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Zen Studios has been on a roll lately, putting out some fantastic virtual pinball tables based on various well-known properties, as well as some completely original concepts. And just in time for Marvel's latest superhero flick, they've got a brand new table based on Avengers: Age of Ultron for Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball 2, across a wide variety of platforms. So now for the big question: Does Zen's latest effort live up to the epic action of Earth's mightiest heroes waging war against a robot army?
With Age of Ultron, Zen falls victim to their own success. When I say they've been on a roll, I mean that maybe one table in the last dozen has made me say “meh.” From The Walking Dead to South Park, as well as their top-notch tables based on Star Wars and other Marvel properties, the studio has managed to wow me time and time again with new takes on familiar mechanics and even a surprising moment or two from each table. And then there are those rare tables built on their own ideas, including one of my favorite virtual tables of all time, the recently launched Wild West Rampage.
The problem with Age of Ultron, on the other hand, is that nothing about the table caught me off guard. There's nothing here that you haven't seen before, nor an interesting twist on an old mechanic. It's a pretty basic, by the numbers table, and that's not typical of Zen's creations. While it might feel unfair to judge this table stacked against previous knockouts, its hard not to feel a little disappointed when you know full-well that the team is capable (and consistent) at producing much better offerings.
It seems like Zen was not privy to too much insider information when it comes to the plot of the film, as the basic story arc for the table simply has you battling Ulton's minions in various types of waves, in either single ball or multi-ball formats. The developer stated recently that they had to be careful to avoid spoilers, as the table has launched before much of the world gets to see the movie. Unfortunately, that kind of restriction means that our adventures on this particular table aren't all that exciting.
Even the theme feels underplayed here. The launcher is a replica of Stark's Hulk Buster gauntlet, which is pretty cool, but that's about it. There's some rubble on the lower field and a trio of cars serving as bumpers at the back of the table. Black Widow hangs out near the flippers and occasionally throws down with a robot minion, and Stark/Ultron can be seen hanging out at the back of the table. These characters become more active and get into fights from time to time but, again, nothing about these tussles is all that exciting.
The field layout is pretty standard, too, with a mostly wasted raised second field that makes it tough to see what, exactly, is going on when you send the ball up to the back of the lower level. There's a ramp on the left and the right that lead to various lanes depending on what you've triggered on the table or what event is taking place. There's also a horseshoe lane at the middle of the lower field with a couple of drop targets, which is one of the few elements we haven't really seen in a Zen table in a while. As for that raised field, its main purpose is to feed the ball into a third flipper that can be used to launch the ball into a tube that progresses objectives or earns you a skill shot at launch.
As for those patented Zen events, and as I mentioned earlier, they basically boil down to 3D robots popping up that you need to plow down with the ball. While it certainly makes sense considering the table, its a bit played out after Plants vs. Zombies, Walking Dead and CastleStorm.
There's some nice neon blue lighting here and there, and a few Stark-inspired gadgets and whatnot, but nothing really helps the table stand out aside from a really nice piece of main art on the lower field. The rock riff of a soundtrack works fine for the table and picks up nicely when the action calls for it, but I have to make special mention of the table's voice acting, mainly because it's such a bizarre mix. Black Widow sounds close enough to not make a difference while Stark is so spot on I wasn't entirely convinced the lines weren't pulled directly from the movie. And then there's Thor. While I'm happy with Zen's VO cast putting their own spin on various pop culture characters in the past, Age of Ultron is based on a very specific movie. That being the case, and as the Stark character displays, you probably want to make the characters sound as close to their silver screen counterparts as humanly possible. I'm not sure if the Thor actor just never saw any of the movies or what, but it's so far off the mark that it's actually distracting.
If you're a Zen completionist and are wondering if the Age of Ultron table is worth the three bucks, then you'll be happy to know that there's not a lot really “wrong” with this table other than the fact that it's a pretty lackluster addition to an otherwise stellar lineup. It plays fine and its objectives are pretty clear. I'm not a huge fan of that second level, though, and the theme feels underused. If your Zen collection is minimal, you might actually get a lot more out of the Ultron table than I did, as some of its mechanics and events will appear fresh to those who haven't seen them implemented in better ways on other tables.
Platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Wii U, PC, Mobile
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios