Developed By: Eidos Montreal
Published By: Square Enix
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5 / Xbox One X, Series S & X / Nintendo Switch / PC
Reviewed On: PS5
I love the superhero genre. One of the things I wished I could have experienced more in my younger years was having the chance to read comic books but where I grew up that wasn’t an option. The few times that I did have that opportunity it was just admiring them from afar due to how expensive it was. We have come a long way in regard to how much the superhero genre has gained mass appeal especially with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but when it comes to video games it’s not as easy. Marvel’s Spiderman & Miles Morales are two recent great examples but last years Marvel’s Avengers is generally considered to just be a disappointing letdown.
I’m just going to go out and say that every time someone decides to talk about Marvel’s Avengers only to immediately come to the “It sucks” conclusion it just pisses me off a little bit. Most of the time it’s just someone who never even played the game. Don’t get me wrong though, I am also disappointed by how the game turned out, but the unfortunate problem of Marvel’s Avengers is how it’s a game of two opposing halves. The single-player, story focus on Kamala Khan’s journey to becoming Ms Marvel is one of the most enjoyable superhero journeys I have played. The other half where it tries to be a GaaS (games as a service) game just feels like they had such a narrow and bland focus on the content they wanted to produce, even until today. So, when this game was announced and it seemed to focus more on the single-player aspect I. WAS. READY.
Thanks to Bandai Namco and Square Enix, we were granted an opportunity to review Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The early reviews had come out and although I did see the early scores I just didn’t want to read any of them to just keep myself unbiased. It took me 28 hours to platinum the game and although the gameplay can feel repetitive, and there were some really bad bugs, I was absolutely blown away by how much I enjoyed playing every single minute of it.
Holding Out For A Hero
If you have ever read or watched the Guardians of the Galaxy you can probably already tell that every tale usually starts with the group going somewhere they are not supposed to, doing something they shouldn’t and then trying their hardest to get out of the trouble they landed themselves in. Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax the Destroyer travel to the Nova Corps designated Quarantine Zone, the site of a huge battle between them and the Chitauri years past. The fabulous five intend to scour the Quarantine Zone in secret to find a rare enough beast that they can peddle to Lady Hellbender for a few credits but along the way get into trouble much worse than they expected.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy continues the trend of having the superheroes as established entities in their universe and expands the story in a new direction while also providing a backstory to how they ended up at that point in time. Throughout the game’s sixteen chapters I never felt like any one of them was too short or too long and that is a testament to how everything fits together so good. When I say everything, I mean from the main story that slowly builds the threat level bigger and bigger up to a cosmic level, to the locations that the guardians travel to and characters they meet as well as the guardians themselves and their interactions with each other, it was just so damn entertaining. I’m excited for players to jump in blind but there are a few things I do want to talk about in regard to the game so I’ll try to keep spoilers light.
Most of my knowledge about the Guardians of the Galaxy comes from the Marvel movies and as much as I enjoyed them I felt that this game managed to just make me love these versions of the characters more. Each of the guardians is given the appropriate time to breathe and mature as a character with clever exposition timing, backstory and purpose. Whether it comes down to unfolding Gamora’s guilt of being a Daughter of Thanos, Drax’s feelings of loss and sorrow accompanying the weight of being the Destroyer, Rocket’s grumpy rough exterior hiding a deep traumatizing wound that still haunts him, or to Groot’s seemingly innocent presence nurturing care and love that transcends words it’s all done with such care and expert direction throughout the 20+ hour journey. As entertaining as the Peter Quill character was in the movies, I never really cared much for him but I do here. That’s because the balance of him being a leader for the guardians, a playboy, a con-man and more only to be able to also show his human and vulnerable side was just more believable. I also vastly prefer how the game chooses to stick with his comic backstory rather than the movies.
If you think that it means the game makes the guardians less funny, then you would be wrong. This game is just absolutely hilarious, and I laughed out loud at so many moments due to how effortless the jokes landed. I personally felt that is a huge testament to the quality of the writing team as well as respect for the characters not ending up as a punch line. The background dialogue between characters in active missions or downtime felt endless and all of it was necessary. That extends to all the side characters as well as they all weave in and out of the story with purpose and place that most other games can find challenging making them redundant.
There is just so much more I can go on about how great the story is, but I really want to save the surprises for those who decide to jump in. It is so worth it.
White Wedding – Pt. 1
On the PlayStation 5, loading speeds are only brief from save files and non-existent throughout the journey from start to finish. Graphically the game has the standard Quality and Performance modes with Quality mode offering 4k 30fps and Performance mode being 1080p and up to 60fps. I played the game mostly in Performance mode and although there were a few very micro and rare instances that the frame drops are apparent, it was a very smooth experience for me. Even though I was playing on a 1080p resolution as well it just didn’t bother me at all due to how great the game looks.
It is quite obvious also that a lot of care went into crafting the worlds, environments, and enemies that players will encounter throughout their journey. Alien worlds feel appropriately alien and there is a healthy amount of weirdness when it comes to enemy types. One could argue that there isn’t much enemy variety, but it didn’t really bother me much because I felt that it did follow the places visited. I would welcome if there was more, but it was okay for what it was.
