The 6 Weirdest Choices Marvel Made In Their Online Game

#3. You Are Under Constant Pressure to Spend Real Money, Like Some Kind of Superhero Team Membership Fee

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment

When you aren't providing the background cast for somebody else's thrilling adventure, you get to hang out in one of three central superhero bases -- Stark Tower, the X-Mansion, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, where you can argue with yourself over how much money it is acceptable to spend on something that will only ever exist in the ethereal plane of Internet gaming. You see, the only way to get certain special items, power-ups, and costumes in Marvel Heroes is by spending actual currency in the game's store, a fact they go to great lengths to ensure you are constantly aware of. Consequently, I can't spend long in Stark Tower without giving out my credit card number. It's like Tony Stark is trying to keep the riffraff out by shaking everyone down for membership dues.

For example, the game's interface regularly encourages me to purchase new outfits for the Hulk, and I was under the impression that the Hulk never wore anything but tight purple pants struggling heroically against the faintly textured outline of a colossal radioactive penis. I soon discovered the error of my ways and spent $5 on Hulk's Planet Hulk battle armor, which consists of a pauldron and a pair of Roman sandals the Hulk wore while fighting an evil emperor in space, because comic books frequently make no sense.

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment

But, it added a little variety to the Hulk's wardrobe, and I've thrown greater sums of money at way dumber things (I dropped 60 bucks for every single alternate costume in the current wave of Capcom fighting games and happily spent $150 on a giant Galactus action figure in 2004). You can also buy Avengers Movie Hulk, Really Old Man Hulk, or Gangster Pimp Hulk With Gray Baby Syndrome, if any of those Hulks are more to your liking.

Bafflingly, the game also tries to convince me to purchase pets, which are adorable little characters that do absolutely nothing but follow you around. I've been led to believe that, at some point, the pets will provide some invaluable service, but the only function they perform at the time of this writing is occupying a space in my inventory and serving as a visual reminder of the fact that I could have given $5 to charity. Sorry, Operation Smile -- I'd rather have H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot follow me around in a virtual fantasy world than donate money to fix a child's cleft lip.

#2. Your Secret Identity Is Always on Display

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment

Whether I'm roaming the halls of the X-Mansion or stomping through a massive firefight on Madripoor Island, my secret identity is hovering above my head at all times. It's like I'm wearing a giant name tag at a singles mixer, which seems contrary to the whole spirit of costumed vigilantism. I assumed anonymity was an understood aspect of the superhero game, but Marvel Heroes is more like a costume party at a studio apartment. Sure, everybody's wearing masks, but who gives a shit?

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment
"... well, I can see everyone's name and the fact that Party City had a Hulk sale this weekend."

People can see my username and use it to send me messages and try to get me to join their ragtag groups whenever they feel like it, and I feel obligated to respond, because they can clearly see that I'm standing right next to them and have no real reason to ignore them outside of just being a dick. I work alone. Batman doesn't run around wearing a sandwich board with his email address written on it. I assumed none of us were in this business to make friends, but apparently crime fighting is just as much of a social contest as Facebook. I'm the Hulk, assholes. Let's just leave it at that.

Speaking of crime fighting ...

#1. You Don't Fight That Much Crime (And the Game Rewards You for It)

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment

When I log on to Marvel Heroes, I disappear for seven or eight hours each night, severing all contact with friends and family until the sobering light of dawn. On paper, this is a perfect representation of the life of a superhero, and if you knew nothing else about me other than my bizarre habit of completely vanishing every single night of the week, you might reasonably assume that I was donning a sculpted rubber chest plate and back-flipping across moonlit rooftops in search of banditry. With the amount of time I've poured into this game, I could've probably developed the necessary skill set to battle real, actual crime.

The thing is, I'm not even fighting that much make-believe crime, because the game barely rewards you for it. The main focus of Marvel Heroes is its loot system, which refers to the equipment, power-ups, and even extra playable heroes that various enemies have a random chance of dropping after they've been defeated. As I mentioned earlier, the only other way to get any of these items is by laying down cash for them in the game's store. Consequently, the majority of players who sign on to Marvel Heroes are just there to replay the same boss fights over and over in hopes that the boss will cough up a rare piece of loot, thus saving them from having to buy anything. This process is called farming, and despite my noble exterior, I am not above prioritizing it ahead of foiling purse snatchers or rescuing besieged street vendors from the fury of Electro.

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment
See all that junk on the ground? Yeah, that's what we're playing for.

So, instead of actually providing any meaningful assistance to the downtrodden virtual populace, most of my time as the Hulk is spent punching Magneto in the face to try to get him to drop an awesome power-up that may or may not even be in his pocket since the process is totally randomized. Throwing that same set of dice over and over again is way more important to me than preventing arsonists from burning down Hell's Kitchen. That's an actual mission the game keeps trying to give me, by the way -- cops will come out and wave frantically at me, begging for my help to save innocent people from a wave of frenzied arsonists. But I jog right on by every time, because I've got to go re-kick the Green Goblin's ass and see if he drops a pair of magic boots for me to pick up. Maybe if the poverty-stricken residents of Hell's Kitchen could offer me an enchanted belt buckle, I'd consider dragging them out of their blazing tenement cave-in, but until then, the Hulk has better shit to do. C'mon, H.E.R.B.I.E.

Secret Identity Studios/Marvel Entertainment
"Call the fire department, lady. What do we look like to you?"

Tom can leap tall buildings in a single bound, provided they haven't been assembled yet. Read his novel Stitches and follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

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