Reviews

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite review: Feels like a space frontier

Lite in price, definitely heavy in features

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It’s been a while since I last tested a Xiaomi phone. I previously reviewed the Xiaomi Mi 9T and its Pro sibling, which both received outstanding marks. After almost a year, I finally have another chance to play with a Xiaomi device — this time it’s the Mi Note 10 Lite.

Don’t be confused. This isn’t the 108-megapixel-touting Xiaomi Mi Note 10. Instead, it has a lower but still respectable 64-megapixel Sony IMX686 sensor.

However, at less than the price of its big brother, you get the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chipset with the option to get more RAM. But is it a smarter purchase? Just keep following the star trails to find out more.

A design that reminds me of the cosmos

The Mi Note 10 Lite (obviously) got its design cues from the Mi Note 10. The left-justified camera placement plus the gradient, flashy back are both familiar to other Android smartphones out there — but this phone still stands out on its own.

Upon seeing the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite for the first time, it reminded me of a nebula that can be seen from a distant galaxy like ours. Cool enough, Xiaomi named this as the Nebula Purple colorway.

Those shimmering streaks that blend well with its dominantly purple gradient body are little details that remind me of my astronomical fascination since I was a kid. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you can get a more basic Midnight Black or a cleaner Glacier White option.

How come people love curved displays but not people with curves?

The inclusion of a 3D curved edge display is a nice design highlight for a smartphone that’s priced lower than most of its flat-display midrange competitors. Most might think of a waterfall when you see that “overflowing” display but for me, it’s more of a continuous flow of space — just like the universe.

Unlike the motorized pop-up cameras and newer punch-hole cameras, you get the old Dot Drop notch found on the Mi Note 10 and older Mi smartphones. It’s honestly not the best thing in the universe but that single piece of front camera for your selfies still gets the work done (more on that later).

Also, you can find another “old” feature which is the IR port that’s responsible for making this phone a universal remote.

They now use the new Xiaomi logo instead of the old “Mi” logo

It’s not the lightest phone you can hold as it’s literally hefty. In fact it felt heavier than my iPhone XR. Over time, I just got used to it as the “thicc” body serves its purpose. Overall, the Mi Note 10 Lite’s design is cohesive — a perfect balance between aesthetics and ergonomics.

The illusion of an ever-expanding display just like the universe

What a perfect time to watch Cosmic Girls’ new music video

Just like the Mi Note 10, it has the same 6.47-inch 3D Curved AMOLED display with Full HD+ resolution. Other than that, you also get an Always-On Display feature for better information and notification support.

What trims down the display quality is the level of brightness nits. The Mi Note 10 has a maximum brightness of 600 nits while the younger sibling only has 430 nits — which is enough for indoor usage but looks washed out when you’re outside with direct exposure to sunlight.

For display nerds, this isn’t equipped with a buttery smooth 120Hz refresh rate. The standard refresh rate may look normal to most consumers though. But, it’s still disappointing as the Poco X2 is equipped with a high refresh rate display even if it’s a lot cheaper.

When a dialogue in Hospital Playlist is more relevant than my whole existence

Anyhow, watching on its big display still delivers vibrant colors with whiter whites and deeper blacks — as dark as the center of the black hole.

Other than enjoying the colorful and visually-stunning music video of Cosmic Girls’ “Butterfly” on YouTube, there’s also a certain level of viewing pleasure when you watch Netflix series, especially that this phone supports HDR10 for most titles.

As someone who has big hands, there’s a palm rejection feature which is flawless as it doesn’t touch screen items even when I grip the edges of the display.

Performance as fast as a rocket launch

As fast as falling in love with the wrong person

The moment I heard that the Mi Note 10 Lite packs the Snapdragon 730G chipset coupled with 6GB of RAM (which is the same as the Mi Note 10), I immediately tested its processing power.

Surprisingly, it’s decent enough for graphically demanding games. In my case, I tried playing my favorite racing game, Asphalt 9. I experienced no lags while playing it. For sure, most of your mobile game favorites will run on this phone.

It runs the latest Android 10 with Xiaomi’s heavily-skinned MIUI 12. This version gives you most of the security and performance patches you need for the phone.

Best of all? It has Google Mobile Services (GMS), specifically Google Play for most of your app needs.

The optical in-display fingerprint scanner is fast too. Though it has a face unlock feature, using your fingerprint for biometrics is more secure rather than a 2D image scan that can quickly unlock your phone even when you’re asleep.

