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Slick’s Nit-Picks: LEGO Marvel’s Avengers

Every child has played with LEGO bricks and I would hope that every gamer worth their salt has at least tried out one of the LEGO games that have been released. I got my first taste with LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, so I admit to being a little bit late to the table. Since that time I had actually backed off the series a bit, in part because the games that had come out were not titles I looked forward to. Believe it or not, I am that one person out there who has never seen a Harry Potter movie. Despite being a huge fan of Tolkein, I have yet to see The Hobbit trilogy because I was waiting for the extended versions. Comics one the other hand, I cannot get enough of. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes was so addictive to me that I got the platinum trophy in a week. The LEGO Batman games were fantastic as well. LEGO Jurassic Park was. . . well, they can't all be great. All I knew was that with a January launch date, LEGO Marvel's Avengers would be my first game of 2016, good or bad. Honestly, after seeing this trailer, I was hooked!

WE ALL GO THROUGH…PHASES If you liked at least half of these movies:

then you should probably be playing this game. If you didn't then stop right now because this game will not be for you. I have pretty much just told you the story of the game. If you have seen these six films then aside from TT Games trademark LEGO puns thrown in, you know everything that is going to happen in terms of story. Fortunately, this allows me to talk about the story without worrying too much about spoilers. In terms of progression, the game starts at the beginning of Age of Ultron. Once you have raided Strucker's castle, things rewind a bit and Captain America recalls his big battle against the Red Skull and how it cost him his best friend Bucky. This flashback happens as Nick Fury is asking for his help in enacting the Avengers Initiative and the rest of the first half of the game is that movie. Credits roll after you stop Loki and the Chitauri, but we all know you stay til the end with Marvel movies. A certain “Mad Titan” has a cameo and a certain jade giant shows his softer side. Unfortunately, this is where things get messy. Aside from just being able to play through some of your favorite movies, what makes LEGO games great is storytelling. Cutscenes taken from films and given that special LEGO touch are definitely what keep me coming back. If this were a game about just the two Avengers' movies then everything would be fine because these two movies are fleshed out and done right. TT Games made a big deal about LEGO Marvel's Avengers covering six movies. Even though Captain America: The First Avenger is handled as a flashback, that is fine because it properly covered the last half of the movie which is most important to The Avengers. The levels for Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier feel slapped on. The regular continuity of the game skips the three levels even though all three movies took place before Age of Ultron. Instead of cutscenes, the stories are told with static comic pages which would leave the uninitiated confused as to what is happening. In all, the story is broken down over fifteen levels, but eleven of those are dedicated to only two movies. As an all-around fan, this is upsetting for multiple reasons. First, I am not complaining about the length of the game, but it should have been longer. At least two or three levels should have been dedicated to Winter Soldier, Dark World and Iron Man 3. The stories for these levels should have been fully animated like the rest of the main plot and time should have been taken to connect the tales because the connections are there. Lastly, going with the old saying, “it is what it is,” with the slap on job that was done with the the non-Avengers titles, there is no reason at all that Guardians of the Galaxy could not have been (literally) thrown in as well. Were this the first Marvel game, I would have no reason to be as harsh, but after ‘Super Heroes,' LEGO Marvel's Avengers feels rushed and incomplete in terms of story.