One of the more impressive things is how the motion capture almost perfectly complements the writing and performances of the characters. The facial animations bring out the nuanced emotion in the characters in just a way that I did not expect. The same goes for the voice acting. It’s a strange thing to be complaining about the other 5% of the time where the characters expressions are muted but for me, it warranted being called out due to how jarring it felt.
Not mentioning the soundtrack would be a travesty as the 80s inspired soundtrack is just amazing and more so at key moments of the game. Hearing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” after a huddle while taking down hordes of enemies is pure bliss. As much as I am glad the developers managed to get licensed tracks, I feel like those tracks just feel slightly pushed in the background. Like in the Milano or after a huddle the tracks should be much louder, but they aren’t.
The art style, colours and lighting all coalesce together in a very gorgeous package, but it is not without faults. In certain scenes, the player can clearly see assets that don’t really look as good as they should especially those in the distance. I also found it very telling how in certain scenes like in a space battle there should be more ships flying around but there aren’t. These inconsistencies felt like a let-down because of how the game feels like such a huge cosmic deal but strangely limited its own ambition at weird times.
Talking about PS5 centric features, I could be wrong but I didn’t feel any 3D audio. When it comes to the haptics or adaptive triggers there is some implementation but it’s just not to the level I expect, such is a curse of a cross-gen game.
There are also quite a few soft-lock bugs that to date has not been fixed that really can get annoying. One example would be your character can initiate a conversation aboard the Milano but the game doesn’t really register it so Peter will just be stuck in place. The annoying part comes in because the autosave doesn’t save anything that happened just before that so you will always be reloading right at the beginning of that whole sequence and have to go through other conversations again.
Everybody Have Fun Tonight
When it comes to the gameplay is where I suspect Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will be divisive. This is because there is a lot of interesting aspect of the gameplay which surprise but then other aspects which feel strangely underwhelming.
Who would have figured that a game like this would have dialogue choices that would affect certain outcomes? I didn’t and I was pleasantly surprised by it mostly because of how well it was done. It can feel like a Telltale game especially when picking choices results in there being a message at the top right screen informing you of how certain characters might be feeling or if certain actions will come to pass. It made the choices just matter so much more and not just from a cosmetic level.
Another impressive aspect of the game is how like in most games, there are information packets to be picked up and read to flesh out the world-building. What I was impressed with is how there aren’t that many here but what is there, coupled with conversations and revelations just come together in a natural way that provided me as a player a very clear picture of the experiences characters have gone through or are currently experiencing. They didn’t need to dump tons and tons of info on the player like how it usually is where for me at least at the midpoint of any game I would just collect and not read anything.
For the whole game, players will be playing as Star-Lord and the other guardians will be around to be commanded. The game is divided by stages as you will with the Milano serving as the hub in between for breaks. Each stage can go on for quite a while and there will be hazards to navigate which is where each guardian shines. Rocket can get into small spaces, Gamora can hang on ledges to provide a boost, Groot can build bridges and Drax well… destroys. When it comes to battles, each character will have access to three additional abilities and one ultimate one that unlocks towards the later chapters in the game. Unfortunately, the other guardians only use their abilities when commanded which can be annoying especially when you have your hands full trying not to die.
The game also has a perk unlock feature using collected resources to give access to or upgrade certain gameplay abilities, but it really does feel half baked. The reason being is because the perks are only for Peter and by the halfway point you would have already unlocked them all and yet there is a ton of leftover resources I just didn’t really know what to do with.
Battles can feel repetitive due to how it’s always just in an arena and even with stagger mechanics and different ammo types it can feel like a mindless shooter. Even with all the cool moves and abilities it can also feel very weightless and doesn’t give that oomph that I was expecting. Occasionally players will also have space battles with the Milano but it is just something I hope a future installment would expand greatly on.
Even so with these unfortunate issues, thankfully battles don’t drag out too long to feel stale and boss fights were generally entertaining.
What I Loved
- Story – This is one of the best narrative adventures that deserves to be played. It really is that simple.
- Characters – Amazing motion capture work really do the performances and writing justice as I was just completely enamoured by the guardians and characters they meet from start to finish.
- Licensed Music – Really one of the best soundtracks ever and I just can’t imagine this game not having it. I do wish it was allowed to shine more though.
What I Strongly Wished Was Better
- Gameplay – I really do believe that this game just had a much more fulfilling and developed gameplay mechanics it would surely be standing as one of the best superhero games of all time. It’s still a great game though.
Every 1’s A Winner
In a way, I feel rightly vindicated for keeping faith in a game I knew would be good and just turned out even better in some ways. One of the bigger challenges now would be convincing other people especially after how Marvel’s Avengers performed to give this game a shot but I’m definitely going to be doing my part.
I really had an amazing time playing and experiencing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It does have some gameplay issues and bugs but the narrative journey with its ups and downs, surprising cameos and easter eggs was so satisfying and wholesome that I truly cannot wait to see what comes next from Eidos Montreal and the Gardeners of the Galaxy.