Marvel's Avengers Beta Impressions

• written by Krist Duro

I like it. It's exactly what I expected it to be, but I kinda wanted to love it and it's not just there yet. Hopefully, I will love it once it fully releases later in September.

The beta starts with the A-Day mission, you know the gameplay they used for the reveal and I really liked playing this mission. It moved fast and it gave me a chance to play as all of the heroes, try some of their basic and super moves and I got a feel of how each one of them will play like.

However, one thing that really stood out to me while playing A-Day is the level of polish and how amazing everything looked, the environment and materials, character details and animations, and the lighting was *chef's kiss. So it kinda surprised me to see that insane level of graphical polish not persist throughout the rest of the beta. Don't get me wrong, the game still looks really good, but, in my opinion, nothing like the A-Day mission. Clearly to me, that mission is a vertical slice Crystal Dynamics worked on a lot and they used it to show off the game to the public and it got that "wow" effect.

As I said, the rest still looks good, but nothing compared to that mission. For example, the next mission you start as Bruce and his walking animation felt like something straight out of Mixamo. Luckily, that section is brief and you get to play as Hulk and then as Ms. Marvel and they feel way better.

The story or better say the brief character interactions between Bruce, Kamala, and Jarvis was really intriguing and I am really interested to learn more. The Avengers were disbanded or disassembled after the events of A-Day and were labeled as "bad guys" that unleashed a deadly terrigen mist which killed a lot of innocent people and turned many into Inhumans. But, as you might guess, there's a real bad guy pulling the strings behind the scenes and in the last War Table stream, we learned that this villain will be MODOK.

Story content in the beta is very light, as there are only 4 hero missions and that was the most exciting content for me, which I'll talk more later. The rest of the available content came in the form of Drop Zones, 5-10 minutes small missions confined in a small area with only one task, War Zones which are bigger missions set in large open-ended areas with multiple objectives and secrets for you to explore and find and finally, HARM Challenge Rooms which are wave-based arena challenges.

If you already didn't know, Marvel's Avengers will be a live-service game meaning that they will keep adding more and more stuff as time passes. Yes, it will be like Destiny or that other game Bioware made...

And, if history has taught us anything, live-service games can have a rocky start until they have enough content to make it worthwhile. However, in this case, I am not too worried. I feel like the story alone or hero mission might be enough to warrant the full-price purchase and the rest of the side stuff like Drop/War Zones and HARM challenges are just added bonuses. To me, they felt this way. There wasn't anything too special or unique about these missions as they all boiled down to pretty much go to a place usually the same looking bunker or vault, capture and hold the zone or destroy X number of generators/servers/whatever while fighting a lot of enemies types. Again, think of these like Destiny's Strikes, you grind the same things over and over again hoping to get better loot.

Ah, the loot. You will be finding, collecting, or be rewarded a lot of loot with different stats and perks and other bonuses, which you can also boost using different materials, for your heroes while you play the game. But, unlike Destiny, this loot doesn't really affect or change your hero appearance. So you can equip different wristbands for Kamala, different utility belts for Black Widow or even different spines or bones for Hulk, which is just weird and strange IMO, but they don't really change your look. They are just for stats building and, of course, when the game releases the players will find crazy combinations for crazy results, but I kinda got the feeling that you could just skip this whole gear system and still be fine. I mean you can hold a button and the game will just equip the best gear for you.

You will, however, focus on where to spend your skill points. Each hero will have three skill trees in the full game but during the beta, the available heroes Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, Hulk, and Black Widow have only one skill tree. The skills felt unique and each one changed and improved your hero in some way. You can unlock a new attack combo or move, power up heroic attacks or ultimates, reduce cooldowns, and even unlock completely new weapons. For Black Widow, you can unlock and switch between akimbo pistols, akimbo SMGs, or a powerful hand cannon. The same goes for Iron Man, you can unlock and switch mid-game via the d-pad between repulsers, rockets or lasers. These weapons affect the combat and there's a lot of room for experimentation and that was really exciting for me. I loved shooting at the flying AIM dudes with the Widow's hand cannons then switch to her insane SMGs and riddle close enemies with bullets to then finish them with a cool takedown or finisher.

By now you must be asking yourself like "When is this dude going to talk about the heroes themselves, how they play and feel?". The "Too Long; Didn't Read" version is that each of the heroes has his or her own unique combat, jump, and traversal style and that's both good and also kinda iffy in some cases. For example, Iron Man can fly anywhere and reach all of the places so if you play as him in a mission, you can reach high-up loot chests with extreme ease. Hulk can't fly obviously, he has a semi-weird jump and can wall-jump on specific surfaces so you might not reach that chest or have to work a lot to reach it. Another problem that might arise, as it kinda did for me, is that if you main a specific hero for a while, you will get accustomed to his or her move set and when you switch to another hero you might feel lost as you forget what button, move or heroic attack did what.

