Beta Impressions

So apparently Crystal Dynamics decided that there would be a beta this weekend for their new Avengers game if you had enough faith in the property, and their development of it, to pre-order.

It’s not exactly how I remember the dialogue from that level but the point stands.

Since the first E3 trailer I’ve been skeptical at best about what the end result of this game would be only sure of the fact that it would have an insane amount of marketing behind it and due to Crystal Dynamics it would probably look pretty good. As far as the actual mechanics of it I assumed it would be competent but rushed and include a lot of good ideas that were not fully realized for a myriad of factors.

While it’s not perfect I have to say… I was wrong.

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The controls are sluggish and unresponsive especially in the wake of playing something like Ghost of Tsushima which, while not as hard as something like Sekiro or Dark Souls, requires a certain amount of pinpoint timing and reflexes to master the combat. On the other hand while Avengers starts you out with the ability to perfect dodge/parry and counter the mechanic is lost in a game that seems to want to be an arcade brawler like MUA 3 but slower and more technical. Made worse by the fact that attack indicators can get muddied or lost in showers of particle effects, destructible environments and rag-dolled enemies and worse, a target lock that sits directly over top of them. In addition to that the game desperately wants you to be mashing the attack buttons but will often punish you for doing so when you try to dodge only to realize you’re stuck in a combo animation.

Now granted I have been playing on Brutal difficulty which generally forces players to eschew the “fun” way to play the game and instead requires you to think and act tactically to pick apart encounters. Which is fair, however again I feel they could have done a better job balancing the difficulty against what is admittedly a very enjoyable combat system that suffers from it’s own mixed messaging. As always your mileage may vary so don’t just take my word for it. To the games credit even at parts where I got stuck trying to solve certain encounters I had fun retrying until I managed to beat them. As frustrating as it can be it did manage to keep me engaged throughout.

On the control side the camera can be a bit of a nightmare although with third person brawlers that is sort of a given and with the myriad ways the characters move it was probably difficult to find a balance that worked for most of them. Hulk especially suffers while on indoor maps which unfortunately is a large portion of time you spend with him in the beginning of the beta. At first it’s fun to wreck rooms while throwing enemies around but soon it’s just a battle to see what is going on as you leap around claustrophobic laboratories trying to regain your bearings. To that end there are an impressive amount of options to customize things like camera snap-back, view distance, auto-aim etc that I feel most people should find success tweaking it to their liking. For the slightly pickier among us it will probably still lack some of the option granularity we normally prefer.

Lastly there are some QTE style moments as you progress through what serves as the beta’s prologue but it’s entertaining and flows well and quickly enough that I don’t think it will be too big an issue.

Monetization. I know this is the boogeyman we’ve all come to fear these days and unfortunately it is alive and well in this game with the one tiny sliver of hope that it seems to be strictly limited to cosmetics. All of which also seem to be able to be earned through the regular course of playing the game with the option to purchase currency to rapidly acquire things you may want for your favorite characters. I am notoriously against predatory monetization but unfortunately for those of us who advocate against it but still have to live in a world where it’s very prevalent, this is as good as it gets for now.

Now, for some of the good.

The combat and mechanics of each character are distinct, varied and hugely entertaining to play with. Few things in recent memory have been as fun as using Hulk to pick up an enemy to beat other enemies to death with. I also cannot stress this enough the enemy you are using as a weapon also takes damage as you hit things which means the stronger the enemy you pick up is, the longer they last. Because of my morbid curiosity I did test to see whether or not they take damage if you swing them to destroy pieces of the environment.

They do.

Even for as straight forward as the Hulk is in combat he is immensely fun to use and does pretty much all the things you expect and want him to do which should be enough to please fans of the character and people just looking to enjoy the game.

Next up is Iron Man and I have to say I cannot believe it took this long to get a game which actually makes him fun to play. I spent a decent amount of time with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 because I enjoyed the previous games and mechanically Iron Man was about as boring as it got. For some reason most if not all his iterations lack melee moves or worse lack the sort of integrated combat style he’s known for. Iron Man is at his most entertaining when he combines brawling with the use of his repulsor blasts, smoothly alternating from one to the other. In this game, for me at least, they finally have the mix right where Tony can mix it up in close combat before transitioning into some brutal juggling with his repulsors. I was completely ready to ignore Iron Man for the majority of this game but he very quickly shot to the top of my Will Use As Much As Possible list.

Well done, Crystal Dynamics.

Good old Captain America is in the lineup and again the combat is incredibly fun, so far where I am at I’ve only gotten the chance to use him once but he is very well realized. Mixing acrobatics with his aptly named super, Brooklyn Brawler he represents the Cap we’ve come to all know and love as played by Chris Evans. What I find surprising is that for as much as I liked Cap I think he’s probably middle to low on my list of favorites so far. It’s a shame since usually he’s the one I settle on in Marvel team up games because he’s generally one of the more balanced in melee and ranged but not as much the case here.

Black Widow has the honor of being the character to take you through your first boss fight which I wont spoil although I believe they appeared in a trailer already, but just in case. Her arsenal of skills is much as we remember sporting a pair of pistols, electrified tonfa and a dizzying array of acrobatic moves to keep your enemies off-balance. One thing I want to mention in particular here is how familiar a couple of the boss encounters are to the duels in Ghost of Tsushima where you go one on one in a battle of moves, parries and, counters looking for openings to get in for damage. Sometimes they are designed that way and other times you simply work to clear battlefields of low level trash so you can go mano-a-mano with a bruiser. Either way I am a huge fan of how they turned out.

The God of Thunder makes an appearance of course and much like the others he’s in fine form throwing Mjolnir to and fro through enemies here and there. He’s the first character you get your hands on and then sadly for the last little while I haven’t had a chance to play him again so my impressions of him were pretty brief. He seems fun and also had one of the more enjoyable audio cues when you hear Mjolnir clang off of enemy skulls. I look forward to trying him out a bit more in depth and getting a better feel. For the moment at least I’m intrigued, we’ll see where it goes if he’s available to play anymore in the beta at all.

Last but absolutely not least is someone I wasn’t expecting to see in this game but am absolutely delighted she’s in it, Kamala Khan a.ka. Ms. Marvel. She was probably one of the wackiest superpowers but that in no way diminishes what a riot she is in this game. Basically it’s Elastigirl from The Incredibles gone serious, although not too serious since she’s a teenager and newly minted member of The Avengers. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is that you’re getting into with her character but she is just plainly a joy to play and not only that but she packs one of the only healing abilities I’ve seen thus far in the game. Definitely one of my top characters to use going forward after release.

Overall there is still much more to cover including gear loot, rarity, skill customization, the story, multiplayer (Which I have no tried properly yet.) and probably a few things I haven’t even seen yet. For now my overall impressions are very positive in spite of my disagreement with some of their mechanical implementation. I hope that some of that might get smoothed out at the final release but since we’re a little less than a month away I’m fairly sure this build is as close to the final one as we can get save for a few bug fixes here and there. I don’t think that I can recommend for sure that people should pre-order the game but if you’re on the fence I definitely think you should keep an eye on it and look for further reviews from sources you trust.

One of mine tends to be Skill Up and he had this to say today–

While I am disappointed that his first impressions of it were so negative it just goes to show that even people you trust may not always know what you will and wont enjoy. I look forward to his video on it because I always like to hear opinions that differ from my own but personally, I actually am looking forward to the release of this game. I think it will be a title that will entertain me for a while, warts and all, and sometimes that’s all I need in a game.

I hope your weekend is going well and you’re getting plenty of time to relax. Until next time take care of yourselves and I’ll talk to you soon.

  • Anthony

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