Free-to-play games. On the one hand, it’s a game for nothing. On the other hand, the developers are probably going to want some form of reward for all the blood, sweat and tears that go into making a video game. Usually, the developers will try and claim some of your hard earned cash by offering you an incentive to give it to them. More often than not said incentive will give you some sort of advantage over the paupers who have the nerve to try and play a free-to-play game for free, be it better guns, more troops, extra turns, or whatever. Marvel Heroes Omega for the PS4 is free. Totally free.
Starting a new game will throw you straight into the prologue/tutorial level where you learn the basics of the game. You’ll play as Captain America for a little while, getting a feel for the controls by lobbing your shield around at bad guys until they fall over and collecting the credits and loot that spill from their bodies. After that you’ll play as Black Widow, using guns and tasers in an equally destructive manner against the legions of Ultron’s minions rushing towards you, and their inevitable doom. Last up in the tutorial you control Bruce Banner at his angriest, and use your big green fists to smash everything to smithereens. At the end of it all, you’ll be rewarded enough Eternity Splinters (the collectible currency used to buy playable characters) to pick whoever you want to play as from the thirty-plus marvel heroes currently available. For free.
But who do you choose for the rest of the game? Wolverine? Iron Man? Rocket Raccoon? Deadpool? Did you even know vampire slaying day-walker Blade was a Marvel property? I sure didn’t, but he was there to choose nonetheless. The launch roster includes most of the most popular marvel heroes to date, and even if you can’t choose right away, you can still play as ALL of them until they reach level ten to try them out. After that cap, if you want to continue levelling a hero, you have to unlock them with either real money or the aforementioned Eternity Splinters that drop randomly from fallen foes.
It’s an MMO, so you’ll rarely be alone as you patrol the various maps in search of super-villians to beat to a pulp/shoot to pieces/fry with your laser-eyes. In fact most of the areas in the game are literally teeming with other heroes doing their bit in the fight against super-crime. At one point I saw about six Incredible Hulks ganging up (somewhat unfairly) on a group of Hell’s Kitchen biker thugs as I lobbed grenades from the sidelines as the Punisher. It was hilarious. The explanation for the multiple instances of the same character fighting beside one another is explained in the story, which apart from being a sprawling romp through the Marvel universe, involves mysterious convenient artifacts that are messing with the fabric of reality and causing these anomalies. You’ll travel through popular locations within the universe, battling the various hordes of goons in an attempt to stop seemingly ALL the super-villians from using these powerful objects for their nefarious schemes. For free.
Gameplay wise, it’s as if the Marvel universe and Diablo 3 had a beautiful baby and put it up for adoption. Each playable character has a host of unlockable skills and powers which are assigned to the face buttons of the PS4 pad, with a second set available to use by holding the L2 button. Once you progress and level up enough to unlock more powers that can fit in your slots, you can choose the ones you prefer to suit your playstyle. At level thirty, a powerful signature move is unlocked. These have a slightly longer cool-down than the rest of your skills, but will generally devastate huge swathes of enemies at once. Reach level sixty and you’ll get to play with your character’s ultimate ability. These are badass, screen-clearing abilities with long animation sequences that showcase the best/most powerful things the character has to offer. With over thirty characters available, I didn’t get to see every one, but the Punisher (the one character I managed to get to max level) calls in his Battle Van which uses turrets, flamethrowers and mortars to lay waste to the whole screen. At this point, even the story-mode bosses can’t withstand such an assault, especially with the rest of the online community throwing explosive playing cards or calling in lightning storms to add extra damage.
And like Diablo, theres loot. So. Much. Loot. Each character has a specific set of gear that they’re looking to equip, and nine times out of ten, the enemies will drop the stuff you need for the character that you’re playing as. Captain America will get more advanced shields, Daredevil gets better billy-clubs, Ant-man gets souped up gloves and helmets and so on. In addition to this, a slew of different artifacts can be found that are both powerful and flavourful. For example items like the Hulkbuster munitions will knock enemies down and deal extra damage and the HYDRA training manual turns you invisible if you take too much damage. All of these items have a cool little quote in the description associated with the character you’re playing as and really show just how much detail has gone into the little things the game has to offer.
Visually, it’s not jaw-droppingly beautiful or anything, but it’s no dog either. It has a nice, cartoony feel to it as to be expected in a game full of superheroes. There are often a ton lighting bolts flying about the place, explosions, ice, lasers; and thankfully they all look unique (and accurate) to the character using them. It’s clear a lot of research has gone into how each of the heroes special abilities should look and feel like to use, and with such an extensive roster that was obviously no small task. The way a character sprints is also quite fantastic. Some of them literally just run, but others travel how you’d expect them to in the comic books or films. Iron-man and Warmachine use their suits to jet around, Iceman slides along on his ice beams, Spiderman swings acrobatically from his webs; it’s all great stuff, looks cool, and really captures the essence of the character. The level design was also something pretty special. The headquarters locations where you go to store and upgrade your loot are places like Stark tower or Xavier’s school for gifted youngsters, and these are detailed nicely with little things like the kids testing their powers or iron man suits being worked on in the workshops below. The various battlefield locations were also quite large and varied enough to avoid feeling repetitive. There were a few rough edges here and there but the version I played was still in beta, so these were mostly overlooked.
Another area that really stood out was the sound design. Everybody interacts with each other perfectly, and the heroes will often randomly say a quick sentence about one another based on their personal feelings and experiences. While playing as the Punisher a lot of the more wholesome heroes will scowl at you for being so ruthless, Spiderman and Deadpool take the piss out of everyone, Hulk want to smash everything. it adds a lot, and really makes you feel like you are a part of the universe you’re playing in. This applies equally to the unique powers and abilities of each hero, each one sounding accurate and satisfyingly destructive as you fill goons full of bullets or set them on fire. The actual sound track wasn’t anything to really write home about though. This, and some of the things the enemies say upon death will start sounding really repetitive as you clock up the hours playing.
I know I might have said this before once or twice in this review already and at the risk of overdoing it; this game is free. It’s completely free. Gadzillion Entertainment has really hit the nail on the head with how they ask you to pay them for stuff. You get to play the whole game, for free, with one of the heroes available from the current thirty eight. You can even play each one up to level ten to see which one you prefer. If another hero takes catches your eye, you can either pay for it with real money (about seven pounds) or by using the Eternity Splinters that drop randomly from enemies. After playing for about a week with the Punisher I’ve earned a little over two hundred of them, which is just under half the amount I need to buy a character. The only way that this could possibly seem like a pay-to-win game is with the synergy system that unlocks when you reach level twenty five. This is where you can add an additional benefit to your hero using the other heroes you own. To apply this benefit you need to own the other characters and have them leveled up to at least twenty five, and you can only apply ten buffs at a time. Calling this pay-to-win is a stretch too far in my opinion, as you can grind through to earn all of the characters without paying a penny if you don’t want to.
So try it. Because it’s free. There’s a ton of free content right here. I played through for a week on story only, but there are more modes. Operations is one where you can just pick to go up against bosses and waves of their goons either solo on in a party. Patrols are a big open maps public maps with random events every five minutes or so. You can play on four different difficulty settings, each setting dropping better loot than the last. Even with just one character, it’s got so much replayability. The roster is great so far, and Gadzillion Entertainment has already confirmed that they will be providing more content later on down the line. For free. Marvel fans of all levels are bound to enjoy this game, and even if you have no interest in the IP at all it’s still an extremely solid ARPG. So let’s all say thank you to the kind folks at Gadzillion, because they’ve given us all such a well made game. For free.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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