Marvel’s Avengers PS4 Beta Preview Impressions – Slightly Underwhelming

    Square Enix Marvel's Avengers
    Square Enix Marvel's Avengers Key Art

    Marvel’s Avengers Beta on PS4 is out now and we had a chance to play through it. With the game nearing its September launch, the Beta provides access to the campaign prologue and a bunch of co-op/multiplayer missions. Here’s everything you can access in the closed Beta on PS4, and other platforms when the open Beta is launched:

    • A-Day Prologue
    • 2 Hero Missions
    • 5 Dropzones
    • 3 HARM Room challenges
    • 4 Warzone missions

    While the PS4 closed BETA has ended, you can look forward to playing through the same on other platforms here:

    Beta DatesPlatform
    Closed Beta (Preorders) Aug 7-9PS4
    Closed Beta (Preorders) Aug 14-16Xbox, PC
    Open Beta Aug 21-23All Platforms

    Well, with that done, what does the Avengers beta include, and what does it tell us about the final game?

    Avengers Beta – A-Day Prologue

    Marvel's Avengers gameplay
    Marvel’s Avengers gameplay

    The beta starts off with the inaugural A-Day mission from the campaign, which gives you a brief overview of the controls for each character and sets up the story. Not much has changed here since we saw the mission back during its first gameplay trailer. This extended section is a good place for a tutorial, giving us ample time to play as each Avenger for some time. The game’s rather basic control scheme is first taught here, and I have to say I’m a little underwhelmed by it. Each hero’s basic controls are the same – face buttons for melee, bumpers for hero-specific abilities, and triggers for long-range projectiles.

    The gameplay here feels just as button-mashy as it looked in the trailers. We start off with Thor, who plays quite similar to, if not on the same level, as Kratos from God of War (2018). Thor’s Mjolnir feels like a discount version of Kratos’ Leviathan axe. His punches feel solid though, and you really feel the power that a Norse God should command in battle. From there, we switch over other characters for about 5-10 minutes each, where we get to see what unique abilities each of them present.

    Iron Man plays best in the air, using his repulsor blasts to take down enemies from afar. You can still engage in melee combat on the ground, but it doesn’t feel nearly as good as it does when in the air. We then switch over to Captain America for a brief period, and his combat is much more refined. Using his shield as both an offensive and defensive weapon feels great, and I have to mention the great finisher animations that we get for the character. He feels just right when in combat, with his power level matching what we should expect from the guy. It makes sense that Captain America might struggle with 5 human enemies on the spot since he isn’t a thunder-wielding Norse God. That’s where some might struggle with suspending their disbelief, which I’ll get to below.

    Black Widow also plays surprisingly well, much more that I had imagined. Her moveset is quite diverse, where you can engage in good long-distance combat with her pistols and great melee combat. We get to play her during a boss-battle with Taskmaster, which was my favorite moment from the entire beta. And then we come to the Hulk, who was my least favorite of all. He’s a brute, who isn’t necessarily agile, and offers the least amount of variety in combat. At times, playing the Hulk reminded me of the ill-fated Incredible Hulk game that came out more than a decade ago.

    While some players might be content with that, I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed. The same goes for most of the other characters, who don’t feel nearly as good as say Batman in the Arkham games, or even Spider-Man from his last solo-outing on PS4. It feels like the combat mechanics have regressed from what we’ve gotten in videogames over the last few years. I know that this isn’t an open-world single-player game, but it feels like it should be. Instead of going the Destiny route, I wish the game was just a good old single-player game. Instead, with Avengers being treated as a service, I feel like it won’t quite live up to its potential.

    A-Day ends as it did in the first trailer, with Captain America presumed dead and the Avengers disbanded. We get a brief montage of the aftermath, setting up AIM as the big bad organization that we’ll be fighting for the rest of the game.

    Enter Ms. Marvel – A New Hope

    • avengers-beta-ms-marvel-headshot (1)
    • marvels-avengers-kamala-bus-depot-real (1)

    When Square Enix revealed that Ms. Marvel will play a big role in the campaign, I was really excited. For one, we’re finally getting Kamala Khan in a big role that will expose the character to a larger audience. Secondly, it shows that Crystal Dynamics really wants the campaign to have some weight. It’s not just assembling together and playing each mission with your favorite Avenger from the beginning. You get to actually go on an adventure to assemble the heroes that Khan adores, just like us.

