Avenger Assembly Required: A Look at Lego Marvel's Avengers
Old habits die hard ... especially those concerning Lego video games that are based on my favorite franchises.
I picked up a copy of Lego Marvel's Avengers a few weeks ago for a number of reasons. I really enjoyed the previous entry, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and I've seen how much these games creatively utilize the extensive history and character roster of both DC and Marvel, so I naturally had to add this one to my collection. The good news is that Lego Marvel's Avengers has a wealth of content for Marvel fans to enjoy, but the bad news is that its connection to the current slate of Marvel's live action movies weigh down the game's main campaign. Read on for my full review.
As the name suggests, the game bases its main campaign around the live action Avengers movies and the stand-alone superhero movies that directly connect to them (specifically, the first two Captain America movies, Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World). As with most other Lego games, each level has a free play option after initial completion, and a number of extra goodies can be picked up to unlock new characters and game play features.
Like the previous Lego Marvel game, a Marvel version of New York City is is available as an open environment. Unlike the last Lego Marvel game, players can also visit a series of smaller open environments that are based on the movies (e.g., Asgard, SHIELD headquarters, Tony Stark's Malibu mansion, etc.) to find additional unlockables.
The central campaign of Lego Marvel's Avengers felt like a chore to play, because its levels are structured to re-create specific scenes from the movies. Some battle scenes lend themselves to video game play, but others of them are so determined to follow the movies that players don't have much to do other than press the same button over and over again just to make a fight scene finish. Such levels don't get any better in free play: Regardless of which characters players pick for free play, the game play will always default back to specific characters to complete the level. For example, players can unlock and use a selection of large, super-strong characters (e.g., A-Bomb, Iron Monger, etc.) but the battle between the Hulk and Iron Man's Hulkbuster armor as seen in Age of Ultron will always involve those two characters and no one else, thus making the free play feature irrelevant. Considering how so many previous Lego games have been based on movie franchises (e.g., Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, etc.), I'm surprised at how clunky much of this campaign is.
The real payoff of this game comes from everything around the main campaign: the open environments and the downloadable content (DLC) packs. Through these, players can play as characters and in levels that are based on the Marvel comic books, cartoons, and two of Marvel's live-action TV shows, Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD. Even without the DLC packs, though, the cast of unlockable characters is enormous--it includes characters that I didn't recognize and had to consult my Marvel Encyclopedia to find out who they are. Unfortunately, unlike the last Lego Marvel game, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men are nowhere to be found.
As usual, there's plenty of humor throughout the game, although the best of it can be found outside of the main campaign. The levels that are based on the movies pull dialog tracks straight from the films, so those scenes have to fall back on sight gags for humor. Thankfully, the dialog that was recorded exclusively for the game is pretty funny, particularly the lines given to Clark Gregg (as Agent Phil Coulson) and Cobie Smulders (as Commander Maria Hill). Stan Lee's cameos are as fun as ever and Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, who makes a number of appearances in extra missions in the open environments, is absolutely adorable.
If you're willing to work your way through the stiff main campaign, there's plenty to enjoy here if you're a Marvel buff. Since there's no clear end in sight to Marvel's winning streak at the box office, another Lego Marvel game will probably appear in the near future. I just hope that it will not make the same mistakes as Lego Marvel's Avengers.