Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
In last week’s edition of this column, my esteemed colleague William Hughes wrote about the absolutely brilliant first-person shooter/parkour puzzle/romance game Neon White, detailing his comically futile attempts to match my effortlessly achieved high scores. The leaderboard system in Neon White is a little spotty, at least on the Switch version that I’ve been playing, but I still held a number of records over William the last time I checked.
So I think it’s fair to say that I won this feud that I didn’t know I was a part of, because I’m really good at Neon White without trying, and in honor of my victory I’m going to write about something that William would never allow (if he were fast enough in Neon White to stop me): the latest update to Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics’ unfairly maligned 2020 action game Marvel’s Avengers—a game that William does not like but that I do! Mwa ha ha!
Marvel’s Avengers was (and continues to be) a game dragged down by the business of video gaming more than anything that goes into actually playing it, as the moment-to-moment action of beating up generic robots and goons is reasonably fun (in a simple-ish and occasionally mindless way). Corporate influence forced the game to be the sort of thing you play forever, like a Destiny, but the gameplay isn’t really ever different enough to justify that, even with an increasingly large roster of Avengers to play as (and the very good story runs out too quickly).
But that increasingly large roster has continued to increase, first with the Kate Bishop version of Hawkeye and then the Clint Barton version of Hawkeye (as later seen in Disney+’s Hawkeye), eventually followed by a relatively expansive Black Panther update that added T’Challa as a playable hero and a whole Wakanda level and storyline. Some of those updates were more interesting than others (which is to say that Clint Barton is a snooze, just as he is in the MCU), and PlayStation owners can access the exclusive Spider-Man character.
This week, Crystal Dynamics released the latest (free!) new character, Jane Foster—a.k.a. The Mighty Thor—in a well-timed tie-in with the upcoming Thor: Love And Thunder … though the fact that you can buy a comics-accurate skin for her and not an MCU-accurate skin (not yet, at least) kind of makes the timing seem more like a coincidence than anything.
Still, Jane Foster’s Thor is really cool, and I can safely say—as one of the internet’s few Marvel’s Avengers defenders—she’s also pretty cool in the game. Granted, she’s a lot like what you’d call an “Echo Fighter” in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which is to say she plays a whole lot like the other Thor (like how the two Hawkeyes are very similar), but that’s not an especially big deal because the other Thor is easily one of the more fun characters in Marvel’s Avengers.
Jane Foster has a slightly bigger emphasis on Mjolnir-based attacks (a nod to the fact that her comics version was more in tune with the storm spirit that lives in the hammer than Thor Odinson is), and Marvel’s Avengers has done a lot of work in the last year or so softening the level grind and streamlining the (unnecessary and boring) equipment system. That means it’s easier to upgrade Mighty Thor’s abilities than it was for the original characters, and you can get to the fun stuff—like tossing out the hammer and having it ping around to different enemies, then catch it and immediately throw it again for a stronger attack—without having to do too much of the boring things.
Of course, those boring things are … most of the game. Shredding robots as the Thors is a ton of fun, but there isn’t a whole lot more to it. Mighty Thor doesn’t even seem to have a proper storyline like Black Panther and the Hawkeyes did, but that’s probably the price Marvel’s Avengers has to pay in order to get more characters without squeezing even more time and money out of Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix.
That’s fine with me, though. I paid for this game two years ago, I liked it just fine at the time, and if they’re going to give me new characters to play as for free, I’m going to do it. Nobody can stop me, no matter how tepid the internet’s response seems to be to everything related to Marvel’s Avengers (also, the very good Guardians Of The Galaxy game from last year really underlined this game’s problems by comparison). Plus, I’m so good at Neon White that I need something else to occupy my time.