    Kamala doesn’t get her own tutorial/introduction section. After the A-day ending montage, we immediately jump into the shoes of Bruce Banner, who has now teamed up with Kamala in order to find the mission, Avengers. Yay, more Hulk gameplay! After a long section of awkwardly traversing an abandoned are filled with bad guys, we finally get to pay as Ms. Marvel. Much to my surprise, she plays really well. Her embiggening powers take a while to get used to looking at, but during the combat, it really shows she has a versatile set of moves that can take advantage of any situation.

    Much like the other characters, Kamala too has a mix of long-range and short-range attacks. She can also swing from poles, not unlike Spider-Man. Her fangirling out over the smallest details and interactions with the characters from the Avengers world (Banner, JARVIS, etc) is quite relatable, and her performance is also pretty good.

    Missions Design, Gameplay Loop and Customization

    • Avengers Skill Tree
    • Gear customization in Marvel's Avengers
    • Avengers Beta Marketplace

    Removing the campaign from the picture, Marvel’s Avengers is very much like Destiny, in that most other content in the game relies heavily on co-op. You use the war table in the Chimera to access the different missions, and then select which Avenger you want to play while waiting for other players to join in. If you want, you can disable matchmaking to play with AI companions. In the Avengers Beta the following characters are available to choose from – Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and Ms. Marvel. Each character can be customized to your liking, with outfits that you can unlock with XP. They also have their own skill trees, so each Avenger will play a little differently once you’ve unlocked certain skills and abilities.

    • Challenge Cards in Marvel's Avengers
    • Avengers Warzone characters

    HARM rooms are training modules where you can just go through waves of enemies. It’s a pretty good mode to get an idea of how each character plays before you jump into any of the multiplayer missions with friends. The Warzones and Drop Zones are fine, but can quickly blend together in the chaos of battle. When you have multiple robots coming in at your face, and you’re trying to make sense of the situation at a 20-something framerate, you can easily forget just what the objective is. I guess it really is a lot like Destiny 2, but not in a good way. The idea is great though – choose your hero and make a unique Avengers roster with your friends to tackle missions. But when the missions themselves are generic, it leaves a lot to be desired. Here’s hoping the final release addresses a lot of these issues. With the game being what it is – a live service, I’m sure the content in the game itself will get better with time.

    Avengers Beta PS4 Performance – This Ain’t It Chief

    Iron Man in Square Enix Marvel's Avengers
    Iron Man in Square Enix Marvel’s Avengers

    The game is targeting 30 FPS at 1080p on the base PS4 and the same at dynamic 4K on the PS4 Pro. The Pro also includes a performance mode that unlocks the framerate at 1080p, but it’s far from a locked 60 FPS experience at that. I played the beta on the PS4 slim, and the experience was nothing to write home about. While some quieter interactions can stick to a stable 30 FPS, during intense combat sequences it can get ugly. Case in point, while playing as the Hulk smashing through hordes of AIM robots, the framerate would constantly dip into the 20s. I hope this is being worked on extensively for the release since being a multiplayer-focused title decreased performance can really ruin the experience for you and your friends. Not that it wouldn’t do the same in the campaign, it’s just less of a hassle to deal with.

    First Impressions? Wait For PC Beta

    The Avengers PC Beta will go live on August 14th, but I’ll be jumping in the open Beta that will take place on the 21st. A lot of my issues with this game are related to its games-as-a-service model, which hinders the mission design quite a bit. But the bad performance leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I’m sure the PC version will at least play well, at 60 FPS. Even if not in the Beta, I’m hoping it does so in the final release. The folks over at Digital Foundry have already pointed out how the game was running really well on PC, that too back during Gamescom.

    Crystal Dynamics, the developer, has already stated how they’re targeting 4K at 60 FPS for the PS5 version, which you can upgrade to at no extra cost. However, there are still a few months left before we’ll get our hands on them. At least the game should be in a better state when Spider-Man is available, albeit exclusively on PlayStation. You can see my video impressions of the BETA here.

    Marvel’s Avengers releases on September 4 on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia. The game will also receive free updates for the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X versions.

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