Don’t get your hopes up though for an expandable storage as it doesn’t have a microSD card slot.

Battery life that’s light years ahead

This phone lasted longer than the the conversation you’ve had with your ghost 👻

The heading might be an exaggeration but this is truly one of its superior features. If you’re the type of user who consumes a lot of media, plays hardcore games, and even scrolls through social media feed or does online shopping for hours, the Mi Note 10 Lite can withstand all of that for a day or so.

Just like its older sibling, it has a 5,260mAh battery paired with an efficient processor, which are both ideal for long-term power and blazingly fast performance — like an ice-cooled comet.

Large battery and turbo charging should be mutually inclusive

Check the label first 🥴

Large battery capacity in future smartphones should be equipped with fast charging technology — just like how the gravitational force between the Earth and the moon are correlated to each other (or how LOONA and Orbits are connected to one another).

Luckily, the Mi Note 10 Lite supports Turbo Charge with a 30W USB-C charger right out of the box. True to its words, it was able to fill up the phone from zero to 100 percent in just a little over an hour. That’s fast considering its gigantic battery.

If you’re into wireless charging, it doesn’t support that by any means.

Audio jack is still in orbit

I miss the pleasure of plugging

Unlike most of today’s gizmos, Xiaomi still decided to keep the 3.5mm headphone jack in the Mi Note 10 Lite. Although I personally don’t use wired earphones anymore as I’ve transitioned into a more wireless lifestyle, it’s still surprising to see a rounded port in 2020 smartphones.

Day6’s Zombie is my current anthem. The lyrics best describe my life right now.

Although it may not have the Quad DAC support from the LG V60 ThinQ, I was still able to enjoy the sound delivered by my old pair of earphones with its extra heavy bass.

This reminds me of my college years where I used to listen to music even with the hassle of tangled wires. A lot of audiophiles will surely love this smartphone.

Odd placement for speaker grilles

Going Nonstop (for Arin)

Just like Uranus’ weird axis, the Mi Note 10 Lite has a weird speaker placement. As I tried playing some music videos, I noticed that my hands cover and muffle the speaker grilles. It’s unfortunate that this phone only has one speaker (I mean having two speakers is TWICE the fun, right?).

It’s hard to avoid blocking the speaker grilles especially when you hold your phone like this while trying to consume media in loudspeaker.

When I hold a phone in the usual portrait orientation, I use my pinky as support. If you do the same thing, you’re gonna block the left speaker placement, too. This may not be a big deal for left-handed or ambidextrous people, though.

Telescope-like camera quality

Don’t be silly! I’m not talking about the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s more like the generic telescope. It’s not that bad as it still gets the job done of seeing objects from afar. But still, it’s not the best viewing experience either, considering you bought a telescope with less fancy glass elements within.

Ultra-wide | Wide | Telephoto

As stated earlier, it packs a 64MP f/1.9 main camera. Other than that, you’ll get an additional 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lens with a 120-degree Field of View (FoV). Moreover, there’s a 5MP depth sensor and 2MP macro sensor, both in f/2.4 aperture.

Three of those lenses are downgrades from Mi Note 10’s setup: 108MP f/1.7 main, 20MP f/2.2 ultra-wide, and 8MP f/2.0 telephoto with 7x optical zoom. The Mi Note 10 Lite can only zoom up to 2x.

It doesn’t have a telephoto lens but zoom is still clear

Wide | Telephoto

For most part, HDR and AI produce quality photos

…but large megapixel count doesn’t mean better photos

Although the Galaxy S20+ and Mi Note 10 Lite aren’t totally similar in terms of price range and hardware, I still tried to test how both of their 64-megapixel sensors perform.

Galaxy S20+ (64MP) vs Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite (64MP)

Unlike Galaxy S20+’s processing technique, the Mi Note 10 Lite failed to lessen the image’s highlights in favor of a “better” dynamic range that shows lighter shadows on most dimmed objects in the photo.

Don’t be fooled! These samples obviously show that better image quality isn’t based on how large the megapixel count of a phone is. If you’re really into photography, you should know that sensor sizes matter, as well as aperture, the phone post-process techniques, so on and so forth.

