Marvel's Avengers open beta impressions: Some assembly required

Shacknews recently had a chance to try out the Marvel's Avengers beta early and while it's superheroic in some ways, there's definitely room for improvement.


Earth's Mightiest Heroes are living in a brave new world following the biggest tragedy the team has ever been witness to. Marvel's Avengers, from Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, takes players to a future without heroes, as the Avengers have been disbanded and superheroes have been outlawed. The journey is officially set to begin next month, but the open beta is just days away from kicking off on PlayStation. Shacknews got a chance to jump into the beta early and while it wasn't the A-Day disaster that it looked to be after its initial E3 2019 reveal, there's a lot of room for improvement.

For many players, the beta will offer a chance to play through the A-Day mission. Shacknews first got to try this out back at PAX West last year and while not a lot has changed from when we got to try it there, this will be the first opportunity for the average player to experience this opening for themselves. It'll act as their introduction to the myriad of different play styles, like Thor's Kratos-inspired hammer-based strikes, Iron Man's aerial ranged combat, and Hulk's up-close brawling. Every hero controls differently to the point that it could prove difficult to keep track of each one's style, abilities, and combos.

A-Day should have been one of those missions that set the tone for the rest of the game, but the very next part of the beta took us on a search for a lost helicarrier. This was another opportunity to play as the Hulk, which should have proven to be a lot of fun. There's nothing quite like smashing and throwing around enemies like lawn darts. However, this felt like much more of a slog. For one thing, players can't be careless about their health (or Willpower, as it's called in this game) or else they'll get taken down in short order by AIM's greater numbers. You can't just brute force your way through the level, which would be fine normally, except you're supposed to be The Hulk! Hulk's whole deal is that he's a nigh-unstoppable monster, so watching him get subdued by a bunch of grunts with ray guns felt disappointing to say the least. My takeaway was that Hulk shouldn't be taken down so easily or it cuts into the fantasy.

This mission also provided a first opportunity to try out Kamala Khan (the future Ms. Marvel) and her abilities felt like a lot of fun. She can strike from a distance with her stretchy limbs, but her abilities also allow her to change size and perform quick-strike combos. She can also traverse by extending her arms outwards, like a makeshift rope. Combat felt more intuitive with Kamala, just because her smaller frame and quicker speed allowed me to stick and move a lot more than with the burlier Hulk.

I wish there was more positive to say about the single-player, but the traversal elements and the pacing feel somewhat off. There doesn't seem to be a lot to these missions other than going from Point A to Point B and taking on waves of enemies. It also feels a little odd that the HARM Tutorials, which are aimed at teaching players more advanced mechanics, are placed after the first three single-player missions. This order might change for the final product, but it didn't make the beta feel any smoother.

A lot of that design is likewise in place for multiplayer War Zone missions. These often involve going across levels and taking on wave after wave of enemies. Sometimes the action gets mixed up with the team being asked to activate terminals, guard a piece of machinery, or simply smash something into pieces. The difference is that if you're playing with friends, the slog is a lot less noticeable. That's because with every hero feeling and playing differently, each player can be assigned different roles and play a different part in the fight. When I was playing as the Hulk in single-player, I hated getting sniped from a distance because there's little for the big guy to do to defend against that. In multiplayer, the Hulk can be protected against that when Iron Man takes out the shooters from a distance. The longer I played through the beta, the more it felt like this game is being designed mainly with multiplayer in mind. And while Crystal Dynamics has noted in the past that players can jump into War Table missions with AI teammates, I wasn't exactly encouraged after I journeyed through a snow mission with an AI Hulk and watched him get stuck in the middle of three trees.

If the Marvel's Avengers beta does have something going for it for solo players, it looks to be the boss battles. Taking on The Abomination was a nice taste of things to come, as it captured the essence of two giant tanks going head-to-head. It's too early to say whether the other boss fights will be similar slugfests or whether they'll be closer to the quick-time event fest that was the A-Day Taskmaster fight, but I'm hoping for some imaginative boss fights that take advantage of the various Avenger mechanics.

One encouraging note is that Square Enix appears like they'll be very receptive to player feedback. They'll be asking beta participants to rate each mission and will take feedback through various channels, like through social media. While it might be hard to institute any bigger changes, given that the final version of the game is just a month away, hopefully any widely-requested changes will be more on the horizon, given that Square hopes to support this game for years to come.

The Marvel's Avengers open beta is set to begin this weekend for PlayStation 4 owners who have pre-ordered, next weekend for Xbox One and PC users who pre-ordered, and in two weeks for all users. Marvel's Avengers will release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on September 4 with next-gen console versions coming at a later date.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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