MUTED VISION It is the reason why you play any LEGO game but the Marvel titles in particular boil down to one word: fun. Everyone has their favorite super heroes and everyone has their favorite video game characters. In the LEGO series, no matter what story you play, the characters fall into groupings where you need certain types to accomplish certain goals. In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, it was impossible to complete the game 100% without being able to use Galactus. His cosmic power was needed to destroy certain specific obstacles. Of course you could not unlock him (legitimately) without beating story mode. LEGO Batman 3 required the unlocking of Plastic Man to get any of the red bricks. The grouping system remains in this latest game and while it can be a pain, there is more to love than there is to scoff at. The gameplay itself mostly the same as its predecessor, but the use of stylized action to mirror scenes from the movie was a nice touch. One problem that seems to have been addressed (at least a little) is friendly fire. Certain trophies call for you to be able to off your buddy (or yourself). However it became an annoyance in earlier titles when you would constantly kill your partner while trying to clear out a group of enemies. Instead, a new annoyance has popped up: the Avengers hint. The “A” has a bad habit of being right where you are fighting and you will hit it repeatedly, pausing the action. To be fair, it can be turned off, but I had it set to “dynamic.” This setting claims that hints will only appear the first time you encounter something, but it keeps coming back. The team-up special moves are awesome, but I have not really found one that is terribly useful other than Cap & Widow where she jumps up off of his shield and sprays everything around them. This is not in reference to the set team-ups where there is a specific platform. All of those are cool unless you miss the timing. One part of the game that has become common in LEGO titles are quick time events. The problem here is that they are anything but quick. If the square button appears above your character, you have to keep pressing it until another button appears or you will fail the event. Future games should either use the original QTE style or remove this entirely. Character selection is what really makes the game worth playing. Regardless of how much work is put into making these titles “fresh,” they are essentially the same game. Story elements and the ability to pick your favorite characters are what keep fans coming back. For me, there is just something about playing as Hulk that is ridiculously satisfying. It doesn't matter that other games had characters like Solomon Grundy, King Shark, Wendigo or even Red Hulk that are physically the same. Nothing compares to rampaging through Manhattan as Hulk and it is even better now that they gave him his ridiculous jumping ability while in hub areas. Hopefully your favorite guilty pleasure character is on the diverse roster because overall it is rather disappointing. With roughly 200 playable characters available, LEGO Marvel's Avengers nearly doubles the available characters of its predecessor. Sadly, more is not always better unless you are in that minority that wants to use the original (non-Fantastic Four) Human Torch, a random A.I.M. agent or Beth the waitress from the Avengers movie. I get that the game is called “LEGO Marvel's Avengers” with emphasis on Avengers, but additions like Beth are ridiculous. Even if you go by post-Civil War rosters, the game is missing both Spider-Men, Wolverine (aka X-23), Old Man Logan, Deadpool, Galactus and a bunch of other characters that fall under the umbrella of Avengers. I am not necessarily saying that characters in the game should not be there, just that the roster should have been larger than it is before any DLC.

Simplifying how we access Stark's wardrobe is a big plus for LEGO Marvel's Avengers

TO THE EXTREMIS I can honestly say that to date, you have never seen a better looking LEGO game. My fingers are crossed that I will be able to say that again in June when LEGO Star Wars releases, but we will focus on this game for now. The beaches at Malibu will have you wishing you really were at Malibu. The sunset in Manhattan is truly breathtaking and even the barren wasteland that is Svartalfheim looks really incredible. There is so much work put into the backgrounds, the playable areas and objects like Avengers Tower and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier that you have to wonder when the characters will catch up to this level of detail. It is perfectly understandable that a LEGO body in reality is made up of five (six if you count hair) small interchangeable plastic parts but it is not wrong for us to expect more.  One of two things needs to happen in order for LEGO to enter the new generation officially. Either TT Games needs a new game engine and it looks as though that may have already happened. The other idea is that these games need to stop being released for every single platform unless different versions are developed. I have said it many times before that games that are made for PC, PS4 and Xbox One only look better than those that are also made for older consoles. Our current generation of game consoles are in their third year since being launched now. not to be mean but if you have not upgraded yet, it is time that you miss out on a few titles. The bottom line is that LEGO Marvel's Avengers looks very good but I have a strong belief that it could look even better.

I will be 100% truthful with you with regard to LEGO movie franchise games. If you have played one you have played them all. You play through the story, and then you play through it again in free play to get all the minikits, character tokens and bricks. This is a formula that has not changed for years. I am sure that I am not the only one that knows this to be fact. That said you are probably scratching your head as to why this was my first anticipated game of 2016. Story and playable characters are what make each individual LEGO title shine on its own. In LEGO Marvel's Avengers, the story falls a bit flat. This is not because we already know the story but instead because the developers did not take enough time with the game to tell it properly. The gameplay is definitely better than LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, but there is still much room for improvement. Flying is much improved now that we can use the right analog to control altitude but I doubt the number of fans of ring races has increased any. The roster is not what many expected as there are many favorites excluded that have been and are currently on the Avengers' roster. Future titles definitely need to make the full step up to the current generation of consoles. Despite some fantastic visual effects, this game is being held back due to development for older platforms. LEGO Marvel's Avengers overall is an enjoyable game that fans will want to play. However, if you have never played a LEGO  game, this is not the title to start with. Go with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. Not only will you have a better experience, you can score both of them together for less than the retail price of this game.

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