When you start Marvel’s Avengers, the in-game menu suggests you complete the single-player campaign before diving into online multiplayer. Now I’m over six hours into the campaign and only just unlocked Black Widow, my fourth of the game’s six playable launch characters. This might take a while, but I’m not irritated. I’m having a great time so far.
Based purely on the content of the beta and what Square Enix had shown of the game prior to today’s early-access launch, I was quite worried about Marvel’s Avengers. I worried it would be a dull, repetitive plod through missions built for multiplayer without a strong character focus. I worried the character models, ridiculed since the game debuted, would keep me from fully enjoying the game. Though I feel my worries were justified, I’m pleased to report that they were, for the most part, unfounded.
The beta did not do Marvel’s Avengers justice. It sped through the campaign’s opening, skipping broad swaths of quality story content in favor of getting players into the online action. The full game opens with a very young Kamala Khan, who’s not yet gained her Ms. Marvel stretchy powers, attending the A-Day celebration in San Francisco with her father. She’s part of a group of kids who won a trip in an Avengers fan-fiction contest, which is very on-brand for Kamala.
The first 20 minutes of the game are Kamala exploring the deck of a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. It’s been transformed into sort of an Avengers theme park in honor of A-Day, filled with exhibits dedicated to Earth’s mightiest heroes. During her exploration she runs into Thor, Captain America, and Black Widow. Kamala isn’t a hero yet, just a starry-eyed fan. These brief interactions help humanize those awkward, not-quite-MCU character models.
The overall effect of this endearing sequence is when we cut to five years later, after the helicarrier explodes and Captain America seemingly dies, Kamala’s passion for helping the Avengers makes much more sense. Teenage Kamala spent half a decade mourning her fallen heroes. She’s obsessed, so much so that when the villainous organization A.I.M. targets her as an Inhuman, transformed by the Terrigen explosion that downed the helicarrier on A-Day, Kamala has no qualms about hopping a bus to Utah and seeking out the Inhuman resistance.
Events unfold slowly. It’s an hour and a half into the game before Kamala runs into Bruce Banner, and nearly two hours before we get control of him in the campaign. His awkward interactions with the teenager are simply adorable.
Want to play as Iron Man? First you have to play through around three and a half hours of story. Then you’ve got to help Tony Stark put together a piecemeal suit consisting of a repulsor glove, a pair of boots, and a helmet. Not an Iron Man helmet, just a helmet.
Eventually Tony finds a full suit of armor, which he uses to go on a mission to find fabricator parts so he can build a fancy red-and-gold number. Until then, it’s fun to see Stark in a more vulnerable state, his ego taken down a few notches. It’s still there, of course, just not as effing annoying as it normally is.
I enjoy getting to be Tony Stark and Iron Man. Before I played the Hulk, I got to be Banner for a bit. It makes me feel like these heroes are more than their costumes and powers. They have layers, like ogres.
I won’t get into how Black Widow eventually rejoins the team. I will only say that it is a very Black Widow moment and I was caught completely off-guard. One would think that six hours in I would be expecting a new character to drop, but I got so wrapped up in the story of Kamala and the Inhuman resistance that I lost track of my heroes. Who knows when Thor will show up? I expect Captain America, who dies at the beginning of the game but is a playable character so, spoilers, will show up when we need him the most, possibly with his mighty shield preceding him.
What I am saying is that I am excited now, finally. It took getting the damn game into my hands and several hours of story campaign play, but I am finally looking forward to getting back to playing Marvel’s Avengers. I think I’ll do that now.