I’m torn. Officially torn. And this review is probably going to reinforce that a lot. Reason being is that Lego Marvel’s Avengers instigates a vicious conflict between me as a giant nerd and me as an objective game reviewer. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the very same struggle wasn’t exclusive to me, because while Lego Marvel’s Avengers is probably the most jaw dropping Lego game to date, it is let down by a few flaws.
Lego Marvel’s Avengers follows a very scripted narrative. Unlike 2013’s Lego Marvel Super Heroes which presented an original story, Avengers replicates the Marvel Cinematic Universe (especially Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) almost scene for scene. This isn’t unusual – everything from Star Wars, Pirates of The Caribbean and The Hobbit have seen their entire stories recreated in charming and hilarious Lego form, but it’s the very cool way that developer Traveler’s Tales have fused such a fragmented story. For instance, the game kicks off with the opening scene of Age of Ultron where The Avengers storm Baron Von Strucker’s bunker to retrieve the Tesseract. Once found, a “previously” screen pops up and we start off from where the Tesseract started to become bad news: the first Avengers movie. In between all of this, we get minor introductions to characters such as Captain America by playing through key set pieces of The First Avenger etc. It’s very well done and remarkable seeing the MCU so…connected, just like it’s always been touted.
Now when I say that the game is shot almost scene for scene, I’m not exaggerating. Portions of the films that don’t exactly lend themselves to the interactive – and more importantly, smash everything in sight – nature of a Lego game have been added. The Avengers time on Clint’s farm in AOU and the team seeing haunting visions courtesy of Scarlet Witch’s mind trickery, are playable. It’s a bizarre choice at times but it helps with tying everything together when something as innocuous as a Lego game could have been forgiven for skipping these scenes.
So with that being said, you’ll find yourself playing through key moments in the films, all complete with dialogue lifted directly from the movies. This is where I tend to get a little ambivalent. Yes, controlling your favourite Avengers during the Battle of New York, Hulk vs Hulk Buster fight and Battle of Sokovia is awesome but I’d be lying to each and every one of you if I said that it was completely refined.
For starters Avengers is super chaotic at times and when an army of Ultrons are attacking you and there are hapless victims running around aimlessly, everything is damn near indistinguishable, which means that your objectives can be difficult to find. I have always said that I wanted a little more focus on combat in my Lego games but Avengers doesn’t let you breathe long enough to figure out your next puzzle.
This is doubly infuriating because there were a number of times when Avengers just flat out refuses to give you a hint at what you’re supposed to do next. There are far too many variations on gameplay here to know immediately what you’re meant to do so unfortunately, looking like an idiot in the process of guessing is usually your best bet.
When you do figure out what your doing and start to get a feel for the shift in style, Avengers is really fun. This is where that nerd rises up and and slaps the reviewer in me for being too critical. A special mention has to go out to the combat. One thing I have always wanted is for TT to stop spoon-feeding us and actually make the combat mean something and they have finally done it here. Enemies are a lot tougher and they arrive in seemingly endless waves so there is always fodder for your super abilities.
There is now a bar around your character icon that fills up with each enemy you de-block. At any stage before it gets filled you can hit O (on Playstation) and you will execute a special move, a must for putting opponents down permanently. Every character has their own so Hawkeye will flip an enemy over and stab him with an arrow and The Vision will literally enter someone’s body and blow them up from the inside.
The double team maneuvers though are where it’s at and they are crucial. When your meter completely fills up you, you will be prompted to press O again but this time near a teammate. Upon doing so, you can take out nearly every enemy on screen. Every duo is different and they are simply awesome. Hulk will lift Iron Man up and spin him around while his lasers are firing and Thor can smash down on Caps shield to create a shockwave. The possibilities are endless and you’ll be dying to try them all out.
Special mention by the way to Quicksilver’s targeting move. Time slows down and the Six Million Dollar Man jump sound plays while he rapidly knocks down enemies. Kudos.
Free play is pretty relaxing after all the commotion of the story. It is a recycled map of Lego Marvel Super Heroes but its quests and puzzles are entirely new, less glitchy and at times, really inventive – encounters with a young Peggy Carter that turn the screen black and white are wonderful. It will take you a while to get all of those bricks and characters for that coveted 100% (of which there are many, obscure and comic related).
What’s great is that you can explore Stark’s mansion in Malibu, Thor’s home of Asgard and a range of other locales from the films. It’s all rather addictive.
However the biggest issue I had was the co-op component of Avengers. Now Lego games are almost designed to be played on the couch with a friend and they now exist as a vestige of a bye gone era. Keeping that in mind, TT haven’t exactly gone out of their way to make co-op feel organic here. The chaos being even worse in co-op is a given but too many times were me or my partner left doing nothing until the other completed their mission. Take the truck/bike chase from AOU. As Black Widow I was tasked with riding behind the truck while my partner, as Captain America, fought off waves of Ultron clones. Sure, I had a gun and I could steer the bike but I couldn’t hit anything or make any substantial impact so I simply waited for her to be done.
Furthermore, it is ridiculously invasive having a friend play with you. Iron Man’s suit selection menu takes up the entire screen as do various moments in free mode. It’s as though anything worth doing always intrudes on your partner’s game. There is nothing worse than seeing the last checkpoint on your race and having the entire screen taken up by your friends visual prompt that they unlocked a gold brick.
It sounds like a step backwards here more than anything but I tend to use the word “polished” when it comes to Lego games. Jurassic World is still the benchmark for me.
Graphically, Avengers is as good as a Lego game has looked, the mini-map is a nice touch and on the whole, menus and conversation screens have received a welcome overhaul. It’s just unfortunate that gameplay is marred by things that we all know TT are capable of nailing.
Like I said, Lego Marvel’s Avengers tips both sides of the scales. No single thing is a game breaker but combined, you could potentially drive yourself insane through frustration. But, if you can grin and bear it, there is Marvel fan’s treasure trove just waiting to be played with. And that is before all of the add-on content yet to come.
Review Score: 6.0 out of 10
Highlights: Combat is great fun; Plenty of environments to explore; Some amazing recreated set pieces; Interesting way to gel the MCU
Lowlights: Too chaotic at times; Co-op can be a nightmare; Some levels are too scripted and take away control
Developer: TT Games. TT Fusion
Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Released: January 27, 2016
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, X360, 3DS, PS Vita, PC
Reviewed on PlayStation 4