and does the Avengers name justice. It honestly feels like one of the best combat systems on the market, and the physical nature of it makes it incredibly satisfying. It looks badass, and the better you get at the game, the better it looks.
Meet the Team
The six Avengers the game launches with have a surprising amount of depth with three skill pages each, and they all play differently.
For example. Ironman can fly and has a variety of ranged attacks from his repulsers, to lasers and rockets with moves sets using them all. He excels at taking out turrets and ranged enemies and can easily bounce around the battlefield.
Thor can fly too but has a slight delay as he winds up his hammer. His ranged attacks are more limited but powerful. He can throw his hammer, and it carries foes with it, pinning them to a wall until he recalls it. You have complete control over the hammer, where to throw it, and when to recall it. You can even make it strike enemies on its way back.
Black Widow has a variety of guns, from rapid-fire machine guns to a heavy hitter magnum. She has less knock-back than other heroes but functions a lot like a rogue with high single target damage. She can also latch on to foes with her grappling hook and do a variety of acrobatic attacks.
Every hero also has three heroic moves that charge up and can be used. For example, Ironman can do an electrical overload burst, a powerful chest beam, and summon his Hulk Buster suit for a limited time.
Each hero is fun and plays exactly how you would imagine them to, with the exception of the Hulk. The big green guy is still fun to play but feels off compared to the rest.
This is because he was built like a tank. With high regeneration through his rage and the ability to taunt foes, he can do some very Hulk-like things. He can rip the ground up and throw it, and pick foes up to use as a weapon. Yet he has the least knock-back of any hero aside from Black Widow when he should really have the most, and it feels wrong.
I understand the concept, if a Tank knocks away enemies, the tank has to chase them, which is usually bad design. But it’s the freaking Hulk, Hulk smash! It’s also weird to dodge as the Hulk, and doesn’t look right as the big lumbering giant deftly lurches to the side. His rage can counter and parry some attacks, but he still has to dodge the un-blockable ones. It’s weird.
Yet he too remains fun to play, even with his oddities, and like all the Avengers, his style feels different. If you ever tire of playing a single hero, you can simply switch and feel fresh again.
Every Avenger has three skill pages, the first one has your combat moves, the second one affects your heroics, and the third can alter other aspects. Some of them do have passive effects, while others can drastically change how something works.
Most of the specialty and mastery trees have multiple-choice skills. You pick one of three different features to have active, though you can switch them later. For example one of Black Widows’ heroic moves is Widows bite, she launches an orb of electricity from her gauntlet.
You can change that to an electrical dart that sticks to a single enemy, or a super-powered electric punch that sends foes flying with extreme force. I even found that the passive benefits were extremely helpful to my playstyles. I have my Ironman outfitted to be good with rockets and in the air.
I have my Kamala Khan specialized in making enemies drop health orbs. While my Black Widow gains heroic orbs via takedowns, so I have her ready to stun and takedown singular foes to keep her heroic moves charged up.
Each Avenger has enough mechanical depth to very nearly, but not quite match heroes such as Insomniac’s Spider-Man in his solo game. But, very nearly is just fine when you have six to choose from, and even more on the way post-launch.
Gear also influences your hero and to a large degree. They come with statistical alterations as well as perks, and both can matter. I say “can” because if you want nothing to do with the system you can play on lower challenge levels and just ignore it. Simply hit the “Equip best gear” button, dismantle the rest and go back to kicking bad-guy ass.
But if you want to play higher challenges levels, you can really dig into the system. Gear is separated by hero and is not related to cosmetics. Each hero has a bunch of stats, and by paying attention to the ones you want to increase, you can really spec your hero out.
I have my Iron Man kitted for pure ranged carnage. But I could make him melee-based, or supercharge his heroics and focus on Hulk Busting. Gear, especially higher tier pieces, come with perks.
Some of them are percentile-based chances to trigger a buff, others increase damage. But some are more unique, such as inflicting status effects.
Each status effects does something different. Cryo slows enemies significantly, while Pym Particles comically shrinks them, reducing both their damage and defense. But status effects also have either positive or negative charges. Striking an enemy affected by one, with the other, inflicts an explosive amount of exploit damage. It’s a really cool combo you can work into your builds.
It’s a lot of fun chasing loot and builds. My Hulk is all in on tanking so I gave him gear with high resolve and willpower. I choose skills that helped him heal and I gave him Pym particle gear for his power attacks.
So I will often jump into a large group of baddies, taunt them, then unleash some ground pounding shock waves to shrink a bunch of them at once.
I am currently trying to acquire anti-gravity gear for my Iron Man, which can make foes float helplessly in the air. Sounds like good target practice.
