It’s a tale as old as- well, not as old as time, but at least about a decade. Publishers and developers choose to release incomplete, disappointing games, using their live service nature as a thin excuse to do so, promising major fixes with significant and prolonged post-launch support. In these cases, one of two things end up happening. Either these games actually do get the kind of fixes and improvements that are promised, and make remarkable recoveries, like Rainbow Six Siege, Battlefront 2, and Sea of Thieves have done. Or these games end up bombing, both critically and commercially, so badly, that the people behind them just decide to cut their losses and run, abandoning all plans and “roadmaps” for post-launch support. Not gonna name any names here, but one major recent example rhymes with Panthem.
Which of the two categories Marvel’s Avengers falls in still remains to be seen. Perhaps it’s still a bit early to definitively answer that question one way or another. But based on how Operation: Hawkeye – Future Imperfect has turned out, it seems right now like it’s going to fall in the second category. Whether or not kicking off the game’s post-launch life with two Hawkeye characters right off the bat was a good idea is an entirely different discussion (it wasn’t)- even putting that aside, this newest DLC is a major disappointment. Rather than addressing some of the biggest issues that have plagued Marvel’s Avengers since launch, Future Imperfect instead checks the box of delivering more content, while making many of the same mistakes that the base game did when it came out.
"Rather than addressing some of the biggest issues that have plagued Marvel’s Avengers since launch, Future Imperfect instead checks the box of delivering more content, while making many of the same mistakes that the base game did when it came out."
Operation: Hawkeye – Future Imperfect picks up where the Kate Bishop DLC left off. Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye is back after a prolonged absence, rescued by the Avengers from his reluctant partnership with Monica Rappaccini as he tries to track down the missing Nick Fury in the future to stop a world-ending Kree invasion and prevent the apocalypse from ever happening. What follows is a journey through time, with the Avengers, now with Hawkeye back in their ranks, continue the search for Fury.
From a narrative perspective, Future Imperfect feels like a case of wasted potential. The exciting thing about having this massive roster of iconic superheroes is that every time one of them joins in, you get to see them interacting with all the others, see their friendships and rivalries, their dynamics and the past of their relationships. Except here, that’s far from the case. We get to see plenty of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop in this DLC, and the relationship between the two is surely written into the story well enough, but Future Imperfect ends up ignoring the rest of the cast almost entirely. The other characters barely ever have anything to say, barely have any real involvement in the story, which means Hawkeye’s re-entry into the Avengers doesn’t feel nearly as impactful as it should have.
The overarching narrative fares slightly better, especially towards the latter half of the expansion, but it’s over all too quickly. The fact that it ends on a cliffhanger isn’t really surprising, given the fact that Crystal Dynamics are looking to tell a larger plot over the course of multiple expansions released at a steady cadence, but at just about a couple of hours long, Future Imperfect feels too short. Interesting plot points – such as how Old Man Hawkeye has been living in the post-apocalypse for so long, or the entire character of Maestro – don’t get nearly as much time in the sun as they should have, and instead end up feeling disappointingly underutilized.
"From a narrative perspective, Future Imperfect feels like a case of wasted potential."
Future Imperfect also adds a whole new biome to the game with a post-apocalyptic future wasteland, but that, too, falls way short of expectations, mostly because it just makes the same mistakes that the environments in the base game did. It’s a fairly large environment, but it just feels so dull and uninteresting. There’s very little to do, almost no reason to go exploring, almost nothing interesting to see and find- the only reward for your curiosity and for exploring is more repetitive combat, followed by boring loot and resource pickups from chests. Worst of all, the Wasteland feels a bit too much like a reskin of the Utah Badlands. Visually, it’s got its own thing going on, but any and all changes you see are purely aesthetic, which means not only is this new location a poorly designed and uninteresting one, it’s not even all that new.
And it’s not like Future Imperfect compensates for that with interesting missions, which are still as repetitive and by-the-numbers as ever. You still either track something down and hold square in front of it for a few seconds, or fight waves of AIM bots or sci-fi mercenaries. It’s all just so uninspired, which is a real shame, because these are the exact issues that plagued the base game as well. Marvel’s Avengers was weighed down by bland environments and bland mission design, and rather than looking to fix that, its DLC has just delivered more of that stuff. And that complete lack of understanding of the game’s biggest issues is evident in other areas as well- the best cosmetics are still too costly, the repeatable content is still boring and excessively grindy. It’s all a bit frustrating, honestly, like the developers didn’t understand what the issues are that people have with the game.
I do want to give credit where it’s due- playing as Hawkeye is a lot of fun. Traversal feels a bit wonky, but when it comes to combat, he’s a really fun character to play as. Equipped with a katana and, of course, a bow, he strikes a perfect balance between ranged and melee combat. His hits feel punchy and land with solid impact, the moves that you unlock in his skill tree are all pretty interesting, chaining them together and performing combos feels satisfying. He can fire three different types of arrows, which means there’s plenty of variety even if you use him purely as a ranged character, while he’s also perhaps the only character in the roster right now who has a legitimately useful healing ability, which means he’s not just fun to play as, he can also be useful in a pinch. The core of the Hawkeye character, from a gameplay perspective, is solid as a rock- it’s just a shame that everything around it is so flimsy.
"The core of the Hawkeye character, from a gameplay perspective, is solid as a rock- it’s just a shame that everything around it is so flimsy."
Crystal Dynamics were probably hoping that a chunk of new content to engage with would be enough to keep players satisfied, and while a lack of content is an issue with Marvel’s Avengers, it’s far from the only issue. Future Imperfect does offer new content, but that new content is as riddled with problems and as mediocre as the content that preceded it.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Hawkeye is fun to play as.
Hawkeye's re-entry into the Avengers lacks impact; Over too quickly for the story to do anything really interesting; The Wasteland is a boring new environment, and essentially feels like a reskin of the Utah Badlands; Bland, uninteresting missions.