Lego Marvel Super Heroes review
Love it or hate it, the Lego series is yet to put a flat, empty foot wrong. But still, it’s not like every one of the games is on the same level – the quality of the games isn’t dictated by anything TT Games does per se, rather by how good a fit the IP is for the tried and tested Lego game template. And despite a few close calls over the last few years, this is easily the best fusion of subject and formula yet, with the Amazing, the Fantasic, the Uncanny and the Incredible coming together for the most feature-packed and creative Lego game to date.
While it plays heavily on the movie angle with Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Spidey taking centre stage for the most part, the true joy of Lego Marvel is how spectacularly wide it casts the net. Most of the story predictably follows Marvel’s biggest names, but the extras here aren’t Stormtrooper 2 or That Other Hobbit – virtually all of its 100-plus character cast is a hero or villain from the Marvel roster that has been begging for a spotlight moment for years. The downside to this is that the stars get all the good stuff – bespoke animations and decent dialogue lines – while the underdogs merely exist. That’ll be enough for some of their fans but still, it’d have been nice for this to have been a proper celebration of all things Marvel rather than an ‘Avengers And Friends’ shindig where the big boys get all the stage time as always.
Still, this is something that the side missions do a lot to try and make amends for, and do so pretty well to be fair. Once the story is done, there’s a procession of B-listers waiting in the wings for their go. These extra missions are something only the truest of believers will get to, mind – each is locked behind a Gold Brick paywall and you’ll struggle to bring home even 50 of the 250 shiny rewards over the course of the story (extra missions unlock every 25), making exploration and replaying old stages with new powers crucial to extracurricular success.
During missions, it’s Lego-by-numbers – switch between characters and abilities to traverse levels and solve basic puzzles before applying the same logic to combat in order to beat the inevitable end-of-stage boss. The Marvel difference comes in the form of power variety – each of the cast has such a mix of the various abilities that there’s usually one character who can single-handedly solve an entire puzzle. And with so many incidental challenges scattered around, there’s all the more reason to expand your roster in the hope that you’ll unlock a better fit for one of the many trials that await.
And while it might not be the kind of photorealistic extravaganza you might expect from next-gen hardware, Lego Marvel looks amazing. Crisp, clean 1080p visuals elevate it above the PS3 version, plus there are less issues with draw distance and pop-in on PS4. Like with Skylanders, there’s a curious thrill to seeing the toys play around on TV as they really look rather than as close approximations – again, it may not be the visual leap the hardware is capable of but it’s tough to imagine how a game about Lego toys adventuring around a city could look much better.
Outside of the crazy vast map of ACIV, it’s hard to point out a game that offers better single-player value on PS4 – exploring the whole map and clearing up all of the unlockables is no small task, so you’re looking at a good 40-plus hours of game time to do everything and get your Platinum. Factor in that doing so is a blast in co-op as well (though there’s still no online co-op, sadly) and you’ve got your family-friendly game of choice for any household that isn’t keen on buying new toys to unlock more gameplay.
There’s a good reason why TT Games hasn’t announced its next subject for blockification yet – after nailing this formula perfectly, the studio will surely have to evolve the franchise and branch out in order for it to be as successful in this new generation as it was in the last. A cracking start, then, but it needs to change soon. As Amazing, Fantastic and Incredible as this may be, the blocks are starting to fade ever-so-slightly and if the team isn’t careful, this could be the last truly great build it gets out of them.