Marvel’s Avengers has recently received a native next-gen release with updated visuals, performance enhancements, and an overhaul to the game’s destruction systems. We’re sharing our thoughts and reviewing the title on the PS5.
Crystal Dynamics’ superhero title has been out for a little while now, but is the future for the title looking strong, still a little imperfect, or downright villainous?
After clocking about forty-five hours on the next-gen version of Marvel’s Avengers*, we’re sharing our thoughts below on whether we think Crystal Dynamics have done enough to win back the fans and make Marvel’s Avengers a title worth investing your time into.
*This is a lot more since the start of writing this review. What can I say? I wanted to play it after talking about it. It’s an annoyingly addictive game.
Marvel’s Avengers on Next-Gen
Before we dive right into the guts of this review, we should take a moment to talk about what’s actually new in this next-gen version of Marvel’s Avengers.
It might look like Marvel’s Avengers on the PS5 is just the original with a fresh coat of paint, but when you look past the flashy new graphics you realise that there’s so much more to this than a visual overhaul. The PS5 version of the game has kept the core gameplay mechanics and systems, but given them a new breath of life using the new PlayStation’s ridiculously powerful hardware.
One of the most notable improvements right off the bat is the game’s loading times. We know, this is something you’d expect to see updated so why does it matter. It doesn’t exactly count, right? Well, it sort of does.
As a game that features huge open areas and multi-stage levels with hundreds of enemies, loading times are a big deal (and a bigger problem when they’re slow). Marvel’s Avengers needs to load fast to be playable, basically, and it does with the power of the PS5 behind it.
Marvel’s Avengers now actually loads faster than the loading screen filler conversations. This is a huge deal if you’ve ever played Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game because you’ll know how frustratingly awkward it can be to sit there and watch strange idle animations in silence while you’re waiting for the next mission to actually start.
Then, of course, the other obvious improvement is the graphical enhancements. Marvel’s Avengers looks pretty great at the best of times but the PS5’s 4K capabilities help to cement it as one of the best looking games out there at the moment. However, this isn’t actually the main talking point here. The fact that it can support a solid 60FPS is what makes this version of the game great.
Like a lot of the next-gen titles out there, Marvel’s Avengers supports two graphics modes: One that focuses on generating 4K Visuals, and one that focuses on 60 FPS.
The 60FPS Graphics Mode is by far the better choice. When you’re in the thick of a fight against Taskmaster, or swinging through the Snowy Tundra with Black Widow’s Grappling Hook, the difference in the two frame-rates is glaring.
Obviously, the 4K Graphics mode is better if you want to utilise the game’s robust Photo Mode, but even then… The upscaled graphics you get with Performance Mode are pretty great.
In fact, the difference between the two graphically is pretty hard to spot when you’re in the middle of playing. Yet, trying to fight off hordes of AIM Agents in 30FPS is a bit of a pain.
When you compare this improvement to the struggles Marvel’s Avengers had when it launched on PS4 just a few months ago, it’s remarkable how much better it plays now.
As a PS5 title, Marvel’s Avengers also benefits from the new DualSense features. Adaptive Triggers add a bit of bite to each Pulsar Arrow you let loose from Hawkeye’s Bow and the Haptic Feedback pulls you into each punch you give and take.
Personally, we found the Haptic Feedback was a little too much at times as it pretty heavily on the default setting at almost any in-game action. Flying with Iron Man, landing a punch with Captain America, touching down to Midgard’s mortal soil as Thor. Everything (other than standard movement and dodging) gives you some sort of Haptic-based feedback.
You can toggle this though, so it isn’t a huge deal. It’s a great feature, but one that we feel could have been used a tad more sparingly to greater effects.
All of this aside, though, there is one reason why this game is as great as it is and it’s been there the whole time…
Excellent Cast, Excellent Campaign
Of course, we’re talking about the fantastic campaign and narrative that Crystal Dynamics has developed and built upon with it’s post-launch content.
If there’s one thing this game has done well, right from the start, it’s the character work and narrative development of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Iron Man, Bruce Banner, Thor, Black Widow, Captain America… They’re all household names at this point thanks to Disney’s blockbuster MCU franchise. Creating an original story with such beloved characters, alongside the continual development of these characters in live-action media, was always going to be tough.
So, Crystal Dynamics opted to tell us a brand-new story through an under-represented viewpoint and it was arguably the best decision the team behind Marvel’s Avengers made. Kamala Khan is the star of this game and one of it’s greatest assets narratively.
We think it’s pretty safe to say that Kamala Khan is a fantastic character that deserves more love. She’s been a regular in Marvel’s Comics for a while now and she is getting a Disney Plus series at some point, but for the most part she’s fairly unknown in comparison.
Kamala Khan is honest and good-hearted, relatable and down-to-earth, and as much of an Avengers fan as the rest of us. She’s the perfect perspective to tell this heroic story and her inclusion helps add an important weight to the issues discussed.
When we meet Kamala at the start of the story, she’s practically shaking with excitement as she steps off of the Quinjet to meet her heroes. It undoubtedly helps to build up your own excitement as you look forward to seeing these new representations of such fantastic characters.