Gear doesn’t truly matter until higher levels, even on higher difficulties and it’s not something everyone will enjoy. But with the difficulty settings, it’s implemented in such a way that everyone should be happy. I can dig into it, because I love that kind of thing, while other people can ignore it. Options are great to have.
Once you complete the main story, you are free to take on the Avengers Initiative, a variety of missions that can change day to day or week to week. You can start Avenger’s Initiative at any time, but it does take place post-campaign.
In fact, a few of the mission chains continue to have story-lines, setting up the foundation for content that’s going to be added for free later on. At this point, you will either fall down an Avengers rabbit hole or fall off, and there isn’t a right answer.
The missions can change or have modifiers, but you are mostly just fighting AIM with some side objectives. That’s honestly okay, we’re not here to water crops or solve puzzles. Were here to use superpowers.
You can do quick Drop Zones that only last a few minutes or bigger open hubs where you can look for loot and do side objectives on the way to the main one. You can find Vault keys to take on loot heavy Vault Missions, Villain Sectors ending in a boss fight, or massive Hives that are basically waves of foes on each floor.
Because the combat is so phenomenally good, I’m at around 80 hours, and the repetition hasn’t set in yet. The environments do repeat a bit, but it hasn’t impacted my enjoyment much, if at all. It’s dressing on the cake that is spectacular superhero combat. While more variety will be nice as more content is added, it’s not strictly needed, yet.
I like to compare the games current end game style to something like Warframe, or even Monster Hunter. If you enjoy fighting the same monster a few times to get that one plate in Monster Hunter World, you will be right at home in Avengers.
Aside from gathering resources and faction daily missions, You can also use in-game currency to buy some gear or cosmetics. Each Avenger also has a challenge card full of cosmetic goods and resources. You get weekly and daily challenges for each Avenger that slowly level up your challenge card.
The challenge card can give you new costumes, emotes, takedowns, resources, and even premium currency. You can use premium currency either earned from your challenge cards or bought with real money to buy premium cosmetics.
Now, all future content is free, new heroes, new missions, and whatnot. That content is being funded purely through these cosmetics and buying an optional challenge card from newly released heroes when they drop.
I find this system to be very fair. Otherwise, you would be paying for that future content directly. The game isn’t stingy about cosmetics either, you earn a ton through the campaign and your challenge cards. I do have one gripe, however, takedowns.
Takedowns arguably influence gameplay, and each character only has two by default, with a third that can be unlocked via challenge cards. They look cool, but more variety would be nice. I don’t approve of additional takedowns being locked behind microtransactions, but I’m on board with the rest.
In any case, the replayable missions are fun, but they aren’t the same quality as the campaign. Yet there is plenty there to keep you busy, especially if you enjoy the combat and character builds as much as I do.
It won’t last forever, repetition will set in at some point, but that’s inevitable for any game. It should hold you over until new content is released unless you play all day every day. By that point, you have gotten your money’s worth. Arguably, you may have gotten that by the time you’re done with the campaign anyway.
Avengers is an unabashedly great game, full stop. It nails superhero combat to the letter with six mechanically deep and different Avengers with a great campaign and an endgame sandbox to chase loot while taking part in the fantastic combat.
That doesn’t make it perfect, and I ran into my share of bugs on the PlayStation 4 version. They were nothing game-breaking, but they could be irritating at times. Nothing a reloaded checkpoint wouldn’t fix. Additionally, in the biggest fights, I noticed some framerate drops but nothing debilitating. Toward the end of the campaign, a few subtitles didn’t match up with spoken dialogue.
I’m 80 hours in and still hopping on every day to chase my hero challenges and to further my build ideas until the first content drop releases. Since the initial six Avengers were made so well, I eagerly await every new hero to release, and I’m definitely ready to see how Kate Bishop plays.
Avengers misses the mark of true perfection, but only just. It’s still phenomenal with one of the greatest combat systems out there. It’s the Avengers game I’d hoped I would get for the last decade. If you’re a Marvel fan, this is a must-have.
Interested in a Marvel tabletop game? Check out my review of the Marvel Champions LCG, a card game.
- Phenomenal top of the line combat system with weight that makes you feel like a superhero
- Six playable Avengers with a lot of mechanical depth and different play-styles
- The gear system allows for interesting builds or it can be ignored on lower settings, options are good
- Great campaign, story, and voice-overs
- Competent AI makes playing solo viable and fun
- The large and well-done variety of enemy types makes combat a chaotic and fast-paced puzzle
- Lots of cosmetics to earn in the game and a mostly fair premium cosmetic system funding future content
- Difficulty settings present
- Challenge cards are neat
- Some bugs and framerate drops
- Hulk needs to feel more powerful
- Takedowns for a premium currency is a no-no
- Environments can be repetitive
- Multiplayer scaling sucks