Cloudy with a Chance of Games

As gamers, Marvel fans, September the 1st or 4th, depending on whether you opted for the deluxe or standard edition of the game, was you’re A day.

After the war table events and beta’s, Square Enix’s Marvel Avengers game has arrived and it has to be said what a marvel it is but it’s not without it’s imperfections.

The story unfolds throughout the 10 – 12 hour campaign mode, dependent on your difficulty level. Apart from the obvious inclusion of your favourite childhood and adulthood heroes, the game’s main protagonist is Kamala Khan, a.k.a Ms Marvel.

Image: Square Enix

Personally, I feel this is great to see another large developer bring a further title that has a strong female lead, something that the games industry needs more of but also something that as a developer, they are no stranger to doing with the Tomb Raider series.

For those unaware of Kamala, she’s from Jersey City, and first appeared in the Marvel universe in late 2013 in Captain Marvel volume 7.

Although she was initially unnamed at this point in time, she did then go on to appear in the All-New Marvel NOW! In 2014 as Ms Marvel.

Campaign:

The Marvel Avengers game takes us on an adventure, which takes place 5 years after A day. The day to celebrate the Avengers that soon turns to anything but celebratory as chaos, destruction and despair ensues, leaving the Avengers to be blamed for the events that you see unfold before your very eyes.

As you fill the shoes of Kamala, you begin a journey to assemble the Avengers to take on A.I.M and of course, the games main villain Modok.

It’s time to dig deep, harness those powers and bring the universe’s finest together to save the world.

Right from the start of the game, Square Enix have done a fantastic job of capturing and focusing on that inner child that we all have.

As a fan of the Marvel universe, you are drawn in to a place where you see Kamala as someone who looks up to the heroes that have saved the planet, captured our hearts and brings that admiration beaming through for those loveable characters.

You instantly identify with Kamala’s excitement as she arrives for A day, as a budding comic writer looking to win the competition and meeting the likes of Thor, Black Widow and of course, the Cap.

One thing that struck me, was the clear thought put into ensuring a good balance between gameplay and exquisite cinematic scenes.

Quite often in big AAA, blockbuster titles you find yourself frustrated with the over use of cut scenes, leaving you wanting more time to actually take part and play in the story.

Thankfully, not something that you will have to contend with in Avengers.

There was a continuing theme whilst I was playing through the story, I was having fun. There’s something to be said for a game with a story like that, because you completely forget that you are playing a game, you become totally immersed.

The story itself has so many layers to it, with so many issues or concerns that we as people experience in our daily lives. Confusion, conflict, lack of self-confidence.

We’ve all had life lessons and issues to overcome in our lifetimes and the developers have really humanised each of the characters and draw you in completely.

It’s almost as if they have shone a spotlight on our much- loved super heroes with the intention of illustrating that they have to contend with the same yet amplified challenges in life.

One of the other items that I felt that the campaign dealt in a small way is misinformation and the media, how people can get swept up with the narrative that is portrayed by media outlets and the circus the usually goes with it. In a matter of what feels like minutes, you witness the Avengers go from being celebrated to being hated for their part in A day.

The media scrutiny it brings within the game, alongside the supporters being banished into the shadows, hiding their secret that they support the Avengers, missing their presence and all of this, for fear of how society will treat them.

For a game, this takes you on a story that will see you encounter a range of emotions and face challenges but does it all by consuming you to the point that you feel compelled to keep pushing through until it’s climax.

A story to be appreciated and admired for all the work that has gone into it.

As you progress , you will begin to unlock your favourite characters until you finally assemble a team (No we’re not going to spoil it and tell you which characters you unlock) to take on the challenge of Modok and AIM’s robots, cyborgs and androids.

You’ll level you’re characters up as you work through the campaign building their power, gear and skills. Square Enix, have really made a conscious effort to make this particular section appeal to multiple levels of players.

When you are ready to power up, you can simply press L2 and it will automatically apply and upgrade you to the best levels or alternatively you can take the time and deliberate yourself over how you want to improve and build on your characters upgrades.

The sheer size and scale of this game, really is to be admired. As a starting point from launch you will have a good solid number of hours to work through the campaign and continue with the post story content.

One thing of note here, is that during one of the War Table events in the lead up to the titles launch, we learned that additional story content or DLC will be provided at no charge and this gives real avenues for the stories to be expanded on, meaning that as a purchase there’s going to be a lot of content to come as we experience this ever expanding game.

You’re definitely not going to play through the story and end up with a title that just sits in your library that you never revisit.

Now with additional content for free, Square Enix had a choice on how to further monetise the title.

This comes in two forms, the first is the marketplace where you can purchase a range of outfits for the characters, emotes and specialised name plates.

The second is the hero challenge cards, which essentially is a battle pass, featuring a number of daily and weekly challenges to earn more cosmetic items for the character that you choose. Challenge cards for all post launch heroes will be $10.

I personally feel like there was a whole unnecessary furore created over this. For me it was natural that if additional content was going to be free, there was always going to be a way for the developers to make some money and the route they’ve taken with I have no issue with in the slightest.


Multi-Player:

Once you’ve spent approximately an hour in the campaign, you will unlock the Avengers Intiative. This will then open up the multiplayer world for you, however as much as I say that, my experience has been that it’s matchmaking is frustrating and this does let the game down in a little.

Especially on account of the fact that post the campaign you move into missions where multiplayer will be key.

Now whilst you can go without connecting online and teaming up with others, there’s something to be said for the difference between playing with AI team-mates versus teaming up with other gamers who are playing online.

