The latest entry in TT Games’ highly successful Lego video game series is Lego Marvel’s Avengers. Similar to the Lego Harry Potter and Lego Star Wars games, Lego Marvel’s Avengers is an adaptation of multiple movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; specifically, the content of the game covers portions of Captain America: The First Avenger; Avengers; Thor 2: The Dark World;Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. I recently picked up this game and played through the first few levels, and thought I would share my initial impressions.
PLEASE NOTE: This is not a “review” of the video game; I wouldn’t consider myself qualified to score it relative to all other video games. As a fan of Marvel and of Lego video games in general, this is just my first impression on where this game falls among it’s peers.
There’s a lot to like about this game. Of course, it’s a Lego game and a Marvel game, so it’s going to be awesome, and it is. It has the same light humorous atmosphere you’ve come to expect from Lego games, and the same style of game play. If you liked the earlier entries in the Lego comics universe, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. All the usual elements are there: stud collecting, building, blowing up everything in sight, etc.
The game also includes a pretty interesting mix of unlockable characters. It includes a lot of newer characters that were absent from Lego Marvel Super Heroes — supposedly over 100 new characters. Many are pulled from the comics, such as the current Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan), current Thor (Jane Foster — spoiler), and members of the Young Avengers. (Of particular cultural note, both Hulkling and Wiccan are unlockable, making them the first openly gay playable characters in a Lego game.) Of course, it also includes the characters you expect: the Avengers from the movie, most of the villains, plus supporting characters like Nick Fury, Peggy Carter, Lady Sif, and the Warriors Three.
The storyline mode does a mostly decent job trying all the movies together into a single, long story. There’s a bit of a hiccup at the beginning — more on that later — but the game overall follows the two Avengers movies, with the others stitched in where appropriate. Captain America: The First Avenger is included as a flashback at an appropriate moment in Avengers.
The hub cities (yes, plural: you get to roam around not only Manhattan, but also Asgard) are impressive, on par with the hub worlds of the other comics games. This is where the game really shines: once you get to this point, you may never want to play the story mode again.
Unfortunately, while being a Lego game automatically makes this one worth playing, it doesn’t make it a superior one. There’s a number of areas where the game doesn’t quite measure to up the level of the other games in the Lego series.
The storyline mode, for example, isn’t as exciting as it should be. As mentioned, the plot tries to stitch together multiple Phase Two movies, and overall succeeds, but the very first level seems completely out of place. The game starts with the opening scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron, up through the Tony / Wanda hallucination scene, then ends abruptly and jumps backwards to the beginning of Avengers. As far as I can tell, this was done solely so TT Games could get the famous “leaping Avengers” shot from the Age of Ultron trailer into the game, because otherwise, it’s incredibly jarring.
Those early levels are also some of the most boring levels in any Lego game. Part of the problem is how much time you spend playing the game as not an Avenger. In the first few levels of the game, you play as a litany of non-super-hero characters, including Maria Hill, Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, and a random SHIELD Agent. This, despite the fact that characters like Iron Man and The Hulk are hanging around in the background! At least you get to play as Black Widow a good bit (something I wish more game companies would figure out.)
As I mentioned, once you reach the hub city, things get more interesting. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to get there, and you have to play through several tedious levels to make it. It took me over an hour to reach the point where I could wander around Manhattan (though, to be fair, I was trying to maximize my stud score), and quite a while longer before I could unlock some of the more interesting characters.
If you manage the time to get to that point, your investment will pay off, but it’s much more of a chore than in previous Lego games.
While the confusing start and somewhat slow early game play are bad, they’ve not the worst part. That would definitely go to the insane degree to which the game tries to mimic the movies.
For one thing, the game spends entirely too much time in cut-scenes. All previous Lego games have cut-scenes, so of course you expect some here to, but it feels like I spent almost half of the game watching Lego versions of movie scenes. Given that most fans of this game will have seen the movies at least once, if not repeatedly, having to watch dialogue I can frequently quote from memory feels like a waste. This make the delay getting into the meat of the game feel even longer.
Even worse, the developers used a ton of archive audio footage extracted from the movies, presumably to save time and money on voice actors. But some of the characters got additional dialogue in the game, and the difference in audio quality is very obvious. The worst of these are the scenes with Tony Stark and Pepper Potts: Gwyneth Paltrow was apparently not available (or affordable), so another actress recorded all of her new dialog — and re-recorded all of Pepper’s movie lines, which were spliced in as needed. The switch is incredibly jarring, especially if you’re familiar with the original scenes. Another, minor but still annoying problem is the reuse of short lines of dialogue to “create” new scenes, which often results in a character repeating the exact same lines in the exact same inflection multiple times.
Lastly, the developers went to a ton of effort to make the story mode look and feel like the movies. The theory was good — you get to play your favorite movies — but often it feels like it just hamstrung the levels. The level design just feels less original and less creative than, e.g. the Lego Harry Potter levels trying to recreate those movie scenes. The most glaring example of this (so far) is the Captain America flashback level, which by necessity has to end on the train where Bucky’s lost. That, in turn, forces most of the level to be played out by running in a straight line left to right along the length of the train, which ultimately gets kind of old.
I’m not sure if this was something mandated by Marvel, or if TT Games just thought it would be what fans wanted, but I’ve seen them re-imagine movie scenes extremely well before. I feel like they could have done a good job here, too, but it never materialized.
Despite the issues, the game is good. I’m glad I bought it and I look forward to getting home from work to play it. It’s not the best Lego game I’ve played: Lego Harry Potter was a better movie adaptation, Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Lego Batman (the first one) were better comic book games, and Lego Hobbit had more interesting mechanics. But it’s still a beautiful, fun, funny game, with all the things you expect from a Lego game and all the fun of flying around as Iron Man blowing things up, or The Incredible Hulk smashing everything to pieces.
If you’re a Lego fan I’d recommend you pick this up. Just be prepared to wade through the early part before you get to the really good stuff.