It’s been a bumpy road for Marvel’s Avengers, but the future is looking bright… or rather “imperfect” in this case. With more content coming and the next-gen versions available, Crystal Dynamics can start focusing on releasing what fans have been waiting for. We got our first character update with Kate Bishop three months ago, and we have more details about the upcoming Black Panther expansion. For now, fans have another archer to play with in Operation: Hawkeye – Future Imperfect. With this latest story installment comes a new region, a new villain, and a dog that we can pet in the helicarrier. Fans will also have the ability to finally replay the campaign and even customize their own HARM rooms. Was it all worth the wait? Be aware, minor spoilers will follow.
Operation: Hawkeye – Future Imperfect starts where the previous operation left off. Clint is experiencing some sort of time shift sickness and is in a coma. It’s then that we jump to the future where we take on the role of Old Man Hawkeye in a world where the Earth fell to a Kree invasion. This world is desolate and lacking hope for a better tomorrow, but that’s where the Avengers of the present come in. After activating a time portal, Old Man Hawkeye is able to make contact with the past to try and warn them of a possible future. When the Clint of the past wakes up, he uses the chance to investigate the disappearance of Nick Fury. The answer he finds may be the key to stopping an alien invasion.
Clint’s story takes him from his Brooklyn apartment to the American wasteland of the future, where he meets with his future self. Of course, his trusty canine companion Lucky will show up, and his protege Kate Bishop also joins in. As the present Avengers investigate the future, they hear rumblings of a “Supreme Leader,” only to discover it’s a power-hungry (and more intelligent) version of the Hulk, now known as Maestro. It’s sad to see heroes fall from grace, even more so when it’s one of your allies. It’s just part of this mystery that continues to build with each new hero. The story is about as long as the previous operation, consisting of a handful of missions. Despite the length, it was refreshing to get a change in scenery, even if it was a literal wasteland.
Of course, with a villainous Hulk in power, Operation: Hawkeye – Future Imperfect would come down to a fight with the big guy. While some might expect Maestro to fight much like Abomination, that isn’t the case here. Maestro’s moves include a lot of Earth-shattering slams, bringing down debris, and powerful charges. He can take some time to take down, though he wasn’t exactly the most challenging boss. This is likely due to the fact that Hawkeye himself isn’t expected to be a very high level during this fight. I was just barely past level 20 when I challenged him, and I never seemed to be in danger of dying.
[UPDATE: We made a mistake regarding the experience update and have adjusted this segment accordingly]. One thing to note is that the update also made adjustments to the way experience is gained post level 25. Reaching level 25 took no time at all, but it definitely did slow down after level 25. While it’s noticeable for someone that’s been playing the game for a while, it does feel more natural. Previously, I was leveling up at least twice in smaller missions, and longer missions would be four to five times. Even more so in hives. While the update does slow things down slightly, I was still leveling up at least once per mission. Either way, Clint has a serious array of moves at his disposal. Various different arrow types give him a lot of versatility, and like Kate, his sword makes him a fun fighter at close range. Perhaps the best inclusion is his grapple arrow, which makes him incredibly nimble during traversal.
Clint’s attacks have a lot of options for players to customize, and his gameplay makes him a fantastic sharpshooter. Unloading arrows left and right is incredibly seamless, especially when his lock-on perk activates. His Heroic abilities are pretty useful, especially his Recovery Arrow, though it’s his ultimate that makes him a dangerous fighter. Hunter’s Arrow is an AI controlled arrow that moves around on auto-pilot to devastate foes. Clint basically doesn’t have to do anything as the arrow moves around quickly, much like Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, you won’t get any new enemies to use them on outside of Maestro and the new Cargo Runner Synthoid. Luckily, the latter helps to spice things up for great rewards. Despite being another archer, Clint and Kate are two very different characters.
Speaking of Kate, her banter with Clint is a great way to showcase the relationship between mentor and student. At times, they act as friends, and at others, they’re more like family. It helps that Ashly Burch continues to perform admirably as Kate, though Giacomo Gianniotti carries his own weight as well. While Gianniotti gives a good performance, there were some moments where his voice was overpowered by the music. On the upside, Darin De Paul doubles up and plays Maestro, letting him do more than the occasional “Hulk Smash.”
It’s worth mentioning that we took advantage of the next-gen upgrade for this review. Playing on more powerful hardware, there were some very noticeable differences. The biggest change is the load times, which are now lightning fast. Swapping characters no longer has a pause and loading into the game is seamless. Of course, multiplayer matches have longer load times, most likely due to playing with users on older hardware. As for the visuals, players will have the choice between 60fps at dynamic 4K or native 4K at 30fps. The native 4K option is truly gorgeous, but the lower frame rate makes it a tough choice. Playing with dynamic 4K is noticeable, but it doesn’t impact the overall experience. Oddly enough, the old platforms looked pretty good in comparison.
One more new feature is the ability to make custom HARM rooms. While it’s great for practice, it does limit your options a bit. Defeating enemies in the custom room doesn’t count toward any progress. After messing with the settings, the best use here is the unlimited Heroic energy setting. With Clint, I was able to unleash multiple Hunter Arrows while sitting back and watching the devastation unfold. Players also have a chance to experience the main campaign again, bringing their experience, gear, and cosmetics along with them. While we didn’t test it for this review, we plan on checking it out again for a next-gen version review.
Marvel’s Avengers Operation: Hawkeye – Future Imperfect offers enough variety to make it a great addition. Adding a new environment and villain helps things, though you’ll still be fighting a lot of the same enemies. I’ve sort of made peace with the new character challenge cards, so I don’t take any issue with it here. Overall, the story continues to ramp up for bigger and likely better things while still maintaining a level of quality entertainment. This feels like it’s going to be the year to deliver to the fans, and so far, Hawkeye is a great start.
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