By now we should all be aware that the people at Zen Studios typically do stellar licensed work. Even when they don't entirely get it right – e.g. the chaos found in South Park Pinball – the fundamentals of pinball are handled well enough to offset the missteps, and it's hard to criticize them on that level. But recently a very steady flow of tables have been added to Pinball FX2, leaving us to wonder if the developer may be overextending itself a bit. Considering we've given a recommendation to the last five or so additions to the lineup, you're likely wondering how we can think that. Well, it's because, for the first time in a very long time, we've now played a table that seems too content offering few surprises, resulting in a final product that feels familiar to a fault. While Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron works as another pinball table potentially worth a couple days attention, it's lacking in a few key areas.
Like we say, Age of Ultron meets the requirements of a quality pinball table, but as far as it being a licensed product, it's not quite the home-run that previous Pinball FX2 tables have been. Where tables like Thor, Spider-Man, and Captain America – to name just a few – made us feel immersed in the tone and vibe of their source material, Age of Ultron is dry and a bit bland in this regard. The Avengers themselves don't have much of a presence (only Iron Man, Ultron, and Black Widow are on-screen fixtures), the color palette and superhero-related imagery is without impact, and the voice acting is as average as average gets – luckily none of these things are bad as much as they're underwhelming.
But most Pinball FX2 fans care about how a table plays more than how it looks, and Age of Ultron fares better in this area. Because there's the choice of three difficulty settings and the presence of forgiving outlanes, the less-experienced players attracted by the tie-in to one of the year's biggest films should be able to keep the ball in play longer than they would in some other recent tables. In the same breath, however, due to a return lane in the center of the playfield and outer lanes that can add a substantial amount of speed to the ball, there's a sense of magnetism to the drain that kind of feels at a disparity with the otherwise welcoming nature of the table. It's not unfair or anything, but it can lead to unexpected aggression.
So what does Age of Ultron do to distinguish itself from the rest of the Pinball FX2 lot? Not much, actually. There's a multi-ball introduction – which can be skipped – that's similar to the one in Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as mini-games that break from the confines of the table and feel like a nice break/reward for triggering them, but other than that it's the usual "hit lanes to start and complete missions." There's nothing wrong with that of course, but it's less inspired here, especially when compared to the unconventional Venom or the dynamic The Walking Dead. Even the general layout of the playfield instills a sense of déjà vu, looking by-the-numbers and painfully similar to a couple of its predecessors. Additionally, we should note that it took a while for us to really get a grasp on what needed to be done to complete missions, and a couple of them even require great skill and/or serious focus.
All of these parts assemble to create something light on personality. It's not a matter of whether Age of Ultron functions as it should (it does) or features bugs (it doesn't); it's simply a reflection that it doesn't bring much that's new or varied to the table. It's sort of a superfluous addition to the impressive Pinball FX2 library (especially since it's the 2nd Avengers-themed table), and, even if you do buy it, chances are it's not going to make it into your favorites tab. You might still enjoy it, but we don't believe it deserves priority in your purchasing agenda.
Age of Ultron is safer and more predictable than Pinball FX2's best tables, and therefore it doesn't sell itself as being essential. There's still a solid game of pinball here for the diehards that simply want something new, but casual players should instead look to more memorable options, like the accessible Guardians of the Galaxy or the dynamic The Walking Dead. Then again, if you have kids that haven't been introduced to pinball yet, this might be one to consider. Just know that it can be a bit too aggressive for its own good.