Marvel’s Avengers PC beta: promising but deeply flawed

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At the weekend even more people were able to play Marvel’s Avengers including those on PC. We jumped on the chance to try things out and were left happy with the experience but concerned about the full game.

If you haven’t seen this game up until now you can expect a third person brawler that has a good mix of ranged and melee combat. The Avengers theme of working as a team extends into the gameplay as most missions see you working as a four-person party with AI or your friends filling in the other three slots.

In practice the gameplay here is rather fantastic and, surprisingly brutal. Despite the Avengers being the good guys you utterly decimate enemies regardless if they’re robots or humans working for big bad AIM.

Hulk will pick enemies by their limbs and Loki smash them to bits, Iron Man will shoot rockets into the face of an enemy at point blank range and Kamala Khan drop kicks people like they’re soccer balls.

A lot of care and attention went into each character and how to make their specific type of combat feel weighty and fun. Even better is the nuisance here which prevents things from becoming a button masher. While fighting you have to carefully balance your metres, cooldowns and a mix of range and close combat to stay alive. Combat is 95% of most missions so we’re happy to see that it’s so much fun.

After playing through the game’s opening these are the missions available in the beta.

Unfortunately this is undone by a large degree by general chaos. The sheer amount of enemies, projectiles, teammates and destruction going on around you at any given point makes it very difficult to enjoy the finer aspects of the game.

This all reminds us of the superb free game Warframe, another third person character action game with a balance of melee, ranged and resource management. Like Avengers, Warframe’s combat also shines in smaller encounters, but bigger engagements take up most of the game.

The two also share in the fact that they’re supposed to be live titles and Avengers has a plethora of loot and multiple currency types scattered throughout. This aspect of the game as met with contempt from the community and, having played through the beta, we can say that it’s not so bad, but it doesn’t need to be here.

Each character has multiple equipment slots with each piece of loot having its own stats. Then there are a plethora of currencies that unlock certain things or are used to upgrade your loot.

…but none of it really matters. There’s a dedicated button in the inventory to auto-equip the best loot you have and, when you want to upgrade something, just press the button to do so until you don’t have the required currency to do so. Run a few missions to see if you get more of that currency, and repeat. There’s no nuance at all here.

The entire loot system in this game is completely forgettable and unnecessary. It’s also rather boring as picking up a new piece of rare loot just increments some numbers that you won’t really notice when playing. There’s no thrill of getting a new weapon or piece of armour that other games can offer.

Just about the only collectables that are exciting here are the character skins, but those are tied to character progression, real world payments and even mobile carriers.

Mix all of this together and it feels like a fantastic character action game that is weighed down by loot and multiplayer systems which were crammed in to turn this into a living game instead of a decent singleplayer romp that can be finished in a few dozen hours.

PC problems

We played this second round of the beta on PC where things were shaky to say the least. Our modest gaming desktop features a Ryzen 5 3600 and an AMD RX 580 8 GB (stock speeds for both) together with 16GB of 3200MHz RAM. This is above the recommended specs for the game and we were playing the title on the medium preset without the optional high resolution texture pack.

Over the eight or so hours of play Radeon reported that our average FPS was 50. This doesn’t tell the whole story as that number was bolstered by cutscenes and menus running at a smooth 60 FPS.

In game exploring the world was usually done at 50 FPS, and combat saw that number drop to 40, 30 and below. At one point in a particularly hectic encounter we spotted 18 FPS.

Other problems we encountered were game freezes requiring the task manager to get involved and a particularly funny problem where the texture for Black Widow did not load (see above). It left the heroine looking like a deadly mannequin armed with a pair of pistols.

At this point most people would point to our problems with gameplay and performance due to this being a beta, with the hope that things will be fixed up at launch.

While we’d like to believe that, that launch is happening in less than a month on 4th September. Even if the beta is from a months-old fork of the game, we just don’t see some of this game’s intrinsic problems being solved when release rolls around.

While we do expect performance to improve with patches and drivers, some gameplay aspects aren’t so easy to address.

We’ll hopefully be playing the 1.0 on 4th September to see how it all shakes out. For now Marvel’s Avengers, at least from the beta, can be a fun time, but it has messed up some fundamentals. The fact that we’re excited to play the release means that a lot was done right, however.

Despite the problems and the medium preset the game can look great at times.
Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of htxt.africa.

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