Updated Fri, Jun 21, 2013 by Dalmarus
Most MMOs allow players to adopt a number of different styles to play through them. If you're the type who is only concerned with blowing through any and all content thrown at you, always rushing to the next dangled carrot, you're going to blow through Marvel Heroes’ PvE storyline in 10 hours or so. If you go into the game with the intention of causing as much damage and destruction as you can, always hunting for each little tidbit of Marvel goodness tucked away in various nooks and crannies, you're going to have well over 40 hours of gameplay in front of you. Me? I'm the latter type of player. This review only touches on the content the main story has to offer. I'll do an endgame article later next week, so consider this a Marvel Heroes Review - Part I.
Other players’ in-game language should always be something parents are aware of when letting their children play with others. Fortunately, Marvel Heroes has a language filter and, unless you click on it to make it appear, the chat window remains blissfully closed while you're playing. Other than that minor concern about the behavior of other players, this is one of the most kid-friendly MMOs on the market.
As a huge fan of the Marvel universe, I was extremely excited to get my hands on Marvel Heroes. Described by many as Diablo meets Marvel (and with Blizzard North cofounder, David Brevik at the helm that shouldn't be surprising), the gameplay of Marvel Heroes is pure hack and slash. If that's not your cup of tea, the game may not appeal to you. As a person who has put over 100 hours into every Diablo game released, this kind of gameplay is right up my alley. Sure there are times even I want something more in a game, but when you just want to wind down, don the aspect of your favorite superhero, and go out and destroy everything in your path, Marvel Heroes is a great choice. The storyline, penned by comic industry legend Brian Michael Bendis, is not only extremely entertaining, but it has more than one surprise. One major part of the story re-introduces an enemy not seen in (to the best of my knowledge) well over a decade. It was such a shock that I won't spoil it here, but it was both completely unexpected and incredibly awesome.
When you first start the game, you have a choice to play one of the following superheroes for free: Daredevil, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Storm, or the Thing. It's a nice variety of hero types. Dardevil is an agile melee fighter, Hawkeye is a master of ranged attacks, Scarlet Witch rules the world with control magic, Storm is the living goddess of the elements raining AoE destruction down on her enemies, while Thing is a beast of a tank able to take extreme amounts of punishment. If you want to play any other hero, you’ll either need to buy access to it or find it in the game. It's important to point out that ALL playable heroes can be found in the game, even if the chances of them dropping are slim. Players who take a break from the game for an extended period of time have a greater chance of getting hero and costume drops when they return. The magic number for days away and how long that extra chance lasts is unknown, but according to the information hints that pop up on your screen during loading sequences, there is an extra chance built into the system.
Once you get through a short tutorial and you’re introduced in Stark Tower (Avenger HQ for now), you start off your adventure in Daredevil's backyard, Hell's Kitchen. You won't be doing battle with world renowned chef Gordon Ramsay, but you will be helping protect the police and everyday citizens from a bunch of street punks and thugs. Oh, and you may also have to put down Electro, a villain with a propensity for abusing the surrounding electrical grid. As you play further, you'll discover that each major zone has at least one villain or event that pops up to make an appearance every now and then to wreak havoc within the area: Electro, Venom, Sentinels, and more. Most of these events require at least 10 or so characters of appropriate level to take down. The rewards can be pretty sweet though, so you should join in when you see one of these epic battles going on.
The first few sections of the game were not the most exciting for me -- beginning in Hell's Kitchen, and then moving on to some docks, hanging out in a rundown portion of the city, etc. It's not that there's anything wrong with these areas, it's just that starting out in a city can be dull. Once you start moving further out in the game though, you will come across some great areas to play in such as swamps, fantastical caverns, military bases, the Savage Lands, and more.
At this stage (I'm in the final chapter of the game's story), I've received the hero Cyclops, a costume for him, and two costumes for Jean Grey. All these drops came through exploring everywhere and destroying everything in my path that I could. Trashcans, jars, computers, cable bundles, walls, couches... everything that can be thrashed will find itself meeting its demise at my hand. Along with costumes and heroes, these items also contain med kits, loads of crafting materials, and more loot. Be aware they can also contain hidden enemies, so be sure you're ready to take on another fight before destroying all the inanimate objects in any given area.
One interesting thing about Marvel Heroes is that you can warp to any point in the story you’ve already completed. This means if you get a new hero, you can gain a few levels, warp to a point further in the game to test your luck, and then perhaps warp back if the challenge is too much. You can do this with any hero at any point in the game and you can also warp forward to any story section you’ve already completed. This means if there are any areas of the game that you especially loved (see my hint of the incredibly awesome villain reveal above), you can warp back and play through it again.
I've talked about the importance of exploration in Marvel Heroes before, but it really is the best way to get some cool loot, improve your chances for getting a new superhero for free, and discovering a myriad of Marvel lore and Easter eggs. It's these little touches that make the game a real joy for any fan of the Marvel Universe.
You can gather a lot of information about Marvel Heroes' graphics and art style from viewing screenshots. What you don’t see until you’re playing is that the animations and movements of the heroes, exploding environments, and particle details are awesome. When Deadpool goes on a firing spree, the surrounding area is littered with a stream of spent shell casings. Destroying couches sends a flurry of stuffing in the air. Explosions have a very satisfying range of destruction and look great. Even though it's easiest to play the game fully zoomed out, you can zoom up close and personal at any time.
Costumes are also worth noting. While it's true we would expect nothing less from a team that had the opportunity to work so close and directly with Marvel, the level of detail for the various character costumes is extraordinary.
Whether it's the destruction of a desk, tossing an exploding bomb at Mr. Sinister, or witnessing a group of mutant-hunting sentinels descend from the sky, the visuals in Marvel Heroes are awesome. On top of the gameplay graphics, the multiple comic-style cut scenes that pop up as you progress further and further into the story are of excellent quality as well.
The sound is one of the surprising highlights of Marvel Heroes. The music, the ambience, the satisfying tone of exploding machinery, the concussive boom of explosive shells, the list goes on and on. The audio team didn't just excel at the music and ambient sounds, but they also exceeded my expectations with the voice acting in the game. I tried out a large number of superheroes (I had previously purchased the X-Factor Founder's pack to start the game with some extra heroes) and without fail, the voices matched the characters exceedingly well. The lines also fit each superhero like a glove. One of the stars of the game in terms of voiced lines has to be Deadpool. His delivery of such lines as, "I require more vespene gas," nearly got me killed due to the genuine laughter they induced.