Narrative Spoilers Ahead
However, what makes the narrative of Marvel’s Avengers stand-out is it’s grounded message despite the super-heroics. Right from the start, you feel connected to Kamala as a character and Sandra Saad’s performance is truly gripping. It’s a masterclass of performance capture and without her, it’s hard to imagine Kamala Khan having the same impact.
Kamala struggles with self-worth and confidence throughout, feeling as though she doesn’t belong despite knowing what it means to be a hero and having these abilities to help her achieve this illustrious societal role.
The issues that are tackled early on, and throughout, are familiar to a lot of people in some degree and it isn’t something you’d expect to see immediately from a story about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
” The only person [she] has left to convince is herself.”About Kamala Khan
This isn’t it though, Crystal Dynamics’ use of all the characters makes for one fantastically compelling narrative which carries a lot of the more repetitive moments in the game.
Steve Rogers is used as a symbol of hope almost too obviously, but it works when you juxtapose this with the fragility of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner which we see throughout.
Nolan North (Tony Stark) and Troy Baker (Bruce Banner) are two giants of the video game industry and they bring their characters to life perfectly alongside Saad’s performance as Kamala. The scenes shared by these characters are easily some of the best in the Reassemble Campaign.
Bruce Banner’s guilt overshadows everything he does throughout the campaign. He’s distraught with the death of Captain America and the creation of the Inhumans, which he sees as a reflection of his own struggles with the “Green Guy”.
Tony Stark, on the same side of the coin, is also wallowing in self-pity. He-too is struggling to deal with the fallout of A-Day. What divides the two and causes friction between them is the fact that Tony is furious at Bruce for “turning his back” on the Avengers. We know he’s got a fragile ego at the best of times, but this hits him where it hurts and creates a fantastic dialogue between the two characters throughout the Reassemble Campaign.
We’re confident in saying that this is some of the best character work outside of Marvel’s expansive comic-book universe.
They don’t quite outshine Kamala Khan though, who remains the protagonist throughout. This is undoubtedly a good thing and it helps set the narrative apart. She’s the one who gets to give the rousing speech that rallies our despondent heroes at the end of the Second Act. She’s the one who lands the final hits against MODOK’s Kree Sentinel. She’s the one that sticks with you after it all.
Marvel’s Avengers is her origin story, on the by-and-large. This means it does hit some familiar story beats. However, Saad’s electrifying performance keeps her at the heart of it all when she could so easily be overshadowed by the “bigger” characters from the franchise.
We shouldn’t forget to talk about Black Widow, Thor, or Captain America though. Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, and Jeff Schine all give stand-out performances that perfectly capture their characters alongside the “big three” we’ve discussed above.
The only issue we have is they don’t get enough love. We know that is, in part, due to how the narrative of the Reassemble Campaign plays out but that still doesn’t mean we should ignore it. Black Widow is easily one of the best Marvel characters out there. We’ve seen what her 616-Universe counterpart can do and now we want to see that in-game.
Similarly, both Thor and Captain America are amazingly portrayed and they deserve their moment in the spotlight. Thankfully, we’re pretty sure there’re more to come from all of these characters with Marvel’s Avengers’ future looking bright.
Crystal Dynamics has already announced a Red Room event is coming in May and we know this is going to be all about Black Widow. With Disney’s Black Widow movie also coming out around then, we’re expecting something to do with her long-time rival Yelena Belova to pop up. It’s an exciting glimpse into the future which should start to further flesh out the rest of the cast.
After the Reassemble Campaign, we’re confident the heroes are in good hands. But, what about the villains?
Monica Rappacini and MODOK aren’t the big, A-lister villains you’d expect to see but they’re handled excellently by Crystal Dynamics in their narrative. Similarly, Taskmaster and Abomination provide equally unique opponents that benefit from their lack of live-action counterparts.*
*We know Abomination is in The Incredible Hulk but we thought the fandom was under agreement that that didn’t really count.
George Tarleton is twisted and beaten, cruelly lashing out with psychotic malice fitting of the main villain in the Reassemble Campaign. However, it is the more subtle villainous antics of Monica Rappacini that keep you hooked throughout the main narrative and beyond. We still don’t fully know her motives, even after two additional story expansions. Her story is at the core of the game’s post-launch content and it’s a wonderful way to keep the fight going.
Both Usman Ally and Jolene Andersen keep pace with the stellar performances on the other side of the fight. They don’t really get shown enough love, but their work is undoubtedly an important factor in what makes the game exciting.
On the whole, it leaves you wanting more and it keeps you looking forwards to the next expansion.
The Post Launch Content Is Solid
Following a rocky launch, Crystal Dynamics has had a time trying to find it’s feet with Marvel’s Avengers. Their need to “fix” the game left post-launch content a little out at sea and updates regarding this felt sporadic and infrequent.
Thankfully, though, these are issues that the PS5 version of Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t look like it will have going forwards. The next-gen launch of the game has revitalised it and now we have the second part of Operation Hawkeye and a Content Roadmap that details the next few months’ plans.
