So it’s been a few weeks since the launch of the experience of Marvel’s Avengers on PS4, PC, and Xbox One. To say the reception of this game has been mixed is a bit of an understatement, and too be fair there have been a lot of bugs that frankly shouldn’t have been a part of a Triple A launch title like this, and while the Dev team has been working their ass off to patch those problems and fix them, it definitely was something that they should hav taken the time and pushed back release. However, I am not a professional gamer, so my input on this side doesn’t count for much, and frankly I have a blast even despite the bugs and drops of frame rate (which I honestly expected as I am playing on a traditional ps4). What I want to talk about is the story, and the characterizations, because I have seen a lot of people complain about how these characters are portrayed, but for me it’s one of the game’s strongest points. This is because as someone who grew up reading these books, and loving these characters, this game is far truer to these characters than the MCU ever was, and for that alone I am immensely grateful and will likely play this game a lot for years to come.
I want to make something clear, I love the MCU. What they accomplished in the buildup of The Infinity Saga was fantastic and made a lot of my childhood dreams come true, however, there was a lot of artistic licenses taken in the portrayal of these characters and stories, and that’s fine. It brought something unique to the universe that made for a good experience for both fans of the books and people who became fans of the films. However, when I play this game I feel like I’m playing as the characters from the books and honestly it is great.
The story of this game is short. It’s effectively the tutorial for the actual game which is going around doing missions with your friends online, and that’s exactly what it was marketed as, but for a story that is literally there to serve that tutorial purpose, it was way better than it needed to be. I have seen a lot of reviewers praise Khamela Khan as the heart of the game, and while I had no issues with Ms Marvel or her portrayal, I don’t think I played the same game as these critics. Yes Khamela’s fangirl energy is fun, but she’s little more than a plot maguffin that serves to bring the characters fans actually care about together and give an easy to use character for new players, and that’s exactly how she’s treated in the story and honestly there is nothing wrong with that. The HEART of this game beats through the character it should beat through, the character that holds these band of heroes together despite their various differences: Steve Rogers, Captain America.
For the majority of the game’s story, it is assumed that Captain America is dead. The game is almost broken down into sections where each Avenger serves as a protagonist, and with the exception of Thor, ALL of these characters have one thing in common: each character has a special interaction with the “Fallen” Avengers’ shield, and dialogue options showcasing how this loss has affected them. The loss of Cap is what tore this team apart and we get to see first hand that Cap was the glue that held everyone together and despite being gone for most of the game, his presence (or lacktherof) is always felt. When Cap comes back, we play as him as the default character for the majority of the game’s final section and with the return of Cap is a resurge of energy that had been missing from the team, again reenforcing the fact that Cap is what held this team together and kept them from turning volatile on one another, or at the very least tempered Tony’s abrasiveness and ego so that it wouldn’t turn all the other Avengers against him.
The MCU has spoiled audiences with a version of Tony Stark that, frankly, isn’t Tony Stark. Tony in the MCU is enjoyable because it’s not Tony Stark so much as Robert Downie Junior. Tony in the books is far more aggressive, egotistical, and is honestly kind of a huge dick. This is the Tony we see in Marvel’s Avengers. The guy who didn’t listen to subject matter experts and decided to do a PR Stunt by demonstrating a new clean energy source despite minimal testing and a lot of factors that could have gone wrong. This is the Tony Stark that refuses to see anyone else’s point of view, or acknowledge that he could be wrong at any single point of time. This is the Tony Stark that I knew and loved to hate from the books, and now other people finally get to understand just why I have so much disdain for Tony. But the other great thing that they do with Tony, that they don’t really do much in the MCU, is showcase just how much Cap grounds him as a character.
The game shows just how much Tony relies on Cap’s moral center to prevent him from getting tunnel vision, and most importantly the fact that Cap is honestly the only Avenger he truly considers his friend. This is demonstrated by just how volatile Tony is to the other Avengers when they link up again, but then when he saves Cap in space the energy is completely different. Even when questioning Cap about destroying the reactor which is what caused the accident at A Day, it’s not an attack he’s praying that Cap had a good reason. There is none of the venom that he has toward Bruce for (given the circumstances as were presented) rightfully relenting that the Avengers were in fact a danger to society. This is because Tony HAS to believe in Cap, if Cap is the bad guy what can he rely on and truly lean on? While themes like this were hinted at in the MCU, I don’t feel like it was ever fully embraced and they barely scratch its surface, and that’s noone’s fault. It’s one of the great limitations of films, but the greatest advantage this game has is making sure to acknowledge the comics as its routes in the A Day prologue, and so as a comic fan you are able to bring in all that context from the books and it adds to the atmosphere of the game.
This game is far from perfect, but I do think it will continue to grow and build on itself. Mistakes have been made for sure, stumbles have happened, but the dev team are actively resolving issues fast as they can and have been releasing consistent patches. However, I can forgive a lot of the imperfections because the game is fun to play for one, and two because they gave me the characters I love in a way that is more true to the books than anything else I have experienced outside the comics themselves and a few animated shows. I genuinely hope that this game gets to at least put out its full first season of content and doesnt crash like Anthem because unlike Anthem, it genuinely has the potential to be great and it’s all there. It just needs those tweaks.