Six Months Later, Marvel’s Avengers Still Feels Lackluster

Despite new content and a next-gen upgrade, Avengers still isn't where it needs to be.

In September of last year, Square Enix finally released Marvel’s Avengers, their delayed superhero multiplayer live game based on one of the biggest properties in the entire world. It seemed like it should have been a slam dunk, considering how popular games like Destiny are and how much money you can make just putting Avengers on everything from lunchboxes to gaming chairs. Unfortunately for Square Enix, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Avengers was plagued by a glitch-filled, unimpressive launch. The game’s first patch boasted 1,000 fixes, which is one of those brags that you probably regret as soon as it leaves your lips. The repetitive multiplayer left a lot of players abandoning the game after the competent and breezy single player campaign. Developer Crystal Dynamics ended up delaying the game’s entire roadmap for months, with Hawkeye — originally scheduled for early November last year — taking a knee until the next-gen versions arrived, also delayed several months.

Whether rightly or wrongly, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix made the call to essentially relaunch the game in March and try to revive its dwindling (if not utterly dwindled) player base. As of last week, Avengers got a new character, a new campaign titled Future Imperfect, and a next-gen version. So the question now is, does Avengers live up to its potential?

The short answer: no. The long answer: also no, but with caveats.

In terms of combat, Avengers is the best it has ever been. With the next-gen patch, the game runs at a high framerate and makes its extremely chaotic battles a little less chaotic and a lot more fun. Despite their similarities, both Kate Bishop and Hawkeye are fun to use and the Dualsense support does a good job of adding to the feeling of shooting off numerous arrows and enemies. Good job, Avengers!

But it doesn’t fix all the problems the game had before these updates. Combat is still largely against the same couple of types of robots, all of whom have just way too much health, and a predilection for standing off-camera and shooting you to death with lasers. The aspect of the game that shines the brightest also still has plenty of repetition problems, which is a bummer, because it does feel good to actually fight. At some point, all the enemies tend to blur together as positional objects of minor description, like a flying thingy that shoots poison or a bi-pedal robot that has a spear.

Moreover, while Hawkeye Clint and Hawkeye Kate are both fun to play…they’re both fucking Hawkeye. Like, they’re different, but they’re not that different! They both have the exact same arrow types, which I suppose is fine when they were the first two characters coming out in the first two months of the game’s roadmap, but it’s been six months and we literally only have two Hawkeyes. This is like if Street Fighter V’s first DLC character three months in was Ryu and the second three months later is Ken. There’s valid reasons to prefer one or the other, but at the end of the day, they’re both throwing Hadoukens and Shoryukens all day.

Clint’s campaign, Future Imperfect, is fairly interesting but also fairly short. Just as things get going, you find yourself quickly running out of content, which brings Clint in line with the rest of the cast as an action figure with no more playsets to do anything cool in. It makes the game feel like you’re a child completely robbed of imagination but with plenty of toys to play with, only in the same environments over and over and over again.

As a live service that ostensibly needs to feel fresh, Avengers today is just as boring and repetitive outside of battles as it was six months ago. Sure, you can play as Kate Bishop, or Clint Barton, or one day Black Panther or Spider-Man, and you’ll have some fun in the actual act of playing as those characters. But nothing changes the fact that combat is bookended by the most boring switch-finding gameplay they can possibly muster, draining you of the power fantasy that is being an action superhero by relegating your activities to something less interesting than rescuing cats from trees.

While the game is not nearly as glitchy as it was six months ago, it hasn’t all been cleaned up. I’ve yet to have a mission break on me, which happened all the time in the original release, but I’ve had a few lockups and characters disappearing. The load times, however, make a world of difference, and it makes me wonder how I ever put up with them last year.

Avengers isn’t a bad game, but the parts of the game that are bad make the good parts feel like they need to be doing more to compensate. I want to like Avengers because of how much affection I have for the property, but I’m not at all sold by this soft-relaunch, and can only hope the next piece of content they deliver is better. If you’re looking for a compelling reason to jump back in, though, you might also want to wait a bit. Incrementalism may be the best we can hope for at this point.