Developer TT is at it again, this time returning to the Marvel universe for another entry in its long-running LEGO video game franchise. Unlike 2013's LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, which featured an original story, TT is adapting the Marvel Cinematic Universe for this title ... sort of.
In LEGO Marvel's Avengers, players will play through the events of Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as select moments from other Marvel films, like Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: the First Avenger, Captain America: the Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3. Where the "sort of" comes in is that, while the game's campaign levels all pull from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the vast majority of the game's unlockable characters and side-quests all come straight from the comics.
The focus on Marvel's comic characters proves to be the game's saving grace. With 17 games and counting in the franchise, TT's LEGO video game formula is about as tried and true as they come. If you've played a LEGO game in the past six years, you know what to expect here: you punch your way through bad guys, use character skills to solve puzzles and laugh at TT's signature brand of LEGO humor. It all works well enough, but there is a very definite feel of "been here, done that" to the entire experience that will turn some players off.
There are, however, a few enhancements that make LEGO Marvel's Avengers an improvement over the developer's earlier LEGO titles. Combat consists of mashing the attack buttons to smash apart LEGO foes, but players can press B on Xbox (or O, if you're on PlayStation) to perform a stylish signature move that adds some much-needed visual flourish to the moment-to-moment combat encounters.
Brand new to LEGO Marvel's Avengers are tag-team combo attacks between characters that pack a huge punch, capable of wiping out multiple enemies at once. It's fun to mix and match characters to see what their combo attack is. Use Iron Man and Captain America together, for example, and watch as Cap bounces Iron Man's repulsor beams off his shield to take out surrounding bad guys.
It's definitely cool, and it's during these moments when LEGO Marvel's Avengers is at its best. Finding obscure Marvel characters, teaming them up with more obscure heroes for crazy co-op attacks and roaming the open-world New York City is a certain kind of comic book nerd wish fulfillment that is hard to find in any other game. Squirrel Girl with Devil Dinosaur? That kid from Iron Man 3 plus Fin Fang Foom? The possibilities feel nearly endless. The characters from shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter also get plenty of love. Couple in the fact that you can make your own custom superhero using all the various parts of other characters in the game, and you have a comic book playground that will bring a smile to almost any superhero fan's face.
While some of these characters are unlocked from playing the game's campaign levels, the vast majority are found in the game's open-world locations. In addition to New York City (the largest area in the game), players can also explore the Burton family farm from Age of Ultron, South Africa, the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, Washington D.C., Sakovia and more. Playing through the game's levels takes roughly 10 or so hours, but you'll spend many more running around the open-world environments solving puzzles to unlock Gold Bricks and finding characters.
If you played LEGO Marvel Superheroes, you'll find the New York City area in LEGO Marvel's Avengers to be mostly the same, albeit with new content to keep you occupied. Many characters have humorous side-quests that must be completed before they can be unlocked, and if you're not doing that, there are random crimes to stop, along with other activities. The game isn't lacking in the content department by any means. The New York City mini-map is absolutely littered with things to do, so much in fact that the map is almost rendered useless. If TT is to continue crafting giant open-world areas in their games, an actual world map seems like a necessity.
Even with so much to do, it's hard to shake the feeling that there simply aren't enough new gameplay elements to keep older players entertained. Kids and big-time Marvel movie and comic fans will still find aspects to enjoy, though. The game looks great (I played on Xbox One), the musical score from The Avengers keeps the action feeling epic and TT's humor still mostly sticks the landing, with the team taking the dialog from the films and having some fun with it during the campaign levels. Running gags are used heavily (who knew Nick Fury loved strawberry milkshakes?). If a line from the films is a figure of speech, expect it to be taken very literally in-game, often with hilarious results.
TT's writing team gets to flex its creative muscles even further when it comes to the dialog for the open-world portions of the game. Maria Hill and Agent Coulson, whose respective actors must have had a blast while recording all the new dialog for the game, will routinely chime in while you're free-roaming. The side quest writing is spot on as well, with direct references to various comics, movies and shows from which all these characters hail, with a splash of TT humor added in for good measure, of course.
If you're a huge fan of Marvel movies, comics and characters, LEGO Marvel's Avengers is worth checking out just to indulge in the wall-to-wall fan service. It's as solid a LEGO game as there has ever been, but if you think the LEGO game formula is starting to grow old, TT's latest, unfortunately, isn't going to change your mind.