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Marvel's Midnight Suns Review: Spirited Vengeance

EDITORS' RATING : 7 / 10
Pros
  • Fantastic combat system
  • Polished graphics
  • Lots of content and cosmetics
Cons
  • Awkward relationship system
  • Bloated multi-currency economy
  • Lackluster side objectives

HYDRA forces are attacking Avengers tower. Standing on the building's helipad, Iron Man charges his repulsors for a quick shot that knocks two HYDRA soldiers into each other. Captain America roars in determination and flings his shield in the direction of a cluster of gunners. The vibranium disk bounces between their torsos and knocks them all over the edge, giving Iron Man an opportunity to kick a containment crate directly into the face of HYDRA's top rifleman.

For a moment it appears as though HYDRA's assault has been halted before it can really get started, but then the sound of a screaming missile tears through the air. The two superheroes barely manage to dodge out of its path before it rams into the helipad and explodes, igniting two fuel canisters in the process. Cap traces the missile's trajectory back to an incoming helicopter and spots Crossbones hanging from the cockpit.

A new wave of HYDRA soldiers filters out of Tony Stark's penthouse and surges onto the helipad just as Crossbones, assault rifle in hand, leaps from his mobile perch. Iron Man and Captain America know they're in for a much more difficult fight than they anticipated, so they turn to you to call the shots...

At its best, "Marvel's Midnight Suns" puts you at the heart of adrenaline-pumping action sequences pulled straight from the pages of Marvel Comics, but the game is occasionally hampered by lengthy relationship sim-like segments that fill the space between epic battles.

HYDRA, meet Lilith

The Avengers and the rest of Marvel's heroes are fighting a losing battle against HYDRA. The evil organization recently summoned the demonic Lilith to fight on their side, and her mystical powers are shredding the defenses of superheroes everywhere.

Luckily, the Marvel heroes can lean on the Hunter — a customizable player character who just so happens to be Lilith's estranged child and whose destiny is forever wrapped up in the struggle against Lilith's dark magic. As Lilith rampages through the world, using her powers to corrupt heroes and villains alike, the Avengers and the Midnight Suns join forces and hope that the Hunter's extraordinary abilities will help them turn the tide.

As the conflict rages on, the Hunter learns more about the Marvel heroes and the relationships between them. Secrets are uncovered and deep bonds are forged as the threat of total annihilation hangs over their every move.

Cracking skulls

Combat takes up a majority of the playtime in "Marvel's Midnight Suns," and Firaxis Games knocked that portion of the game out of the park. Unsurprisingly, Firaxis' "Midnight Suns" borrows elements from "XCOM" and partners them with the core mechanics of a card game to create a combat system that is fluid, fast-paced, and constantly engaging.

Every hero has a deck of eight cards that represent their various abilities. Blade can use "Make Them Bleed" to draw an extra card and add a lingering bleed damage modifier to his next two attacks. Spider-Man can use "Thwip!" to deal damage and slow enemies down with his webbing. Basic attacks also build up Heroism points, which can be spent on special moves, team combos, and environmental attacks.

Three-person teams on each mission mean a minimum of 24 cards to play with and a seemingly endless amount of variety in the battles. The combination of teammates, maps, and mission objectives –- which can include protecting a special device, stealing secret HYDRA shipments, or defeating iconic villains like Venom -– mean that the combat is still engaging after countless battles and dozens of hours of gameplay.

Fighting in style

"Midnight Suns" ups the ante on its already fantastic tactical combat system by adding in animations that could stand next to the best Marvel movie moments. It's thrilling to see Ghost Rider standing on the hood of the Hell Charger as it bashes into a line of enemies. Watching Magik drop-kick a HYDRA soldier through a portal to Limbo and into a pile of explosive barrels is consistently entertaining. Every attack animation is stylish, and none of them overstay their welcome –- after a couple of seconds, the focus always returns to planning your next move.

Outside of combat, players get to hang around the Abbey, a magical base of operations for the Midnight Suns. Exploring the Abbey often feels like an unwanted distraction from diving into the next combat mission, but the massive Gothic building and the grounds that surround it are as undeniably beautiful as the animations for Doctor Strange's mystical attacks. Plus, there's always a chance to discover a stylish new costume for your favorite hero.

Gamma coils, gloss, and more

The fact that the combat here looks and feels great is especially good because there's a lot of it to go around. In addition to the lengthy main story, there are plenty of side missions, and an almost problematic amount of unlockable upgrades for the Hunter and the rest of the Marvel crew.

Players will need to earn Gloss to gain access to cosmetic upgrades like new costumes and decoration for the Hunter's bedroom -– one of the many Abbey locations where players can kill time between missions. They'll also need to hunt down artifacts to increase their research level, gamma coils to earn new cards, credits to open up new tools around the Abbey, and a wide array of crafting ingredients that get used for gadgets, consumables, and other group activities taking place between missions. In addition to all of that, players can use daily sparring to power up their comrades and send heroes off on special operations that will net extra XP and new abilities.

All the currencies, ingredients, and unlocks can be hard to keep straight, particularly in the early hours of the game. When in doubt, go beat up more HYDRA goons and figure out the rest later.

Cooling off between missions

Tactical combat may be the focus of "Marvel's Midnight Suns," but the game is equally concerned with offering a role-playing experience that echoes elements of "Mass Effect" and "Persona." Players need to spend time with their teammates at the handful of clubs that exist around the Abbey to upgrade their friendship levels and unlock key combat abilities.

It's in this area that "Midnight Suns" falls short. While it can be nice getting to know the characters at play on a deeper level, not everyone will want to listen to Peter Parker explain his origin story or to hear Blade work through his feelings for Carol Danvers. There's something a little odd about taking a break to go fishing with Iron Man, and it's not entirely due to the somewhat stilted dialogue in these segments. Not everyone will be turned off by the hangouts and simple dialogue trees, but considering much of these throwaway events are mandatory –- at least if you want your characters to stay competitive in combat –- the overall approach is a detriment to the game as a whole.

A bright spot in the Marvel universe

"Marvel's Midnight Suns" is 70% an impressive tactical combat game and 30% an underwhelming, though not incompetent, social simulator. The main storyline is pure comic book camp, powered by stunning graphics and carefully crafted attack animations. The side stories and relationships that develop between the game's many combat missions aren't poorly done, but more often than not feel like obstacles between the player and the heart of the game. Ultimately, the game won't please everyone, but comic book fans with a serious interest in tactical combat games like "XCOM" should give it some consideration.

A Steam code was provided to SVG by 2K Games for this review. "Marvel's Midnight Suns" is available now for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.