Galaxy S20+ (low light) vs Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Lite (low light)

Mi Note 10 Lite’s sample might look fine from afar but if you closely look at the details, it failed to deliver sharper details and whiter highlights. Even shadows in low light weren’t exempted in its image processing. To make it worse, the main camera lacks optical image stabilization (OIS) which resulted in a blurry, shaky output.

Vlog mode might be handy for some of you

This only works on rear camera, though

I’m not totally a fan of vlogging but the Mi Note 10 Lite has a special camera feature called “Vlog mode” which lets you shoot videos with eight vlog templates. This can save you time and hassle from stylizing your vlog from scratch. Although there’s no sample video, I tried testing it on my sleeping cat and it worked wonders!

Selfies are just right

Beauty Mode (Off) vs Beauty Mode (On + AI)

Not a selfie fanatic either but I think selfie camera quality is preferential. I just find it odd that it still smeared some parts of my face even when Beauty Mode is completely turned off.

This feature might work for aspiring “Instagram stars” and “influencers” though. But who knows? That feature might totally entice the person you like the most.

Is the Mi Note 10 Lite your GadgetMatch?

You can get the 6GB/64GB variant at just PhP 16,990 (US$ 340). Meanwhile, there’s another 128GB/8GB option priced at PhP 18,990 (US$ 380).

By the time you reach this line, you’ve probably passed through the phone’s pros and cons. To simply put it, this is a phone meant for power users who don’t demand a flagship-grade processor and heaps of RAM.

Having the right amount of punch paired with long-lasting battery that can last you more than a day are already enough for most consumers out there.

If you’re looking for an out-of-this-world camera performance in a midrange smartphone, this isn’t your best option. Unlike the previous Xiaomi devices I’ve reviewed, I can immediately tell this lacked the outstanding camera performance that those two midrange phones possessed.

Don’t be too disappointed, it can still be a great camera companion if you’re into vlogging, selfies, or maybe for someone who’s just not into the nitty-gritty of manual photography. The camera is ideal for those who mostly rely on Auto Mode and just need to upload photos and videos on their social media accounts.

But if we’re talking about the price tag, it’s definitely a bang for your buck even if it doesn’t have the excellent camera setup of the Mi Note 10. After all, you can’t have it all (just like the person you desperately like).

Accessories

In having healthy connections: vivo TWS Neo

Learning the value of unattachment and secure connections

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Earlier this year, I embarked on a spiritual quest to heal my personal issues and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Something I’ve been dealing with for more than twenty years.

Unfortunately, the world paused when the pandemic struck, and I wasn’t able to have my own Eat, Pray, Love moment. Yet the universe — if you believe in that — finds its way to put you back on track. Over the last few months, I’ve been spending some time in isolation to safeguard myself from the invisible virus.

In between my full-time job, household chores, and other errands, I was able to sit with myself while scouring through my deep-seated emotions. In the fifth month of my healing journey, I got the vivo TWS Neo to accompany me in the last stride that helped me close my old wounds.

On removing my expectations

I wasn’t impressed the first time I met the vivo TWS Neo. Bluntly put, there was nothing extraordinary about it. It’s similarly designed with a striking resemblance to the king of true wireless earphones.

Little did I know, the vivo TWS Neo has something else to offer: Identifying what I like and didn’t like about myself through my likes and dislikes about this accessory.

Using it for a month, I got a better understanding of myself. I was able to realize how I tend to fixate on what I want, denying myself the chance to try something new. How I’ve been holding on to certain outcomes that aren’t for my highest good.

So I used it to start breaking my expectations and connected it to my four phones. From the Samsung Galaxy S20, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and to the vivo X50, the TWS Neo connected seamlessly via Bluetooth.

This easy connection made me ponder about my struggles in connecting with and opening up to people. I wish I connect with people as easily as these wireless earphones.

I tried to listen to “Lo-Fi Beats” on Spotify, a calm playlist that lets me enjoy the novel I’m reading — History Is All You Left Me.

While I read a story about love, friendship, and mourning, my mind wandered in between the pages. I started relating my experience with the vivo TWS Neo to my journey in learning and healing my personal issues.

The value of detachment and secure connections

As I enjoyed the liberty of wireless connection, it helped me realize it’s time to free myself from the past. I’m not bound by any cords, I don’t have to carry all this weight with me anymore.

In between reading and bathroom breaks, I didn’t bother returning the wireless earphones to its case. I always brought it with me to the bathroom while my phone is left at my desk, thinking the connection won’t be disrupted. Plus, it has IP54 water resistance.

