Perhaps the biggest surprise of Square Enix's recent showcase of upcoming titles is that it caused a spike in the player base for Marvel's Avengers.
Fresh off of confirmation that Black Panther is coming (and bringing a slice of Wakanda with him), it felt like the game actually got more of a buzz than it did when it launched.
Of course, it wasn't just the promise of future content, though. It was a combination of Hawkeye's arrival, and the game finally landing on next-gen consoles, having been delayed months prior.
The question is, then, is it worth playing yet?
Hard Lessons Not Learned
In this series, we've covered the likes of Apex Legends and Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and even gone all the way back to Rainbow Six Siege. With that in mind, it feels bizarre to be essentially re-reviewing a game just half a year or so after its launch – but it's a question that many have asked.
In a previous article, I suggested that, in many ways, Marvel's Avengers was too big to fail. It has arguably the biggest entertainment license on the planet and has a team of several development studios working on it. It's already allegedly lost Square Enix a lot of money, but the publisher is committed to bringing players back with DLC.
The issue, though, is that up until last week, we didn't have any kind of roadmap. Now we do, and, well, let's take a look at it, shall we?
In a game where new characters are free for all (except Spider-Man, whose exclusivity seems less of a point of contention now that the game is out), we've received Kate Bishop and Clint Barton – two characters that wield bows. Given the wealth of characters in the Marvel universe, it seems bizarre to pick both of those, but they have at least fleshed out the game's universe (or should that be multiverse?). But what next?
Well, Black Panther isn't coming until later this year, likely around the game's first anniversary. He'll be bringing a new storyline involving Klaw, and that's more or less all we know so far.
Between now and then, we can enjoy a limited-time event with better rewards (more on the gear system shortly) and the chance to play as multiples of the same hero, and a new set of HARM Rooms (essentially training missions).
Finally, we'll square off against... uh... Monica Rappaccini, the villain from the campaign, except she's got new powers. That's a pretty basic way of looking at things, but nothing jumps off of the calendar as being a reason to re-assemble.
That said, it's worth remembering that we're in the middle of a pandemic. We also know that Black Panther's initial announcement was pushed back due to the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman.
Earth's Grindiest Heroes
In our review, we said the game was stuck between wanting to offer a cinematic campaign and a live-service multiplayer game. Once the campaign is over, though, it's essentially no more Bruce Banner – it's almost all about tearing through the same AIM facilities with reckless abandon.
It's also all built around identikit mission structures. Take the 'Vault' missions, for example. Your team are set loose to tear through enemies and complete mini-objectives (I'm so bored of opening doors using the same puzzles now), eventually finding an underground SHIELD base where you have to defend and capture certain points to open the vault. It's so incredibly tedious and leads into arguably the biggest issue right now – the game's loot.
Marvel's Avengers' loot system is so bad, the game essentially gives you the option to skip it. None of it affects your appearance, and while it's possible to increase your stats to make certain builds (I have a range-focused Hulk), much of the character customisation is really done via earning skill points – something that has now been made into a longer, grind-heavy process through XP changes in a move that feels somewhat like prepping for a free-to-play transition.
Loot is unsatisfying to earn, and when combined with dull mission structures, feels entirely superfluous.
And yet, I'm still playing. Why? Partially because I'm a sucker for the Marvel license, but partially because I want nothing more than for the game to come good. The PS5 enhancements, for example, are a huge step in the right direction.
Whereas before, loading times felt ridiculously long, the game now gets players into a mission within seconds. Also gone are the frequent frame-rate drops, and while there's a 4K, 30FPS mode, I'd wholeheartedly recommend the 60 FPS performance mode just for smoother combat animations.
Dualsense vibration, on the other hand, could really be dialled down, as could the adaptive triggers, but all in all, it's a much more fun game to play when removing roadblocks.
I feel for Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics because they've launched a live-service game in the middle of a pandemic, and I think things would be different with a shorter development pipeline.
In a world where next-gen enhancements hit a few months ago and Black Panther drops this month, I think it'd be a different story. For now, though, it feels like a game treading water – and it'll be fascinating to see if Marvel's Avengers sinks or swims.
I couldn't call it either way, but there's a good game in here somewhere.
Review Code Provided By The Publisher
Reviewed On PlayStation 5 With Time Spent On PlayStation 4 Pro