LEGO Marvel’s Avengers brings many of the same elements as every other LEGO game, but it manages to improve upon and simultaneously weaken the core formula in certain areas along the way. It brings fun, if not familiar, gameplay but a story that isn’t cohesive.
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is meant to weave together the story of several recent Marvel movies including both “Avengers” films, “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World” and more. It packs in over a hundred characters, several hub worlds, over a dozen levels and an absurd number of minigames to play and secrets to explore.
But, when it comes to a game of such magnitude (because LEGO Marvel spans so many movies), a solid storyline has to be present to glue everything together.
As a disclaimer, out of all the movies featured in the game, I have only watched the first Avengers film. I love LEGO games, but I could take or leave Marvel films. Going into the game largely uninformed, LEGO Marvel didn’t bother to really explain much of the lore to me. It was as if the game was designed with dedicated Marvel fans in mind and left newcomers by the wayside.
Of course, I didn’t expect the game to hold my hand through several films’ worth of story material, but I would have appreciated some more exposition.
Essentially, LEGO Marvel pulls the dialogue directly from the films. This works to some extent and makes the characters feel authentic (they’ve got the voices fans are accustomed to, after all). On the other hand, it feels like cut-and-paste patchwork. There’s just so much film to go through that LEGO Marvel just comes across like it was slapped together with a “that’ll do” attitude. It is the weakest story yet of the LEGO games I’ve played because it does not take the time to really slow down and explain what is going on.
After beating the main story mode, players can dive into one-off missions that they unlocked along the way. Whereas the main storyline is focused primarily on the Avengers films, these singular missions summarize the main stories of the other included Marvel films in one mission apiece. These are much more cohesive and organized than the regular story missions: each of the offshoots starts with a narration as the camera pans over a comic strip, and it tells the player exactly what he or she needs to know about the situation before diving in. Between segments, the narration/comic duo will return to explain what happens during a time shift before dropping the player back into action.
If the entire story had been told that way, I would have been perfectly in the know. Unfortunately, I was left out in the cold because simple explanations were left out of almost the whole game.
Nonetheless, the gameplay is still as fun for the most part, though it is much of the same. Anyone who has played a LEGO game since LEGO Star Wars will know how it goes. There are some beat-em-up sections, boss fights, simple puzzles, and so on. Even so, LEGO Marvel manages to shake up the formula just a bit in small ways.
First, fighting is a bit more involved now. Rather than just mashing buttons, players can activate some pretty awesome cinematics. Walking up to an enemy and pressing circle will trigger a personal animation for each character. Captain America has some fun taking out foes with his shield, Loki toys with his prey, and so on.
But, if two friendly characters are close by, they can trigger devastating tag-team attacks. Most character combos have unique attacks, so players may want to make it a point to try as many as possible. For example, Captain America places his shield for Black Widow to jump onto, and she flies into the air, spinning around while firing both guns in a circle, killing everything beneath her. It’s cool and immensely effective.
Each of the main characters feels as unique as they’re meant to. Each has perks and attributes that differentiate them in and out of battle. For example, Quicksilver is really fast but is hard to control in battle. On the other hand, his speed makes traversal a snap and allows him to build items faster than any other character. Characters like Iron Man and Thor can fly around and are offensive tanks, Hulk is…well, Hulk, and so on.
All of those gameplay elements are small points of improvement, yet I can’t shake the feeling that the game has done relatively little to build upon the foundation of 2013’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Sure, these improvements are nice, but they aren’t incredibly substantial. They’re tweaks, not revolutions.
Moving on, it seems like nearly every level features a boss battle since there are just so many important foes to churn through. Like the dialogue, this inclusion is a double edged sword. On one hand, each level has a sort of levity. That is, until the inundation of boss battles manage to lose their luster. The point of a boss battle is to shake things up, but LEGO Marvel does the opposite of that by having so many.
Nonetheless, there were some standouts in my mind, notably Hulk vs. Hulkbuster. Battles like that one take a QTE approach, but others are hand-to-hand, and others still involve trickery or puzzles. I must say, Traveller’s Tales did its best to diversify the action in boss battles, and I commend them for it, even if there are just too many.
But LEGO Marvel isn’t just about the main story mode. There are several hub worlds to explore as well. The main area is Manhattan, but players can also explore Asgard, the Barton’s Farm, Sokovia, and more. These smaller areas have a handful of characters to unlock apiece along with various other objectives.
Manhattan packs hundreds of mini-games, side quests, yellow bricks and hidden characters, making it a total time-sink. Players who want everything LEGO Marvel has to offer outside of the storyline will have plenty to do with or without a friend (pro tip: with so many things to do, it’s pretty handy to have a split-screen buddy to split up objectives. LEGO games have great co-op play.).
These objectives range from having a dance-off with Justin Hammer to helping Agent Coulson get Mjolnir from the desert. These sidequests are appropriately humorous, considering the LEGO brand, yet also tie in with the Marvel source material from time to time.
Unfortunately, the absence of a map in hub worlds makes traversal a bit tough. Manhattan, for example, is so densely packed with things to do that it’s a huge disadvantage to not have any real way to see where things are outside of the terribly vague radar on the bottom left of the screen. If there’s one character in particular a player really wants to unlock, he or she will have to comb the entire city to find out where that one is. Furthermore, those who played LEGO Marvel Super Heroes will be familiar with the city, by and large.
All of this combined makes LEGO Marvel’s Avengers a mixed bag. It offers some signature moments from incredibly popular Marvel films combined with signature LEGO charm. Even still, it feels as though where the game has taken one step forward over LEGO Marvel Super Heroes with new attacks, characters and hub worlds, it has taken two steps back due to a poorly constructed story and a nagging sense of déjà vu.