Of course, there’s a limit even though it uses Bluetooth 5.2 connection. It’s like how certain romantic connections can be disrupted by distance. Frankly, it’s something I’ve been doing unknowingly. An unhealthy habit I need to fix.

Thankfully, it’s easy to reconnect. The vivo TWS Neo has a good grasp of its connection, where you can just play your songs again through your phone or by tapping it with your fingers.

If you ever have to remove the earphones for a moment (or put it back to its case), the music will stop yet it will play again as soon as you plug it back in your ears.

A healthy reminder that connections don’t necessarily stop when you step away, and you can still pick things up where you left off.

The only problem I encountered was the fit. The open-ear fit didn’t feel secure enough in my ears that I always thought it’s about to fall. This is the reason why I’ve always preferred in-ear ones.

Learning about my preference made me realize the importance of feeling secure in yourself and in relationships. What most people don’t know is that a healthy connection is comprised of two secure and independent individuals. You can’t have a happy and stable relationship if someone’s worried and reeks of insecurity.

Everything is within your reach

One thing I learned and loved about the vivo TWS Neo is how everything is within our reach. I didn’t know the gesture controls I can utilize to fully enjoy my listening experience. Not until I put the effort to learn about it.

The vivo TWS Neo has Slide Control embedded on its stem, allowing you to operate it easily. I was able to access google assistant, answer a call, and control my music by double-tapping.

Calls can be rejected (which I barely do) or hung up (if people are annoying) when you press and hold. I also adjusted the volumes by sliding through the stem.

There’s also a Find My TWS Neo feature, which helps you search for your wireless earphones easily. It will beep through your phone once it’s in the connection’s range — a feature that I wish I could use for all the people I’ve lost.

There’s always a wonderful connection waiting

Diving into a story while listening to music allowed me to drown my emotions and distract myself. Sometimes, I shut the world out by putting the volume on max and using noise-cancellation.

I don’t care if my eardrums explode, as long as I can’t hear people or my thoughts, I’m good. This form of escapism has been an unhealthy habit that I’m actively fixing. Instead of enjoying the TWS Neo’s rich, quality sound (and probably staying in the present), I tend to prevent myself from feeling everything.

But what I learned so far is that sometimes, we have to allow ourselves to stumble and fall, drop our guards, and move out of our comfort zones. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same songs you’ve been playing for three months now.

The wireless earphones last for more than four hours and can last a full day when you recharge it through the charging case.

As I close my book to allow my wireless earphones to recharge, I realized that I, too, have to let myself rest. Just like the TWS Neo, I have to recharge (or heal in this matter) so I can enjoy another wonderful connection and listening experience that’s certainly waiting for me.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The vivo TWS Neo might not be an option to most consumers unless you’re loyal to the brand. There are a lot of cheaper alternatives and if you have a few bucks to spare, you can increase your budget range and purchase several contenders such as Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live and Huawei’s FreeBuds.

In the same price range, there’s also the OPPO Enco W31. If your budget is in between and you prefer a connection that’s simple, long-lasting, and seamless, the vivo TWS Neo could be your GadgetMatch. And if you already own a vivo phone anyway, pairing with these should be at the top of your options.

The vivo TWS Neo retails for PhP 4,999 in the Philippines. It comes in two colors: Moonlight White and Starry Blue.

SEE ALSO: Wireless earphones: A life-changing switch?6 reasons why you should switch to wireless earbuds | The art of letting go with Sony H.ear On

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Health

How I got fit with the OPPO Watch

Our goal is to survive

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OPPO Watch

When the global health crisis struck the world into a colossal spiral while we all watched anxious in our homes, I decided to escape into a fitness challenge. Hey, I needed some form of healthy coping and I thought putting my frail, petite figure into the ringer was a good way to keep me distracted.

So, since the end of March of this year, I decided to do at-home workouts six days per week. And, by the end of April, I had somehow dedicated hours into working out consistently from Sundays to Fridays.

Deciding to be fit

If you’re thinking, “she’s mental,” hi. Yes, I am. I always knew I was capable of sticking to something I wanted to work towards. I’d go so far as to say I’ve always had an obsessive tendency towards things I set my mind on. There was, of course, a good incentive: my mental health.

I’ve always struggled with my mental health. Even when writing about how video games helped me through rough patches in my life, I’d spiral back into the same mental state over and over. I wanted to break that horrible cycle. And so, I set myself to use fitness to expend energy I would usually have to be anxious or self-destructive on something healthier and beneficial.

