The question "Is Avengers Good Now?" is a simple one, but the answer is rather complex.
It's been about six months since launch and Crystal Dynamics' Avengers title has been on a bit of a journey.
It released to high praise and an optimistic player-base, however, found itself in hot water after a number of performance issues were outlined and a lack of depth identified.
Now, as we look forward to Future Imperfect and the next-gen launch, we're asking the question "Is Avengers Good Now?"
To put it plainly, if you are a fan of Marvel characters, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or superheroes in general, you need to play Marvel's Avengers.
Even if you are not sold on the GaaS-style of gameplay it offers outside of the campaign, think Destiny 2 with Iron Man, then you should still pick it up for it's campaign and story segments.
Crystal Dynamics assembled a cast of Earth's Mightiest Video Game Actors to match up to the roles of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and they do not disappoint.
Nolan North and Troy Baker take on the roles of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, offering some of their greatest character work to date.
Travis Willingham returns to voice Thor and Laura Bailey once-again voices the Black Widow.
However, Sandra Saad as Kamala Khan is by-far the stand-out performance in and amongst the crowd. As a central part of Crystal Dynamics' Reassemble campaign, the lesser-known Ms Marvel is in the spotlight and Saad carries each scene with ease.
Marvel's Avengers will have three campaigns when it launches on the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S on March 18th: Reassemble, Taking Aim, and Future Imperfect.
The Reassemble Campaign follows on from the fall-out of the A-Day disaster we saw all those many months ago when we first got to see Avengers in action.
Captain America is missing and the Avengers are all-but disbanded. Kamala Khan needs answers and she goes on an epic adventure to pull together what heroes are left to find them.
In Taking Aim, Kate Bishop steps forward and joins the now-reunited Avengers in an attempt to stop the next deadly plan orchestrated by A.I.M.
It introduced a new hero to Avengers' roster and brought about a much-needed refreshment in content.
Now, in Future Imperfect, Clint Barton has a warning from the future and the Avengers have to band together to stop this would-be apocalypse.
Maestro rules over The Wastelands and Future Imperfect aims to bring a whole new location to the title alongside the addition of the other Hawkeye.
Taking inspiration from a number of key Marvel Comics storylines, Crystal Dynamics' narrative team are hard at work continuing the story of Marvel's Avengers and crafting what could be the best Marvel story in a video game we've ever seen.
With Black Panther and Spider-Man on the way, with Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange rumoured, it's safe to say the future for Avengers looks bright.
Like any triple-A title, Marvel's Avengers is visually very solid. In the cinematics, especially, the character animation and attention-to-detail are second-to-none.
However, when you look more-closely while you're playing and while you're in the Social Spaces... It isn't as good.
At launch, Avengers was plagued with performance and graphical issues. This, for the most part, is what drove a lot of people away.
Although Crystal Dynamics have been hard at work fixing this, the issues are still there.
The non-combat character animations are stale, uninspired, and seem out of place amongst the rest of the game.
Similarly, texture issues and lighting glitches can still be found on occasion. They aren't constant, but when you consider the resources the studio has you feel like these things shouldn't be an issue.
Thankfully, there isn't anything game-breaking and with continued support, Marvel's Avengers can continue to tidy up and live-up to its' lofty aspirations.
Combat Can Get Stale
Like any GaaS title, Marvel's Avengers is all about killing bad guys and looting their gear.
Sure, there is a superhero twist on the whole thing but the actual gameplay is largely the same as any other title in the genre.
The combat is fun, although it doesn't feel as weighted or impactful as Insomniac's Spider-Man, for example.
You also often come away from a gameplay session wishing each hero had more depth. They each play somewhat differently and have a fairly substantial skill tree to explore, however, at the end of the day it is still just spamming basic attack combinations until you can pop your abilities.
Marvel's Avengers doesn't have a clean counter system for its melee combat and this is the greatest downfall.
It balances the efficiency of melee combat and ranged combat in-game, adding a degree of strategy there, but beyond that, there is little that makes it truly exciting to play.
It is all about blocking and dodging, which is fine, but when you consider the fantastic gameplay demonstrated by WB Games in the Arkham series or Insomniac in their Spider-Man titles... It's hard to feel a little hard-done-by when you play Crystal Dynamics' title.
Heroes like Iron Man, Hulk, and Kamala Khan work well here though. Iron Man is primarily a ranged hero and both Hulk and Kamala Khan hit hard with AoE attacks.
However, when you're playing as Captain America, Thor, or Black Widow... You feel like a solid counter system would really cement the title as the best Marvel video game to date.
Marvel's Avengers has fluid, action-packed gameplay that is fun in short bursts however it is not at the core of the game and you need to make sure you remember this.
The introduction of Hawkeye, Clint Barton's Hawkeye, could be a step in the right direction in terms of depth.
Crystal Dynamics has revealed that he has a Ronin-inspired move-set which balances melee combat with ranged abilities. In addition to this, he reportedly has ten different arrow variations which we feel will add a much-needed depth to his gameplay and the squad-based tactics Avengers could move into in the future.
The Main Issue Is Content
This was the issue for many when it came out and it is, arguably, still an issue now.
When you look at Marvel video games, they often fit one of two descriptions.
One, we have games like Spider-Man: single-player, intense narrative, in-depth character gameplay and an open-world.
Or, we have games like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: beat-em-up mechanics with an extensive roster of characters for light-hearted easy co-op gameplay.
Where Marvel's Avengers' problems lie is that it is trying to fit into both of these at once.
This, understandably, left a lot of people with complaints during the first several months. It was an Avengers title, but it didn't even launch with Hawkeye? Of course, we now know why but the months of silence were telling.
These expectations haven't been helped by the Marvel Cinematic Universe either, who are continually pushing out epic ensemble movies.
Still, Crystal Dynamics seem to slowly drip new content and characters into Avengers over the coming years. Eventually, you hope, it will live up to everyone's expectations.
Next-Gen Version Could Solve Problems
Everything wrong with Marvel's Avengers is primarily down to how it performs. The concept is solid and it has a fantastic narrative carrying it.
With this in mind, we think that Avengers might actually be good going into 2021. The recent announcement of a next-gen release is a promising sight.
Boasting improved visuals and improved framerates, we expect Avengers to look stunning on both the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S when it launches.
What's more, Crystal Dynamics are also bringing new Hero details and improved environmental destruction to the improved version of their title.
Although we doubt we'll see a fully revamped combat system, further fine-tuning could improve Avengers' combat and help it's gameplay live up to the excellent work done by the rest of the title.
READ MORE: Insomniac's Spider-Man 2 Development Updates
Future Imperfect and Marvel's Avengers' next-gen versions are launching on March 18th.
Only then, we feel, we will have the true answer as to whether Avengers is actually good now.