Lego Marvel’s Avengers Review (PlayStation 4)
While Marvel's had a tremendous amount of success at the box office over the last decade, the comic publisher has been relatively quiet on the video game front comparatively. There have been a few exceptions to the rule, but Marvel has been almost singularly focused on the mobile game arena. Over the last three years however, TT Games has managed to release two Marvel games under the Lego banner to sate fans hungry for Marvel action on a console. Though TT Games has been delivering licensed Lego video game adventures for over a decade, Lego Marvel's Avengers feels as fun and fresh as it has in years. It also gives Marvel fans a new spin on stories and characters they've spent a great deal of time with since The Avengers hit theaters in 2012.
Where TT Game's last Marvel adventure, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, was an original adventure in the comic universe, Lego Marvel's Avengers takes its inspiration from Marvel's most recent cinematic excursions. Not counting The Avengers, every bit of story this time around is based on one of the core Avenger Phase 2 films. The original team-up film and its sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, are where you'll spend the bulk of your time, with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier each getting a smaller bit of story to flesh out the experience.
All five movies are replicated with the same slapstick Lego humor you've come to love over the duration of the franchise, with a lot of great visual gags being thrown in at the expense of the dialogue ripped right from the films. There is a bit of original writing and acting in Marvel's Avengers, but that's mostly confined to the open world areas you'll get to explore after finishing off the first film's storyline. It's great to hear the actual actors delivering the lines you remember so well from the films, but it can be a bit stilted due to sound mix not matching up with the game's original audio exactly. Additionally, like the Marvel movies, you'll want to stay through the credits for some extra goodies.
There are more than a hundred different characters available, most of which you'll have to unlock through quests and puzzles in the open world areas, and all of them bring something a little different to the party. Individually, all the characters have the abilities you'd think they would. Captain America (whether Steve Rogers or Sam Wilson) can throw his shield, or bash Hydra goons in the face with it. Black Widow has handgun skills, but can also throw down some righteous justice with her shock sticks. Squirrel Girl has the power of, well, squirrels, but can also summon a massive squirrel mech if the need arises. TT Games' has gone to great lengths to provide these characters with the proper power sets, giving each a distinct personality on the battlefield.
Now that's not to say you won't find some similar archetypes throughout your heroic journey. Many of the powers are repeated not just for ease of development, but so that you can use multiple characters to solve any number of power-based puzzles. Finding the right tool for the job is a lot easier when there a bunch of tools that offer the same abilities in different trappings. Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch can control minds, all the Thors (regular, Jane Foster, Beta Ray Bill) can summon the power of lightning/electricity, and all the various Iron Men (including Rescue) can fire repulsor rays and rockets to their hearts' content.
As nice as all the individual powers are, the big combat change with this entry is the team-up attack. Any two characters can untie for a special strike that will do massive area of effect damage. The big Avengers all have tailored attacks given that you'll be using them for the majority of your time in the campaign sections, but any two characters you play with will have some sort of big power move at their disposal. Not everything is as spectacular as Thor and Cap teaming up to play a little shield baseball, or Black Widow and Cap teaming up for a little alley-oop with a bullet ballet, but knowing that you can get Luke Cage and Iron Fist together for a little Heroes for Hire beatdown action should still put a smile on your face.
Though Marvel's Avengers starts off as a fairly linear experience, you do eventually gain access to the open world New York City the team calls home, as well as the National Mall, Tony's Malibu home, and Asgard to name a few. New York is by far the largest open world area to explore, and is filled with collectibles to uncover, as well as optional crimes-in-progress to stop. Getting to explore the open areas is a nice touch, though everywhere but New York can feel a little claustrophobic for characters with flight or bigger bodies, like the Hulk. Exploration is a snap, and you can purchase new characters (with in-game currency) or swap around your roster with the press of a button.
Testing out new characters on the fly is great, provided you did have enough Lego studs to purchase your latest acquisition. The only drawback the game suffers from in this regard is how slowly studs are doled out when trying to gain access to a bunch of characters in one sitting. It's hard to pick and choose when the roster is so massive and deep. At least as far as the actual heroes are concerned. You can unlock Beth (the waitress Cap saves in The Avengers) and an AIM goon, but honestly why would you spend the studs on them when Cloud 9 and the original Human Torch are waiting for a chance to step onto the field of play?
As strong an effort as Lego Marvel's Avengers is, there are some nagging issues. Driving cars is about as fun as waiting in line at the DMV. They control pretty sluggishly, which isn't a problem when you want to just get around a stage, but when trying to complete some of the races to unlock new items/characters, it's supremely annoying to have to restart because you missed a turn and couldn't course correct fast enough. The story missions rely way too heavily on the discovery ability, which characters like Iron Man and Black Widow make use of most. The mini-game of searching for a handful of hotspots is all fine and dandy the first few times you have to do it, but by the time you finish the first Avengers movie story, it can feel like the only thing you've done is bring up the little tablet readout to find a hidden switch to progress. For the most part though, everything else controls as smoothly as it ever has, which makes sense given that TT Games has had a decade to perfect this formula.
Lego Marvel's Avengers brings a big roster and some new twists to the familiar TT Games model, and it makes this latest Lego game a strong effort. There are a lot of great jokes, there's a ton of replayability, and most importantly, there are a lot of characters you know and love that would otherwise almost never get a chance to star in a video game. There are still some small annoyances preventing Lego Marvel's Avengers from being an outstanding game, but TT Games has shown it still has some magic up its sleeve to keep improving upon its long-running franchise.
This review was completed with a digital download of Lego Marvel's The Avengers provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.