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Marvel's Avengers Is Making Me Feel Like Superheroes Kill a Lot Of People

Kamala Khan and her giant foot, about to ruin that AIM soldier’s life.
Kamala Khan and her giant foot, about to ruin that AIM soldier’s life.
Image: Square-Enix

Square-Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers establishes early on that as you and the Avengers journey across the world on a quest to defeat MODOK, you’ll have to fight countless AIM-branded robots based on Stark technology that are all programmed to target Inhumans and eliminate heroes on sight.

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Because the baddies are all machines, Marvel’s Avengers encourages you to—in some cases literally—smash through your enemies in massive shows of superheroic power. It’s visceral to watch and satisfying to feel as the rumble in your controller kicks in. But as you play through the game’s surprisingly compelling campaign mode and actually see Kamala Khan and the other Avengers infiltrating AIM bases in order to achieve their goals, something becomes distressingly clear: not all of the enemies you’re fighting are robots.

Sprinkled in with AIM’s synthoids, riotbots, and various drones, there are also a number of basic grunts armed with weapons along with stronger people wearing the sort of powered exosuits that allow them to punch and lift things that regular humans never could. When you walk into swarms of these enemies during any given mission, the human and robotic enemies almost instantaneously blend together, because of the game’s somewhat frenetic camera movement and the way the enemy AI is programmed to keep them constantly moving.

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But every so often, when you’ve got a clear shot to execute a more powerful special attack, there’s a moment when you can see that the person Thor’s hurling Mjolnir at or who Kamala Khan is slamming her gargantuan fists into is just some schmuck in a few layers of reinforced body armor.

Marvel’s Avengers human and mechanized enemies are quite similar in that they won’t hesitate to shoot you with all manner of high tech near-future weaponry designed to annihilate people. But the game’s heroes are all distinct because of their commitment to heroism and justice, all of which they repeatedly express in the interspersed cutscenes. It’s somewhat tough to square that with the fact that you can repeatedly see Iron Man firing off repulsor beams and mini-rockets directly into people’s chests at point blank range.

Thor pounding the hell out of a human Beekeeper soldier and a robotic synthod.
Image: Square Enix
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Interestingly, this reality brings Marvel’s Avengers more in line with Marvel’s movies, where we know there have been enough Avengers-related casualties to draw the public’s attention and ire—and sets it apart from something like Insomniac’s Spider-Man game, where the webhead took special care to make sure he merely knocked out and webbed up his opponents rather than complete wrecking them.

Unlike Marvel’s films, though, where the loss of life attributed to collateral damage can be pushed into the background in a CGI-clogged spectacle of destruction, Marvel’s Avengers places it front and center and occasionally gives you bonus points for powering through it with skill.

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None of this is at all unique to Marvel’s Avengers, as it’s a brawler that really speaks to the ethics of many modern day button mashing adventure games. But it’s still kinda weird to see the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes absolutely wrecking faceless henchpeople. Sure, they work for a terrible company, but hey, someone’s gotta help them make rent.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

Funny, I’ve pointed out how a lot of “no kill heroes” are non-killers based more on writer fiat rather than actually doing things in the story to avoid lethal action. Batman could detonate a bomb and people would buy that the worst that happened was a few people getting bruised knees.

I even remember one joke about how Batman’s kill count is covered up by Jim and the coroner’s office.