Another problem, and if you play Destiny you know all about this, is that only the hero you play as gets leveled up and loot drops. However, unlike Destiny, when you play solo, the other heroes can be AI companions which is good. What is strange is the design choice that they don't get any experience or loot drops. So if you have to or want to play as another hero, he or she might be highly under-leveled for that specific mission and you have to grind repetitive HARM challenges to well, level up. I really hope this changes or is tweaked somehow in the full release. Maybe if the companions got 30% or 50% of the experience, that would diminish the grinding for leveling up.

I loved playing as Black Widow. Her move set and melee combat really feel great and each punch, kick or baton hit connected with the enemies and the ranged attacks well, straight out Lara Croft, and I loved it. Also, she has a grappling hook for traversal and combat too. Honestly, she feels like a slightly tone-downed Spider-Man. Ms. Marvel played great too and just like Luffy from One Piece she can elongate and embiggen her limbs or her whole body mid-combat for devastating attacks. She also uses her arms like grappling hooks to swing around the environments, again, like a friendly neighborhood someone. Iron Man is well, Iron Man, and plays just like you imagine it. Hulk, well he was just meh. I was expecting a force of nature, an unstoppable tank who would smash everything in his path, but a normal AIM dude can bring him down.

Now, this nitpick is what I like to call the "Superman Problem". You see, Superman is basically a god who can move planets and whatnot, so what or who stands a chance against him? The same question can be asked for Thor and Hulk in this game, one a literal god and the other an incredible being who smashes gods for breakfast. While at the same time, you also have Black Widow, a human, who goes against the same enemies and kicks as much, if not more, ass as them. But this is a game and it needs to be fun and as such, there needs to be a level ground, a balance, otherwise you get One Punch Man scenario and as much fun as that is to see, that would not make for a good gaming experience.

There's so much more to talk about the heroes and their move sets and their heroic or ultimate attacks, but I would like to wait for the full release to go into more details. The overall impression, for now, is that each hero is unique, they do feel good and the combat is fun and enjoyable, but there's room for improvement. For example, the game has a big, as Girlfriend Reviews likes to put it, "Diarrhea Christmas lights" problem. There's a lot of stuff happening on screen during combat and most of the time, you don't know what is happening and that causes problems with evading incoming attacks or executing a counter. The camera also hinders the whole experience as it jumps around and shakes like crazy quickly distracting you from what is happening. Also, the controller vibration is way too much, so much that I completely disabled it in the settings.

The Marketplace, ah yes. You see, Marvel's Avengers made a beautiful promise that all future DLC like new heroes, missions etc. will be free and that is freaking awesome. Ant-Man is coming, Hawkeye is coming and Spider-Man is coming too for free in the future and that is exciting. To support all of these amazing free content drops, Crystal Dynamics will directly sell optional cosmetics as in skins, emotes, nameplates, etc. with no bullshit loot boxes and that is more than fine with me. They have 80 years of Marvel comics, cartoons, toys, and movies to pull from and I can't wait to see all of the awesome stuff they will have on that marketplace. In the beta, they had a Hawaiian Hulk skin and I was all over it.

Performance is the last thing I want to touch upon. I played the beta on a PS4 Pro and most of the time, the experience was OK and during light encounters the frame rate was stable. But during the encounters where there was a lot of stuff happening like fire, smoke, particles, and a lot of physics objects all over the place, the frame rate dipped really hard. The beta also has two different graphical modes, a 4K one and the other a Performance Mode. I didn't really see a big difference between the two modes in terms of the frame rate as it still dipped hard during the "Diarrhea Christmas lights" moments. I hope Digital Foundry puts out a breakdown of the beta soon, so we can see and understand better the difference between these two modes.

Multiplayer didn't work for me at all. Every time the game would find someone, the whole matchmaking would fail and I was redirected to the main menu. This is a scary thing to see happening during a beta so close to release, but I will give the team the benefit of the doubt and hope they fix this massive problem in the next two planned open-betas.

Overall, I liked the Marvel's Avengers beta as it gave me a better understanding of how the full game will work, how the heroes, combat and minute by minute gameplay will feel and how exciting the singleplayer story might to be. Also, it has a Photo Mode, limited in the beta but still good, and I cannot wait to see all of the great virtual photographs on Twitter from the community. The rest of the live-service stuff, for the moment, seems just fine. I am still as excited for Marvel's Avengers as I was when they revealed this game in 2017 and I can't wait to get my hands on the full game when it releases on September 4th 2020. Thanks for reading!

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