Oh, I almost forgot a tangent motivation to all of this: I was weaning off my medication. So, if you didn’t know, which you probably didn’t, I was taking antidepressants and mood stabilizers to get by.

Whenever I had teetered into fitness, I weirdly felt on-top-of-things. I brought this up to my psychiatrist and knew that if I wanted sustainable stability, I had to work on long term changes to my lifestyle.

So, back to the task at hand, I had consistently worked out, built muscle where I didn’t know I had and gained a ton of weight. By late August to early September, I had felt better mentally.

Tracking with the OPPO Watch

When I got the OPPO Watch, I had already checked out most of my personal goals except one: getting stunning abs. I went to work on journaling ab workouts I was going to do and healthy meals I wanted to treat myself to. I was planning on running outside to get my daily 10,000 steps through the watch’s Wear OS out of the way and was pretty excited to strap on the OPPO Watch.

Before we hop into my journey with the OPPO Watch, here’s a couple of things you might want to know. The Oppo Watch’s dual-curved 1.6-inch AMOLED display makes it look identical to the Apple Watch.

Elephant in the room finally out; let’s talk specs. It’s got a Snapdragon Wear 3100 SoC with an Apollo Chip. All of that runs on Wear OS by Google and is powered by a 300mAh battery. And, OPPO boasted the watch’s 21-day battery capacity. So, I was hyping myself up for a two-week ab workout program to accompany the specs and features the watch was decked out on.

Let me just get it out there: as much as the OPPO Watch has an identity crisis on potentially being an Apple Watch wannabe or clone, it delivers on looks. The watch is pretty and the interface never once stuttered while I used it. But I digress…

Road to getting abs

On day one, road to maybe getting abs, the watch flopped and stopped recording my run, and ab exercises because it had run out of battery. Frustrated but also quietly relieved, I dropped my plan for the afternoon and eased out of my workout quicker than I often would.

You see, I had become overly obsessed with working out. So much so, that I was scheduling everything else in my day around the 2-3 hours every single day I wanted to exercise.

Although it was a disappointing first day, it was a wake-up call. I had always felt fatigued and out of breath from just doing typical chores. I’ve long ignored this symptom of over-training and kept overworking myself.

As much as the watch didn’t get to keep up with my “typical” day, it drew red flags on the fact that I was unusually active.

Don’t get me wrong. The OPPO Watch is a great smartwatch. It’s got a ton of features I want a smartwatch to have. It had a training assistant, a heart rate monitor, a sleep tracker, sedentary reminders, and had a vast array of workouts you could track through Wear OS.

It was the best thing to help validate the hard work I was making on a daily. I would use and abuse installing the Google Fit app to track my strength training, workout sets, and footsteps. But, if there’s anything I slowly learned from over-training and “over tracking,” it’s that you tarnish your relationship to exercise if you obsess over calories.

More to getting fit than looking a certain way

If you’ve been hating yourself for not getting fit or not losing weight while the rest of the world is ablaze, let this be the reminder you need. We’re here to survive, not to pressure ourselves into losing weight, getting fit, building unhealthy self-images, or getting sick and injured.

This year, especially, is not the time. I know that being isolated can feel relentlessly daunting and peeking into social media feeds into unhealthy and toxic standards you might feel pressured to try to achieve. But, there’s more to health than trying to look a certain way — there’s the important bit about how you are and how you are feeling.

A lot of the ironically toxic parts of health and fitness is from building fundamental goals on visual validity: a number on the scale, a measurement, or aesthetic muscle development. When health and fitness should be about developing something sustainable: strength, flexibility, stamina, or better well-being.

It’s also good to note that quick and sudden fixes can show fast results but won’t be sustainable long-term. The quicker the change, the quicker it is to lose. Easing your way into small changes until you achieve a healthy lifestyle that isn’t restrictive of anything you want is the way to go.

For the past two weeks with the OPPO Watch, I decided to be more attuned with myself, mentally and physically. It was a good time for my body to recover from brutal stress I put it through.

The watch’s Wear OS features breathing exercises that helped a lot with this. I would find myself struggling with anxiety late at night and I’d go on the watch and do the breathing exercises until I calmed down. I know the feature is simple and I can do without it but, having something to guide me through deep breathes really helped.

