LEGO Marvel’s Avengers
Having been around for over a decade, Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO video game series has become an institution in itself. Having started with the original LEGO: Star Wars in 2005 the format has spread across an increasingly wide range of cinema’s most familiar properties. Notably unwilling to rest on their laurels, with each new incarnation Traveller’s Tales’ show keen attention to revising and tweaking the core mechanics at the heart of the series.
Along the way we’ve gained adaptive split screen, larger exploration and each title has had its own unique elements incorporated whether that’s is Harry Potter’s spell wheel, Lego Movie’s grandiose kit-building or The Lord of the Rings’ equipment system. This recent incarnation, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers is certainly no exception, but perhaps represents a pinnacle of these reinventions, taking all the best revisions from previous titles and finally gluing them together in one place.
The previous Marvel title, LEGO: Marvel Superheroes, played out across the huge, sprawling New York City rendered in plastic brick form giving a sense of immense scale that LEGO Batman 2‘s Gotham just fell short of. LEGO Batman 3: DC Superheroes saw multiple areas connected by a single XCOM-style globe that could be littered with hubs, levels and challenges and could be added to even further with DLC missions. LEGO Marvel’s Avengers combines both of these, with New York having its own pin on the globe but, it feels even bigger than before. This means a massive scale of content is present once you’ve scratched the surface.
So many bodies milling around can also make completing puzzles or activating terminals an exercise in timing.
As is customary, you must play through the game’s story mode, ideally in its entirety, before much of this becomes accessible. Whilst its predecessor placed the impressive roster of Marvel’s finest in their own story, LEGO Marvel’s Avengers sticks loosely to the plot of the two core Avengers movies (Avengers Assemble / Avengers: Age of Ultron) with familiar set pieces that mostly play along note-for-note with their cinematic counterparts. The way this rendition differs is how it brings the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in step via levels that flashback to the earlier chronology of Steve Roger’s past (borrowing scene’s wholesale from Captain America: The First Avenger)or aside to the otherworldly politics of Thor’s Asgard. This isn’t always done very well and the liberties that have been taken with the chronology of events can sometimes leave you feeling bewildered.
The feeling here is definitely anthological but more obvious is the sense that it represents the core ideal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which is to bring all of those strands together in one single shared universe. That is exactly what has been achieved here and there’s a welcoming depth of familiar territory to get lost in.
The voices you’ll find in LEGO Marvel’s Avengers are a curious mix. Cobie Smulders and Clark Gregg have returned to record all new audio for the characters of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Maria Hill and Phil Coulson respectively. The observant among you may even have spotted Mark Hamill lending his talents as the voice of Armin Zola. All the A-listers though have had their voices lifted directly from the movies’ archived audio. This is a clever cost-saving technique used previously in LEGO: Lord of the Rings but, as was observed back then, it can lead to things seeming rather clumsy and stilted. With pre-determined audio, the game’s writers have clearly had their hands tied when it comes to any humour except the most physical of background antics. Also, weirdly, Ulysses Klaue’s broad South African accent has been replaced by an American southern drawl. Did Andy Serkis withdraw permission for his voice to be used..?
Perhaps to show that this isn’t purely a mixed bag of previous winning formulas, LEGO: Marvel’s Avengers also has a few new improvements peppered here and there. The simple act of collecting studs has been enhanced and you’ll now find that collecting more studs more quickly will result in an immediate increase to your multiplier, leading pleasantly to larger stud gains early on; something the series’ economy has occasionally fallen afoul of in the past.
The combat has also noticeably improved and whilst still very dependent on button mashing, there are now opportunities for showing off and even combining attacks with your counterpart for a little cinematic showboating in the heat of battle. Sadly, one of the series least popular combat features is also present. Mostly seen in LEGO : Indiana Jones, it is the habit of spewing endless enemies into an area while other non-combat objectives need to be completed. Often it takes a small while to realise you’re fighting an infinite slew of combatants whilst totally missing the point of the area. So many bodies milling around can also make completing puzzles or activating terminals an exercise in timing.
For me there’s a pleasing familiarity to LEGO games. You mostly know what to expect and you know that ultimately it’s an investment of time and enjoyment rather than of honing one’s reflexes or strategies that has kept the series going for so long. It rarely brings anything revolutionary to the table but it does what it does well. For now, I don’t think anything could distract me from digging to the bottom of this particular barrel in pursuit of the usual 100% achievement.
What’s that? LEGO: The Force Awakens? Oh dear.