Marvel’s Avengers is the Incredible Hulk of video games. The rage-filled Avenger and his scientist alter-ego are the same person and yet wholly different from one another, and Avengers is similarly split between two, sometimes diametrically opposed, personalities. One is a single-player story campaign that can be emotional and thoughtful, tuned to bring you into the shoes of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, while also spending time with them as people. The other is a multiplayer-focused live game full of huge levels where you punch all manner of enemies, without many worries as to why. Both sides work in their own way, but they never quite mesh, leaving Marvel’s Avengers a somewhat confused, haphazard game–but a fun one, despite all its inner turmoil.
Like the Hulk’s mild-mannered counterpart, Bruce Banner, the single-player story campaign of Marvel’s Avengers makes a strong first impression with its more thoughtful approach. It’s set in its own alternate Marvel Comics universe where the superheroes that make up the Avengers–Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, the Hulk, and Thor–are famous and beloved. You start the game as Kamala Khan, a young girl who’s a huge fan of the heroes, when she attends an Avengers celebration called A-Day in San Francisco. Soon, Kamala will become a superhero in her own right, following a terrorist attack and a tragedy that causes the Avengers to disband and spreads superpowers throughout a segment of the population. And while you’ll spend time as each of the titular team, the single-player portion of Marvel’s Avengers is really Kamala’s story, and it works because she provides it a moral and emotional heart.
But this is a superhero game, and that means there are supervillains–and they need punching. The core of Marvel’s Avengers is an action-RPG brawler, with you playing a range of characters that deliver beat-downs to Marvel creeps such as Abomination, Taskmaster, and MODOK, as well as their many robotic and human minions. You’re treated to a host of moves, which include light and heavy melee strikes, ranged attacks, hero-specific special abilities that have cooldown timers, and extra abilities triggered by using Intrinsic Energy, a resource that generally builds up over time and allows you to activate boosts for damage or defense. Combat in Marvel’s Avengers is about stringing together combos and abilities based on the enemies you’re facing, with various threats demanding that you kick them into the air to juggle them, break their shields with heavy attacks, or dodge and parry their incoming blows to defeat them.