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Like a fine wine, do the Avengers get better with age?
When we reviewed the base game of Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers back in 2020, this very website gave it a reasonable score of 3/5, citing a strong multiplayer but a lack of end game content. In the intervening period of time, the game has not only been updated with new content, but also has been optimised for those of us fortunate enough to have access to a next gen console – in this case Xbox Series X. So, with all this new stuff to go at, it seems only fair to take a look at the next-gen version of Marvel’s Avengers.
A small disclaimer before we begin: I never played the game on launch, so I am coming to this completely fresh with the Series X|S optimised version, and these impressions are based on that version of the game.
The main storyline isn’t changed from the original release, and still follows Kamala Khan on her journey from awkward fan fiction writer to fully fledged super hero in the shape of Ms Marvel, complete with stretchy limbs of doom! Taking control of most of the Avengers as you progress through the story, you eventually end up with a few folk to choose from, including all the big hitters, such as Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America. I have to say, I did really enjoy playing through the campaign and seeing the way that the characters of the Avengers developed; there is a big tick for the folk who wrote the story. A similar bit of hype must go to the voice actors who bring the characters to life, from Hulk’s roars right up to Tony Stark’s usual self absorbed cynicism.
Graphically and looking at the Xbox Series X version, Marvel’s Avengers is as good as you’d hope. Even with a screen full of enemies, there’s not a hint of slow down or stuttering to be seen. This is particularly impressive when you play as characters who can fly, as at any time you can take to the sky and swoop around like a swallow; the vistas that open up are very impressive indeed. However, I don’t like the artificial ceiling that is placed on the levels, and the way that you are punished for trying to explore too far away from where the game thinks you should be, it just seems very heavy handed to me. Stick to the beaten path, however, and all is well. Even bounding down a city street as the Hulk is pretty cool to watch, as he can move faster than the other characters like this, short of the flying ones.
The enemies are well designed varieties of robots, and build up as you go on to include some memorable set piece fights, such as against a giant airplane that you need to take out, requiring you to focus on certain parts of the plane bit by bit. Using the powers that each hero has at the correct time is key to defeating these bosses, and by the end of the game, even the regular enemies are causing significant issues. Seeing a small robot stagger the Hulk by punching him does always seem wrong, however.
Speaking of powers, each hero has not only their particular powers to call on, like Thor’s lightning or Iron Man’s lasers and flying ability, but they have special powers as well. Each has three specials to call on, which recharge after being used, a lot like the special powers in Destiny. There is an offensive special, a defensive one, and finally a super duper move, which takes the longest to charge but can turn the tide of a battle. My favourite of them all is the Hulkbuster armour Iron Man can call on, if only as stomping around in a giant suit and kicking seven shades out of all and sundry never gets old. Poor old Captain America seems to have the weakest move set, as they just aren’t too impressive, especially “Brooklyn Brawler”, his super that just makes him a bit stronger for a little while. Still, every little helps.
Now, the big difference between this version and the original older release, apart from the improved graphics and enhanced loading times, is the amount of content. And, in an interesting move it has also been released on Xbox Game Pass, which has helped bring in an influx of new players, which in turn has helped with the end game content. It’s a sight to see to have four players, all as different versions of the Hulk (depending on the gear that the individuals have managed to acquire) rampage through a level flattening all ahead of them. It appears that the game scales to the number of players as well, as it is noticeably harder the more real players you have in the party. No-one seems particularly chatty, which is a shame, but playing with friends does make it a better experience, with proper communication and coordination making the game flow more smoothly.
There has been a host of post launch content to enjoy too, which is a very nice touch. There have been four packs released, which can all be played alone if you prefer, but are also playable in multiplayer. These, in order, are Taking A.I.M., which features Kate Bishop, Hawkeye’s apprentice, and a bonkers story line about time travel and trying to prevent a Kree invasion, whilst the second pack, Future Imperfect, again features time travel and an attempt to find Nick Fury, along with a version of the future Hulk who has been driven mad with a lust for power.
The third pack, Cosmic Cube, again features Hawkeye – this time in both future and present versions – and it was at about this time I started to get a headache from trying to track who was who, and from when. Luckily, the final and newest pack, War for Wakanda, fortunately stops all this gallivanting back and forth in time and instead focuses on Black Panther and his attempts to save Wakanda from Crossbones and Klaw. These packs all bring a good amount of new missions, new gear and heroes as well, ensuring that the Avengers are pretty much fully assembled and up to full strength by the end of them all.
There’s actually not been very much I haven’t liked about Marvel’s Avengers to this point. The grind in the end game is very real, but it’s nothing to any veteran of something like vanilla Destiny. Being picky I would have liked the ability to switch between heroes in the missions, but other than that, and the padding that goes on in the single player campaign, I’ve not found much to moan about.
The new content, the additional influx of new players and the Xbox Series X|S visual and loading time enhancements mean that Marvel’s Avengers is in a lot better shape than it was when it first launched. If you haven’t tried it, I humbly suggest you give it a try. And if you have Xbox Game Pass, it’s an utter no-brainer.