Marvel's Avengers hasn't exactly thrived since launch. As mentioned in our review by editor Carli Velocci, the game suffers from not having a clear focus. Strong narrative moments with Kamala Khan as she puts the team back together are undercut by online service elements that aren't grafted in particularly well. Performance issues at launch haven't helped matters, either.
Now, the update for the first DLC character, Kate Bishop, has arrived. After going through it, I'm glad I played it but if you have fear of missing out, don't. For better and for worse, Kate Bishop is more of the same for The Avengers.
Kate Bishop is a fantastic addition to the roster of Marvel's Avengers
It's worth mentioning straight away that Kate Bishop is completely free, as are all future characters. If you were worried that this low barrier to entry would mean low-quality content, that's a non-concern. The Taking Aim missions where you recruit Kate and subsequently undergo her personal quest is given the full cutscene treatment, much like the base game.
I'm happy to say Kate plays extremely well. All the different characters in the launch version of Marvel's Avengers had completely different playstyles and that's continued here. Her bow and sword mean she's deadly and precise at distance or closeup, though her overall low health means you'll need to dart around the battlefield and focus on countering if you get into melee range. I was forced to completely rethink my strategies for engaging with larger, tougher synths and her skill tree includes tons of fun moves like smoke grenade arrows.
She's also just flat-out amusing. She trades verbal barbs with Tony Stark like it's nothing and instantly meshes with the rest of the crew. No matter who you pick as your companions, the dialogue is fitting, fun, and snappy.
Kate Bishop's story also gives some fun clues as to where post-launch narrative is headed. Dark future wars, time travel, and mysterious threats are all on deck. Whether it's through additional characters adding small stories — the next one up is Hawkeye — or some sort of huge expansion, there's clearly a willingness to delve into fun comic book territory that makes for intriguing possibilities.
This update doesn't solve the main issues in Marvel's Avengers
Unfortunately, just because the plot delves into fun comic book territory doesn't mean the overarching missions do. Despite dealing with time travel, you'll mostly be doing the same things you've been doing since Marvel's Avengers first released: Beat up wave after wave after wave of overwhelmingly synthetic AIM enemies. You'll roam around a battlefield until you find the entrance to the needed bunker or lab, then descend and hack terminals.
Gear remains as convoluted and pointless as ever. Just equip the thing that makes your power go up and you're good to go. There's no reason to grind or go for specific builds, in spite of neat effects like having the size-changing Pym Particles on a weapon. The underlying systems here need a rework to give players a reason to continue playing beyond the additional story missions added alongside characters.
It's also just not very long. Including some very, very lengthy loading times, I finished the Taking Aim storyline in roughly two hours. Just when you feel Kate has started meshing with the rest of the crew, you're immediately cut off with an incredibly abrubt cliffhanger.
The upgrade for what are now current-generation consoles — the PS5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S — was delayed to allow the developers to focus on other quality of life fixes and is coming at some point in 2021. Development and support focus during a global pandemic is difficult, but not having a premium version of this game with the features previously detailed for console players is definitely another reason to hold off until later.
Should you play Marvel's Avengers for Kate Bishop?
All in all, Kate Bishop doesn't save Marvel's Avengers... but I don't think she was ever intended to. Rather, she can be seen as a small glimpse of things to come. The story bits here, while somewhat silly and underexplored, bode well for future additions provided they can happen at a decent rate. I'm interested in seeing where this story goes but I don't feel compelled to dive in and grind out top levels for my heroes. Even if I did, the continued lack of cross-play makes arranging gameplay sessions extroardinarily difficult.
Marvel's Avengers remains as split as ever. The story elements continue to be much stronger than the combat and online service aspects, and that hasn't changed with Kate Bishop. I hope that moving forward, Crystal Dynamics doubles-down on meaningful story content and the emotional bond of the playable cast instead of continuing to try to turning these iconic heroes into something they aren't.
Save the planet
An ever-expanding online game
After a horrific event leaves San Francisco in ruins, the Avengers have been disbanded. However, an even bigger evil threatens the planet five years later, and it's up to you to assemble the crew and save the world once again. Play on PS4, then get a free upgrade when you play on PS5.
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