Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game has been on many player’s radar for some time. At first glance, it appears to deliver on everything you would expect from an Avengers movie, but after spending some time with the beta, I began to notice things in game play that are concerning. Combat mechanics feel unbalanced, levels are linear and repetitive, and the mission hub is very restricted and underwhelming. Here are my first impressions of the Avengers beta.
The Forceful Email Link Wall
As I first started up the beta, things went south right out of the gate. You are prompted by Square Enix’s email link page and then blocked off from the start menu. This link page is included in a lot of games and normally they can be easily dismissed if you do not want to add your email or if you want link your account at a later time. However, for this particular beta, you could not start the game until you successfully linked your account. For me this was really strange and a big red flag. I was not a fan of the forced email link wall. While this has nothing to do with the actual game I felt it needed to be mentioned since it was an unnecessary obstacle that hurt the overall experience.
Golden Gate Campaign Intro
When the game started I felt it had a really strong presentation. You start off playing as Thor beating up bad guys and clearing a path for the rest of the Avengers team. Thor’s attacks hit with heavy weight and you feel like your enemies stand no chance. However, I noticed as I kept swinging Thor’s hammer around, I found myself many times hitting nothing but air. The enemies were not dodging my attacks or anything either. Thor would just swing in directions where there were no enemies around which felt like a bug in the combat mechanics.
Next you play as Iron Man and enter into a flying “Anthem” style aerial combat scene. Everything looks epic and cinematic like an actual MCU film. Sadly, I found myself frustrated by his limited movement in the combat space. It felt as if he was restricted by a ton of invisible walls and you were forced to fight in a cramped mini battle arena. Now I get the perspective and sense of urgency to focus on fighting the incoming attack vehicles but still you feel restrained. Iron Man’s section was pretty awesome and I found myself more engaged with his combat mechanics than Thor’s.
After Iron Man, the game follows up with Bruce Banner as he jumps out of a quinjet and into the battle. In true comic book fashion Hulk slams down into action and you get right into bashing enemies. I found Hulk to be my favorite playable character in the beta by far. Since he is physically the largest of the Avengers, you can see his movement and game play mechanics were designed differently from the others. He needs to jump and grab onto objects to navigate the bridge sections and it makes him feel like a beast of pure brute strength.
The game then transitions you to play as Captain America who is up on a helicarrier trying to save civilians. Playing as Cap really felt true to the movies and reminded me of his solo film “Captain America The Winter Soldier” in the MCU. This was probably one of my favorite combat scenarios as you get to demolish all the bad guys in true super hero fashion while being unrealistically outnumbered. The game did a great job of making each character feel like their own unique force.
Finally you jump into action as Black Widow as she gets into a fight with one of the villains of the game: Task Master. This fight really had the potential to be the best part of the whole level but instead was held back by clunky combat mechanics. At one point there is a dodging segment where Black Widow uses her dual pistols to attack Task Master in mid air. This particular part felt like a watered down boss fight from an old Tomb Raider game. I was shocked at how the weak the shooting mechanics felt. I wished they would have implemented balanced shooting mechanics similar to the newer Tomb Raider games. You would think Black Widow’s gun mechanics would be the most refined, especially since Crystal Dynamics has a long history developing Lara Croft’s dual wielding mechanics. However, the rest of the fight was interesting but not satisfying because of odd combat prompts. For me this was one of the biggest let downs because Black Widow had some of the coolest moments.
The Remaining Game Play
After the Golden Gate Bridge level, the game starts a cut-scene explaining the impact of the bridge attack and the current status of the Avengers. For whatever reason the video did not have as much impact as it could have. When the video ends an additional window pops up telling you exactly what the video just explained. This made me question why that window needed to be there in the first place. I felt these were strange methods to get the player new information. The game could have just transitioned the player right into the next part of the campaign or game play section which would have felt smooth instead of sectioned off.
After that weird window moment, the next level picks up with Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Bruce Banner as they are searching for the disbanded Avengers. They are searching for JARVIS to help them locate everyone’s position. This level was set in a remote jungle area which looked really great. When the duo find JARVIS, a hub styled area opens up in the abandoned Avengers facility and becomes this makeshift base of operations. From here you can select new missions, change your team, and customize your characters. Unfortunately the hub system felt outdated and limited and did not fit rest of the game’s quality.
The Avengers beta was a strange experience for me. I had some mixed feelings about the fighting mechanics and limited level design. Besides the strange inaccurate combat, small fighting arenas, and disappointing menus, I thought the game was impressive. The graphics are fantastic and each character feels unique as they should. They each bring their own flavor to the game which is an impressive feat on its own. Overall I was slightly disappointed with how incomplete the levels in the beta felt. Visually the game was stunning and I really enjoyed playing each character, but I could not get passed the little annoyances throughout my time with the game. For such a big title, and well known developer, I was expecting a bit more immersion and fluidity to the game and the beta did not have it. I understand this is still an early version of the game so it’s not reflective of final product, but I am hoping Crystal Dynamics can add a bit more polish to smooth out the experience before the release of the final game.