September 22, 2020

Marvel’s Avengers Beta Hands-On

This weekend the long awaited Marvel’s Avengers game has its first beta for those who pre-ordered it on the PlayStation 4. I had the opportunity to spend a few days playing through it, and can bring you some detailed hands-on impressions of what you’ll be able to play this weekend.

Before you get to the meat of the multiplayer co-op portion that’s the focus of the beta, you play through some single-player content. First up is the same demo you saw last year at SDCC in Hall H. It’s all real time and fully playable and it introduces you to how to play each of the Avengers. You start with Thor, then Iron Man, Hulk, Cap, and finally Widow in the boss fight against Taskmaster. Anyone who doubted that demo was real-time will be impressed with how it looks, and on a PS4 Pro it’s pretty impressive (the PS4 Pro version has a high performance mode or 4K mode in the options).

The controls for all of the Avengers are the same, but their abilities, animations, and super moves make them unique and each has their own feel. Iron Man can hover and fire ranged while still get into the fray with melee, Thor can throw (and retrieve) Mjolnir, Black Widow is super agile with her pistols for ranged, Cap is an amazing hand-to-hand fighter, while Hulk will remind some of that great Hulk Ultimate Destruction game where he can grab enemies and use them as a weapon. Following the introduction, the beta features Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, and Iron Man as playable characters.

For those of you wondering about the West Coast location in this game and the line in the PS4 Spider-Man about the Avengers being on the West Coast, they’re not in the same universe. I had the chance to ask the developers about that this week and they expressed how awesome Insomniac has been to them by sharing what their Spider-Man game would be, but the two games are set in their own universes. Which means the Spider-Man who will eventually show up in the PS4 version of Avengers will be a unique version of the character separate from Insomniac’s.

You’ve seen the demo many times, but following it you do get to play a little bit of the single-player campaign before the full beta opens up. These scenes have Hulk and Ms. Marvel searching for JARVIS and you alternate between the two. First Hulk, then Ms. Marvel, and the single player part gives you a clue of how the campaign missions will feel. You fight waves of enemies, some stronger than others, while they’ll randomly drop resources and loot.

Speaking of the loot, that’s something I like about Marvel’s Avengers. It’s obvious that some of the devs play games like World of Warcraft or Destiny where when you get a new piece of loot with better stats; it might not match with the rest of your look. In Avengers, loot is really just for stats. They do have specific slots for loot, but the loot only affects your stats and not your appearance. Your appearance is controlled by the cosmetic skin you have equipped. The beta also gives you a preview of some of those cosmetics such as Ms. Marvel’s iconic comic costume and a Black Widow one that’s very similar to her plain clothes look in the upcoming movie.

Once you get through those early introductory missions, you reach the hub where you’ll have access to the War Table. This is where you’ll select your missions and before the beta fully unlocks you’ll do one more campaign mission from the War Table and it gives you a preview of how that will likely work in the final. If you’ve ever played a Strike in Destiny, it’ll be instantly familiar. You select the mission from the map, and then it takes you to a matchmaking screen where you can select your Avenger and be matched up with three other players or go it solo with AI companions. When that mission is out of the way, then the rest of the beta opens and you’ll have access to the HARM Room training missions (it’s the Avengers’ Danger Room) as well as several co-op War Zone missions on the War Table.

These War Zones are side missions with a different game type each. Control has you holding multiple spots until a bar fills, Domination is one large spot, Elimination has you taking out elite enemies, Assault is to pretty direct fights against normal enemies, and Sabotage has you destroying points of interest. There’s also an iconic mission which is a co-op non-campaign level themed around a specific character, and in the beta’s case it’s Hulk. Finally there’s a villain War Zone where you’ll need a high power level to take out a huge boss after fighting through elite squads of AIM troops.

Playing in the War Zone earns you experience and a lot of loot. Much like Destiny, the game very loot driven with color-coded rarity on loot. Enemies can drop loot or resources, and you use the resources to upgrade your gear. You can also find loot in chests scattered or hidden around the maps. Rare gear can be upgraded more times than common gear, and your gear is what your Power level is based on. You level up your Hero (to gain skill points) with experience, while your Power level is how good your gear is. The beta has the Hero level cap at 15 with the Power level capped at 45. However, that barely scratches the surface of what you’ll find in the final game. The beta only has one page of skills to unlock as you level up your Hero level while the final game has three.

Even with it being a small slice of the full game, there’s a surprising amount of content in this beta. You can play through the SDCC 2019 demo, then get a taste of the single-player campaign, before diving into the War Zone and leveling up your Hero. Also, if you complete the HARM Room challenges you’ll unlock a pickaxe for Fortnite (you need to link your Square Enix and Epic accounts for that). Be aware, those HARM Room challenges get very tough, so you’ll want to level up a Hero with a good gear power level and have some friends for the best chance of completing them.

All of this kicks off this weekend on the PS4, and then the following two weekends for the other platforms. I really enjoyed my time with the beta and look forward to completing those HARM challenges over the next few weeks. Expect a full review of Marvel’s Avengers when it launches on September 4th.