The inclusion of both Taking Aim and Future Imperfect in the next-gen version of Marvel’s Avengers help to add value to the title in a way it simply didn’t have before. They add two new characters, new locations, new story segments and help to build on the world that was started with the Reassemble Campaign in a fantastic way.
It just feels so much more worthwhile now!
Ashly Burch plays Kate Bishop and Giacomo Gianniotti plays Clint Barton and both performers, as you might imagine, embody their roles to perfection. Nothing feels out of place and you’re left wondering why they weren’t introduced sooner!
READ MORE: Marvel’s Avengers: 2021 Roadmap Revealed
Thankfully, they’re not the last of the new content. Crystal Dynamics has offered up a pretty stacked roadmap for the future which we can only hope will lead to another year of support for the title.
If you didn’t play Marvel’s Avengers before, you almost certainly should now.
The Next-Gen Upgrades Feel Subtle
One thing that we found unusual while playing Marvel’s Avengers on a next-gen platform is that, at times, it didn’t really feel “next-gen”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it felt like this is how it should have played when it was first released.
Graphically, it is stunning and the smoother frame rate is undoubtedly a blessing… But, it is a little hard to appreciate the upscaled 4K visuals while you’re running around smashing up Super Adaptoids.
Marvel’s Avengers is a fast-paced game that doesn’t really need the minute details that 4K visuals can give you. It doesn’t have Ray-Tracing either, which is perhaps the more prominent reason as to why it feels a little weaker graphically than other games on the system.
Similarly, the DualSense features on the PS5 version of Marvel’s Avengers seem a little unnecessary. They don’t really enhance the experience as much as they could do and you don’t miss them when you disable them.
They are a fun addition, but you feel as if they were almost an after-thought for Crystal Dynamics during development. When you consider how they’re used in a game like Astro’s Playroom and even Black Ops Cold War, they make a difference. In Marvel’s Avengers, they just don’t.
On the whole, it’s hard to say whether this is the true next-gen upgrade the title deserved.
The revamped re-release was a much-needed lifeline for a dying game, but it almost feels like a title that has just come out of Early Access as opposed to one that has made the generational jump.
Perhaps this perspective is a product of a post-Cyberpunk outlook on game development, but you feel like the improvements made on the PS4 version of Marvel’s Avengers are expected and not anything too special. A Triple-A title with an experienced studio behind it, handling a major IP, should load quickly and play smoothly.
The next-gen changes are subtle, which is a good thing, but they also seem to “fix” the game rather than “improve” it.
There Are Still Matchmaking Issues
Unfortunately, despite all the fixes, there is still one part of this game that is painfully broken. Marvel’s Avengers’ matchmaking systems are bad. That’s a fact of life every Avengers player is going to have to learn to deal with.
We’re not just talking about finding games either. That’s a whole other issue which you feel could be easily solved by implementing a “Game Finder” of sorts. If you could pick and choose who’s game you joined, it would be a lot easier to avoid the endless drop-outs and connection issues.
We’re not going to pretend like we played this on the fastest internet, but it was solid enough to tackle multiplayer games easily. That didn’t help with playing Marvel’s Avengers online.
For the most part, we opted for the “Quick Match” option when playing. This did make it quicker to find Strike Teams to join, but when you finally manage to drop into a match… It’s not great.
The latency between players is just bad. More often than not, your fellow Avengers come across like stuttering messes that slide about your screen at an unusual pace. This also meant that on occasion, an enemy would just explode in front of you at random.
It all pulls you away from the fantasy and forces you into the realisation that this isn’t the perfect game you want it to be and as a multiplayer experience… It’s pretty broken still.
Some Bugs Still Need Fixing
Just because the PS5 version of Marvel’s Avengers is a huge improvement, doesn’t make it perfect. There are still bugs and some of them are near game-breaking.
The most common bug we found is one that simply stops enemies from spawning. You might think this is a great thing, but when a lot of Marvel’s Avengers’ progression is based on clearing an area and moving forward it presents an interesting obstacle.
You can “restart from checkpoint”, but it sometimes takes four, five, or even six restarts to actually fix. This causes a lot of people to drop out and further damages the already-shaky multiplayer experience Marvel’s Avengers offers.
This is just one example of countless annoying bugs that still persist in this updated version of Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers title. We know they’re not a permanent fixture, but we can’t ignore the fact that they damaged the experience playing.
The Future Looks Bright
With all that being said, we think it’s pretty obvious that this is a positive review on the whole. Marvel’s Avengers on the PS5 is a polished version of it’s original release that looks to have a bright future ahead of it.
READ MORE: Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther Announced
The gameplay Marvel’s Avengers offers is fun, with enough depth to keep it entertaining and not too much depth that it becomes overwhelming. Similarly, the gear system Crystal Dynamics has presented is just complex enough to make you feel like it matters without being bogged down changing gear loadouts in-between every mission.
Sure, the game itself is still a little rough around the edges but it is a fantastic adventure that we think every Marvel fan will enjoy. It fills an Avengers-sized hole in the gaming market which could easily keep growing exponentially into the future.
From A-Day to a Future Imperfect, to Wakanda and beyond… Marvel’s Avengers offers up endless hours of action-packed fun that deserves your time.