Throughout my two weeks of what was meant to be non-stop ab exercises, I decided to work out on days I felt like working out and rested on days I wanted to. The OPPO Watch gave me a good feel of my health with my heart rate and step count even if I stayed indoors.

It monitored and gave me customizable daily goals which were less about reaching them every day and more about realistic and forgiving progress.

Oh! It’s good to note that the watch might be able to last about a week but it’ll need to be on power saver mode. You’ll be limited to viewing the time, checking your pulse when you want to, counting your steps, and getting notifications.

On that week, I kept active and went about my day without worrying about the nitty-gritty details of how much calories I burnt from walking, running, or lifting weights.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

I didn’t keep the OPPO Watch on power saver mode for long for a few reasons. To recover from over-training, I wanted to improve on my sleep and work on my relationship with exercise and calories so tracking my sleep was important to me.

On top of that, the breathing exercises weren’t accessible on power saver mode which was a huge bummer seeing as that feature helped me through some anxious nights — what a legend of a feature.

The OPPO Watch is decked out with so much to help you get better, happier, and healthier but only in ways, you choose to. So if you’re not a fitness fiend and are looking for a smartwatch to just track your pulse, steps, and of course, keep track of time, consider this watch. The OPPO Watch costs PhP 12,990/GBP 229.

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Gaming

Marvel’s Avengers: Does it stick the superhero landing?

A title featuring Earth’s mightiest heroes carries great expectations

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Marvel's Avengers

The Avengers is the most popular superhero team today thanks in large part to the 23 films and counting that belong to the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU. This could lead one to believe that anything that has “Marvel’s Avengers” on it will be well-made and polished because of heightened expectations and the backing of perhaps the largest entertainment company today. Well, not quite.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming following the rather lukewarm reception to the A-Day trailer that was released in E3 2019. But that was just a trailer. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics — the companies responsible for the game’s development — still had time to address things.

While there may have been improvements here or there, the overall experience just falls a bit short of the grandiose, spectacle, and fun factor that we’ve come to associate with the Avengers.

Heroes divided

So what’s wrong with it, exactly? There’s not one big glaring thing. But the sum of its parts just doesn’t feel like it makes up a cohesive whole.

Just like how the team was split up after the disaster that was A-Day, the game feels like it’s split between two disjointed parts.

The first is the Reassemble Campaign which takes you through a 10-12 hour single-player Action-RPG type of campaign. You get a chance to play as all of the Avengers but the story is mostly told through the perspective of Kamala Khan AKA Ms. Marvel.

Ms. Marvel hard-carrying this game

The second is the Avengers Initiative which is the multiplayer live service part of the game. It’s the part that the developers hoped would keep players coming back.

While the two game modes share the same combat, skills, items, and mission design, the overall experience varies heavily depending on what type of game you’re into.

Ms. Marvel coming of age story

At the core of the Reassemble Campaign is Kamala Khan/ Ms. Marvel. She goes from this bright-eyed fangirl in A-day to a hero in her own right, fighting alongside the heroes she admired.

As someone who generally prefers single-player games, this was the part of the game I enjoyed the most. It’s got enough heart, humor, and character that made the MCU such a mainstream hit, while also sprinkling a little bit of Saturday-morning-cartoon campiness.

The best thing about the story is the dynamic between the characters: Kamala and Bruce Banner’s mentor-mentee relationship, the anger between Tony Stark and Bruce after the latter’s testimonies in court after A-Day, and this bromance between Tony and Steve Rogers.

There’s a lot of great character moments here that should be familiar to Marvel fans whether you came in from the comic books, TV series, or the MCU.

It isn’t without any problems though. Thor had very little to do with the plot except for just being there. He played the deus ex machina role when he first rejoined the team. I guess that’s fitting for a literal god.

The boss battles are also very mediocre. After squaring off against Taskmaster and the Abomination, the next boss battles will all be against AIM Robots. For a superhero hero team with such a rich rogues gallery, this was rather disappointing.

Modok was the only other non AIM robot villain

While it sort of makes sense given the flow of the story, I think they could have thrown in even at least one more Marvel villain there or at least have another tussle against Taskmaster and the Abomination.

Other than that, the story is pretty solid. I wish I could say the same for gameplay.

Grinding for gear

The core of the gameplay is the combat, skills, and gears. This is what connects the single-player campaign to the multiplayer missions. It’s a mixed bag to say the least.

