As a free story DLC campaign for a less-than-perfect game, Marvel’s Avengers‘ Taking A.I.M. could either stand out as a compelling continuation or be bogged down by repetitive game mechanics. So, do Kate Bishop’s arrows fly true in this DLC, or do they narrowly miss their mark? The answer to that question depends on your perspective and what you wanted from this new campaign. Those hoping that Taking A.I.M. would solve the numerous problems populating Marvel’s Avengers, such as its problematic multiplayer, will no doubt be disappointed. Those simply wishing for a direct continuation of the surprisingly strong story campaign will find at least a few hours of enjoyment for the right price.
The plot of Taking A.I.M. begins with the Avengers performing a mission for global peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. against A.I.M., the main baddies of this action RPG. Right away, things seem to be a bit outside the norm, with spatial disruptions happening at random. Upon making it to the mission site, our titular heroes are reintroduced to an old friend, Kate Bishop. Kate is Hawkeye’s apprentice, poised to become an Avenger herself before the events of A-Day.
Kate and Hawkeye have been working with S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since, but the master archer disappeared while out in the field. That leaves the apprentice to search for her mentor while also figuring out A.I.M.’s connections to the mysterious spatial distortions. This leads Kate to fight alongside the Avengers again while players are placed in her shoes for the duration of the DLC campaign. Will the Avengers be able to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to A.I.M. before time and reality itself get ripped apart?
The narrative focus of Taking A.I.M. is largely on Kate, with the other Avengers more often than not providing cameos. Bruce Banner noticeably only appears once in a story scene, and poor Thor once again wins the title of “that dude who just randomly showed up to the party.” It was a bit odd, but not completely unexpected due to the short, roughly six-hour-long campaign. There didn’t appear to be many changes to the ambient conversations inside of Ant Hill, and there was hardly any real interaction to be had around S.H.I.E.L.D. Substation Zero unless a story scene demanded it. For instance, I was disappointed I couldn’t chat up Maria Hill or Dugan as much as I could the Avengers on the Helicarrier. The campaign also ends on a rather massive cliffhanger after alluding to some potentially interesting new story beats for future DLC campaigns, the next one of which will feature Hawkeye.
Taking A.I.M. continues Avengers’ streak for having a surprisingly strong comic book narrative that is quite easy to get engrossed in and very much reminiscent of playing through an interactive MCU film. Kate Bishop is perhaps a relatively new face for most, though fans of her run in the Young Avengers comic series will undoubtedly be pleased to see her. Her abilities are a bit different than how they’re portrayed in the comic books, and her personality is perhaps feistier and more fun in some respects than I remember from reading those Young Avengers issues, but I greatly enjoyed the take on Kate’s character here. Her short journey to becoming a full-fledged Avenger was well-developed in a similar vein to Kamala Khan’s growth in the Reassemble single-player campaign. Once more, the Avengers’ storyline proves surprisingly strong for the short length, despite the less than stellar gameplay mechanics.
For better or worse, battles in Taking A.I.M. play out just as expected based on Reassemble. The action RPG combat is solid and, through the use of the skill tree progression, you can tailor characters to your liking. Equipment continues to be plentiful in the field, and I often found myself dismantling gear to simply have room for new pieces. About the only difference in terms of gameplay is the addition of Kate to the roster, as everyone else plays exactly as they did in previous campaigns and missions. I ended up greatly enjoying playing as the speedy, combo-based Kate…so much so that I didn’t even change her out for other characters when allowed to do so. Being able to switch from sword strikes to ranged arrow assaults with gymnastic ease ended up being quite enjoyable. Her added new ability to teleport around fields was a rather fun way to get from spot to spot quickly and definitely needed at certain points during the DLC, depending on mission objectives.
Players can choose to play Taking A.I.M. as a solo endeavor or in multiplayer, though personally I leaned more towards single player given continuing issues with the Avengers’ multiplayer. The A.I. companions that can accompany you out on the field are competent enough, though they don’t always do as you’d like them to. This was most noticeable during a particularly frustrating puzzle segment where you have to keep control of multiple designated areas all at once for a specific amount of time, but also apparent when you need a quick Revive out on the field during a hectic firefight. There were also missions where certain characters were forced into the party for plot purposes, which could be a drag if you weren’t used to their playstyles or hadn’t leveled them quite as much. My preferred backup team was Ms. Marvel, Iron Man, and Black Widow, so it took some time to get used to how Captain America acted out on the field comparatively when he was in play.
Missions are selected through the War Table over at S.H.I.E.L.D. Substation Zero or the Ant Hill just as they are on the Helicarrier, and you can adjust difficulty levels accordingly before taking any of them on. Those hoping that there might be some changes to the bleak scenery of missions in Taking A.I.M. are in for some disappointment. Pretty much every battle map takes place in the icy tundra of Siberia, to the point where the characters themselves actually comment on it, meaning that every mission map looks roughly the same. While there are a few new enemies to be found in this campaign, the variety is still very much lacking. You’ll still be fighting hordes and hordes of robots for the most part.
Puzzles in this DLC were also the quite frustrating type. None of the puzzles were impossible, but they often fell into the annoying category with either timed conditions or racing from numbered platform to numbered platform in a given order while a battle waged on. That last category of puzzle actually occurs during the final DLC fight, and it was definitely not needed or appreciated then. The puzzles aren’t the most interesting gameplay moments, so having to go through so many of them is essentially a trial in patience.
To even play Taking A.I.M., players have to update the base game. I understood why at first, since I hadn’t really touched my copy of Avengers all that much after playing Reassemble, but every time there is a game updated needed it will block you out of Taking A.I.M. until the download completes, which happened roughly four times over the five days I spent playing. The updates often took about twenty minutes or so to download. I could understand the need for the constant updates if it prevented glitches, however I still experienced a pretty significant one on the Private Eye mission that had me having to replay the entire thing over again (fortunately with carried over levels, but still!). I also had to officially sign in and verify my copy of the game with my Square Enix account before being allowed to play the DLC, which isn’t something I recall having to do during my initial playthrough.
And that is Taking A.I.M. in a nutshell. It is an enjoyable narrative adventure despite its continued flaws for the short playtime duration, much like Reassemble before it. Still, players will likely pick up the DLC and play it to completion without touching the base game again until the next story DLC comes out. Such a formula doesn’t exactly help a title such as this have the longer shelf life its multiplayer campaign seems to want it to have. Still, I enjoyed my time playing as Kate, and I’m curious enough to see how the Hawkeye campaign will resolve that cliffhanger ending. Given that Taking A.I.M. is free content with enjoyable moments, this is certainly DLC worth taking aim at if you are someone who played and enjoyed Marvel’s Avengers’ single player campaign and still have the base game.