Like the Unleashed Hulk and his transformation into the intelligent Bruce Banner, Marvel’s Avengers is a game of shifting personalities and experiences. Developer Crystal Dynamics offers a powerful superhero showcase that harnesses the unique abilities of each Avenger to light up the battlefield in exciting ways, but as the dust settles it slows down to show a softer, human side that is just as engaging, placing a character you wouldn’t expect in the central role. Crystal Dynamics is making a huge bet right out of the door, delivering the message that even though the name Avengers is on the box, it’s actually a story about a young girl named Kamala Khan – a huge fan of the great team. The opening moments show Kamala at an Avengers convention, geeking up when she meets people like Captain America and Black Widow. Kamala’s perspective as a little kid is a refreshing change of pace, and his enthusiasm is likely in line with that of the player, showing an appreciation for these superheroes. It’s a fun way to start this story, but I was shocked at how little screen time the Avengers spent at the start of the campaign. They’re barely featured in the first three to four hours of play, but it works weirdly. This time around, the focus is instead on Kamala’s origin story and growing up as Ms. Marvel. This coming-of-age tale is beautifully written with rightfully touching moments along the way. Even as she discovers her powers, Kamala shows us that she’s no slouch in battle, using a savage set of fun Transfiguration moves to strike her enemies. While combat is the center hook, much of Kamala’s gameplay is distinct and consists of frantic platforming. Ms. Marvel clings to ledges, falls when platforms collapse under her feet, and barely survives every big leap – all of which are reminiscent of Crystal Dynamics’ previous work on the Tomb Raider series. Kamala is even pushed to use stealth in a few sequences to sneak past the AIM robots that serve MODOK, another character who is impressively made and is developed thoroughly from start to finish. The platforming action is differentiated by a superhuman element, allowing players to use Ms. Marvel’s stretching abilities to propel her great distances and feel like a hero. These sequences, while impressive with the level destruction often exhibited, are repetitive in their stages and do not convey a real sense of danger. However, they help the narrative and help Kamala become the most dynamic character in the game. It’s a game about the Avengers, but the real star is not in their ranks. I love that the story takes risks to keep you quirky, all with a satisfying amount of narrative spinoff. When Ms. Marvel meets the Hulk in her attempt to bring the team together, the entire structure of the game is transformed. It goes from linear story-based sequences to a hub format filled with deep RPG systems and a world map with a dizzying array of single-player and co-op missions. I didn’t like sabotaging it in the hub world for talking to various vendors, but the map is well designed and gives you all the information you need before you embark on new missions or side activities on the critical path. At this point in the game, Kamala Khan’s story remains strong and is joined by mini-arcs for each of the Avengers. Crystal Dynamics did a good job creating scenarios tailored to the unique abilities of these heroes. The Hulk is the unstoppable monstrosity you hope for, smashing enemies and environments to pieces. Thor’s Mjölnir absolutely crushes enemies, and every swing feels like being delivered by a god. I also enjoyed Captain America’s shield antics (who doesn’t spend a lot of screen time for good storytelling reasons) and Black Widow’s acrobatics. All of these heroes have great cinematic moments backed up by huge game pieces. I don’t want to spoil any of them, but a cool sequence has you running around frantically as the environment revolves around you. Crystal Dynamics also keeps you on your toes by defying the norm for many heroes, putting them in situations where they may not have their gear or are injured. Iron Man is the only character that I didn’t find exciting. Its gameplay isn’t bad, but it’s tedious; his ranged attacks aren’t much fun, and his close-range melee isn’t as impressive as that of the other heroes. Nolan North’s performance as Tony Stark is good – his vocals and his delivery work – but the jokes are overblown, sounding like a one-line machine on the fritz. All of the characters share similarities in button mapping, but feel distinct when it comes to combats and moves. Light and heavy combos abound for every hero, and are a blast to use. Each character also has an interesting solution for ranged or airborne targets. The dodge, block, and parry systems are put to good use against almost all types of AIM enemies, although your enemies don’t have much variety. Each encounter and each success fuels an experience point system that allows you to progress and acquire new abilities. Avengers offers surprising depth in this area. You can’t really specify a hero differently from their base potential, but you can add extra moves to combos, speed up ranged attack cooldowns, and make each character more lethal in some ways. There are over 100 abilities for each character. It is a rewarding system that will keep you playing for a long time. Most of the Critical Path missions are well designed and offer lots of rewards, but the same can’t be said for some side activities. For example, some missions consist of destroying a few objects, so that the mission ends almost as quickly as it started; I think I spent more time in the pre-match lobby (which can take a while to load and find other players) than playing. You also get some weird checkpoint missions, which make you stick around to claim it, almost like Crystal Dynamics is thinking about competitive multiplayer ideas and just decided to use them here instead. Control missions are easy with other players by your side, but can be maddening with the AI, which rarely tries to claim spaces. Heroes are best when united on the battlefield. Co-op play is exceptionally good. Most of the environments are large spaces that allow a full team of four to beat enemies in style, and you can also increase the difficulty with your friends to get better rewards and make battles more dynamic. You are driven to earn better equipment to increase the overall power of each of the heroes, which you need to face more difficult missions. You can have a power of 12, but it takes 50 to have a chance in a particular side mission. Crystal Dynamics clearly played Destiny, as the loot system, various currencies, factions, and the world of the hub are almost identical in concept. Most of the gear you earn isn’t cosmetically displayed, and the influx of items makes the experience more difficult. Getting a +1 spinal cord for the Hulk is just weird, and does +1 really make a difference? Sure, loot makes heroes more powerful, but it’s just not fun to collect. Outside of legendary items, the only loot category that’s instantly satisfying is costumes. Crystal Dynamics loaded up different outfits for each hero, and many of them are great nods to the Marvel comics. Obtaining the costumes requires either grinding to earn currency (of which there is an unnecessarily confusing variety), progressing through the challenge map (the Avengers’ equivalent of a battle pass system), or obtaining a blueprint. to manufacture. Nothing comes really fast in Avengers. I wouldn’t call the process a slog, as I had a great time playing missions with friends. However, it goes slowly, making it look like the structure is designed for you to spend real money to progress faster. Crystal Dynamics wants you to play this game for years to come, and Avengers has plenty of content to keep you engaged at launch, but replaying higher difficulty missions to get better gear won’t be enough down the road. It doesn’t have the competitive hooks of similarly designed games like Destiny. A regular drop of new stories and missions will be needed with the heroes announced. Avengers is in great shape right now, dazzling with its story and action. I’m addicted to the endgame content available now and want to see just how powerful these heroes can become after leveling them up completely. Meeting vigilantes! You have a great game to play!