The skill tree for each character is deep but you’ll have to grind through the missions to really get to all of them. More on this later. Meanwhile, the gears are… okay.

There are plenty of skills to unlock

While most other reviewers griped about the lack of cosmetic effect from the gear you pickup, I thought this was mostly okay. It’s almost the same with Marvel’s Spider-Man where I can pick whatever suit I want but change my abilities depending on what the mission requires.

The thing is, in the Spider-Man game by Insomniac, the suit came at no cost. In Marvel’s Avengers, while you can grind your way into some awesome cosmetic changes, a bulk of the better looking ones are stuck behind a paywall. That’s what really grinds most people’s gears, I think.

What grinds your gears?

I also recognize that more thought could have been put into the gears seeing as the whole point of the game is getting loot and items while you’re out on missions. For instance, they could have opted to have a set of cosmetic options for gear that negate certain status effects like frosting.

Feel like a superhero

Despite sharing mostly the same controls — light and heavy attacks, dodging, and jumping on the main buttons plus special abilities on the shoulder buttons —  the game does a good job of making each character feel distinct.

Your experience playing as Iron Man will be very different from the one playing as Thor despite both sharing the ability to fly. Same is true for Captain America and Black Widow even though they’re both mostly grounded melee fighters.

Marvel’s Avengers

The stretchy Ms. Marvel also offers perhaps one of the most unique play styles as she also has the ability to heal. It’s perfect for when you’re embarking on multiplayer missions.

Mission unbearable

The missions are where I think the game fumbles a lot. They have a relatively good combat core to build around, but the level designs and challenges leave so much room for improvement.

The missions revolve around retrieving an item, defeating hordes of AIM robots and soldiers, and most frustratingly, defending a small circular area while being swarmed by even more AIM robots and soldiers.

Combat can get chaotic

It’s just a whole bunch of small fries coming at you from left and right. There’s very little variation and it can get old real quick. What’s even more frustrating is to really level up the characters, these are the missions you have to grind through. You don’t get to the really good parts of the combat unless you go through these missions.

Remember the final act of both The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron where the team is battling against armies of Chitari and Ultron’s robots? That’s what the missions feel like except it happens over, and over, and over, and over again.

Good for team players

To balance the opinion, I spoke with our good friend Francis Romero who is both a long-time gamer and huge Marvel fan. Unlike yours truly, Francis actually finds enjoyment in the missions.

What struck me the most with his observation is how team play is crucial in the missions. You can customize your characters’ loadouts to fit the needs of the team. Each one can play a certain role so you can accomplish missions with relative ease.

Flying to a mission

For instance, he said he wasn’t a fan of Ms. Marvel being part of his main team but being a healer, she would be an essential part of the team.

In this regard, the play-with-friends appeal is real. It’s honestly not my cup of tea, but there’s certainly something here that can be enjoyed by people with actual friends or those who play well in a team-setting.

A better future

The other appeal of Marvel’s Avengers being a live service game is the promise of a better future. The developers have already promised that any future DLC content will be free-of-charge.

Hawk-eye — both Will Barton and Kate Bishop — have already been teased and there are more characters coming in the future. Each character, I supposed, will come with their own unique story that will build on the campaign. Their abilities will also be something to consider when building a team for the Avengers Initiative missions.

While the present may be slightly disappointing, a promising future awaits.

Does it stick the superhero landing?

The promise of a better future shouldn’t be the leg that a game stands on. The game can be a little fun at best and a messy, buggy experience at worst.

The loading time from one segment of the game to another is ridiculously long. It almost feels like you can watch an entire MCU film and the game would still be loading when you come back to it.

This loading screen can go on FOREVER

Marvel’s Avengers is weighed down by the expectations surrounding it. When you have a title so mainstream and the backing of an entertainment giant that has dominated the mainstream consciousness for a better part of the decade, it’s fair to expect a polished game. One that feels like the triumphant third act of most MCU films.

Instead, it feels more like the first time Tony Stark took the Iron Man Mark II out for a spin in the first Iron Man movie. It was a fun but clunky ride, and when he soared to go higher he ran into an icing problem.

Marvel’s Avengers

In many ways, that’s what this Marvel’s Avengers game feels like. It’s clunky but fun and while it’s not perfect, there’s certainly something here that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics can build on.

It doesn’t quite stick the superhero landing, but it sure as hell didn’t crash and burn.

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