You’ve played through the campaign and had AI team-mates, you don’t want to necessarily carry that on throughout the multi-player section of the game.

My best advice here to get the best out of the multi-player experience is to team up with your friends, rather than matchmaking. You will find the whole experience much more fun by tackling it with friends.

The match making experience, takes far too long to find other players to pair you up and the one thing that I would add that from doing some research this is not solely a Stadia related issue. Gamers across multiple platforms are reporting the same experience.

Once you’ve teamed up with your friends, the grind begins to level up and enhance your character. What you will find is that as you play through the missions, it’s easy to lose at least 2-3 hours with your friends online, which will easily see you push 30 – 40 levels on your character.

Multi-player should be fun, not filled with frustration whilst you wait to be paired up and hopefully this is something that can be addressed in the future by the developers, otherwise it could certainly be something that holds back the title in the multi-player domain.

One area of multi-player that should be highlighted for Stadia is the performance of the game whilst you have 4 players teaming up, combined with the environments and enemies. Having seen the game perform on other platforms and various streams, where frame rate drops and screen tearing were an issue.

The Stadia version really showcases the performance available with virtually none of these issues being experienced on the platform.

A word of warning that although you unlock the Avengers Intiative after an hour or so, it is advisable to play through the entire story before moving on to multiplayer otherwise you could run the risk of spoiling the story.


Controls:

In terms of ease of play, I found the control system for the game to take a similar approach to the character power and gear. On one hand it’s very simplistic, intuitive and easy to play, with the controls relatively self-explanatory.

You can really pick it up and just start playing and it also doesn’t take a lot to remember the controls if you maybe take a break from playing for a day or two.

The game does also provide on screen prompts for you to hit certain keys at particular times in battles, you will find it pop up to show that you need to tap X or Y at critical times in the fight against your opponent.

It also serves useful reminders that when you’ve inflicted a certain amount of damage to an enemy , to press Y+B to finish them off.

Now, I likened the controls to the power and gear of characters and that’s because as you develop your character and build out their skills, which become entirely your choice if you use those skills acquired. You will find the introduction of combinations for battle and post dodging your enemies attacks.

Personally I had no trouble in building on the basic controls and using some of the combinations to introduce a number of different methods to defeat your enemy.

Navigating through the game’s UI is simple, clean and effective. You will find no issues with navigating your way to where you need to be, whether it’s flicking through objectives or spending your skill points, everything is nice and straight forward.

Graphics:

In the menu system, you will find that you have gameplay settings that will allow you to chose your preference of how you want to experience the gameplay.

There are two options for you to chose from, High Frame Rate and High Resolution.

Throughout my continued time with the game, I made a point of testing both options that are made available and I have to say I found myself more than content with the balance of graphical fidelity and smoothness with the High Frame Rate setting, which ensures that the game runs at 60 frames per second.

There’s no denying that High Resolution mode, looks absolutely stunning but you will notice a vast difference as you’d expect, in the smoothness of game-play and with this in mind, our recommendation would be to take the High Frame Rate option as this will still provide great visuals and a buttery smoothness.

When we first got the opportunity to get time with the title, we did initially had a great experience but shortly after this, we noticed some odd behaviour in the game’s performance post launch, which seemed to be solely affecting those with the deluxe edition.

Thankfully not too long after the launch of the standard edition, we found that the issue resolved itself and our assumption would be that initially the deluxe edition hadn’t received a patch.

As you will see from the numerous images and screen grabs throughout this review, the graphical fidelity is very impressive in Avengers, the environments, reflections, textures and attention to details on the characters were something to be admired.

It does feel like Square Enix have really tapped into the resources available on Stadia to ensure that they deliver a visual offering that equally matches the immersive story and they have done that exceptionally well.

One thing we would like to see in future though is for the need to switch between the two graphics modes and simply have the power of the platform pushed further to deliver a consistent full 4K60FPS experience.

Final Thoughts:

Marvel’s Avengers is a roller coaster ride throughout it’s campaign and it will keep you coming back for more but on the proviso that in the post campaign your making sure that you assemble your friends to offer the experience that you want and quite frankly that the cost of the game demands.

Ms. Marvel will take you on adventure to assemble the very heroes she spends her days looking up to. It’s immersive and engaging story, combined with the gameplay and that cinematic feeling to it’s cut scenes is visually stunning.

Regardless of who your favourite hero is, each character brings their own element of fun to the game play. So whether you’re throwing Mjolnir through the air, high fiving with giant hands or just generally smashing the environment up with Hulk, it’s every bit the super hero experience you want.

The multiplayer experience does let the game down a little, which is a mildly disappointing given how much focus on online play there is but between that, the graphical anomalies we experienced and the standard post launch bugs, there’s nothing that shouldn’t be able to be fixed.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Square Enix for providing us with a couple of copies for review and also emphasise that this in no why biased our opinion on the game.

As much as this game delivers fun in abundance, great visuals and an immersive story. The multi-player experience leaves us in a position where we couldn’t justify giving it a full 5 stars, but it comes close with the experience it delivers.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

By Barry Jackson

My first gaming experience was on a ZX spectrum, from there I've gone through every Nintendo system, Playstation , Xbox up until the last generation of the consoles and of course PC. I finally seen the light earlier in 2020 and made the move to Cloud Gaming and quite genuinely it was the best thing I've ever done. The future of gaming is here and with my deep passion for gaming I can't wait to experience where it's going.

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