Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy – Trust In The Guardians
PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC
We’ve seen this all before, the success of Spider-Man inspiring a cascade of Marvel properties to dominate screens around the globe. Sam Raimi and co did it in the early 2000s, and now Insomniac Games have achieved the same thing in gaming thanks to Marvel’s Spider-Man. While Insomniac themselves are hard at work on their upcoming Spider-Man 2 and Wolverine titles, Marvel has been strategically targeting developers around the globe to develop titles based on other owned IP, and while others like Iron-Man have worked, efforts such as the Crystal Dynamics lead Avengers have faltered. With a patchy record outside of Spider-Man, and a couple of less-than-inspiring trailers up their sleeves, Eidos Montreal’s time is now to step to the plate as they make their MGU (Marvel Gaming Universe) debut with Guardians Of The Galaxy. The Guardians were a fairly obscure group until James Gunn and his team sent their fame into the stratosphere with the 2014 film – can the latest video game take rocket them to similar levels of acclaim in this medium though?
While Insomniac’s Spider-Man focussed on an experienced Peter Parker, the Guardians are still finding their feet as a team. Sure, each of them have been in the business for a while now, but the dynamic between them is like quick-setting concrete, quick to come together, but brittle and prone to fracturing if tested too soon. While the Guardians’ adventure is a fascinating galaxy-faring plot, filled with clever twists and turns, it’s the relationships, and the occasional strains placed upon them from decisions that you, as Peter Quill (Star-Lord) make. Decisions tend to feel more like something from a TellTale adventure as opposed to the wider-reaching decisions you might make in a Witcher title, but the foundations of relationships you form with the team, as well as others you meet will become rocky at points and minor deviations play out dependent on what actions you choose. Some involve options that open up to you that may have otherwise been inaccessible, others require different paths based upon the refusal to allow Drax to toss Rocket across a ravine for example, while others involve the dynamic between the team. Each decision carries a degree of weight and feels meaningful, with the consequences making themselves obvious at the appropriate time.
The main plot, that follows the Guardians around the galaxy begins with an encounter with a “monster” that draws the ire of the Nova Corps. Crippled by debt, the Guardians seek to earn the funds to repay the debt they’ve incurred, but as they return to do so, the real chaos begins to unfold. They’ve angered Lady Hellbender, who is single-minded in finding them and putting them down, found themselves entangled in the mysteries of the Universal Church of Truth, and things devolve further from there, while Quill’s status as a father is a constant tease throughout. Of course in typical Guardians style, all of these plot threads are spliced together in weird and wonderful ways, Quill’s potential fatherhood becoming a regular punchline throughout.
While the plot and storytelling shine as brightly as a neon sun, the moment-to-moment gameplay doesn’t quite meet that same high bar. By no means is the playing experience poor, but compared to the inventive storytelling, the combat, platforming, and puzzles feel relatively derivative of the many third-person action titles that have come before it. Sans cover, combat plays out in fairly open spaces by and large with the player taking direct control of Star-Lord with third-person shooting controls. In Star-Lord’s boots, you can fly for brief periods, shoot a range of elemental shots as well as the standard rounds, and issue commands to other Guardians, through “Guardian Mode” that work on a cool-down system. Each Guardian has four commands that can be issued, and they’re all great, but the act of wrangling with the controller to deliver them, whilst targeting other enemies, dashing left and right to avoid incoming shots or melee attacks, can be quite messy. The target-lock while shooting isn’t fantastic either, whereas you take down one opponent, your reticule lingers awkwardly in the air, and even if you swing the camera to sit atop a new target, it won’t lock unless you release, then again press the left trigger down. While these are minor in the grand scheme of things, they do have quite an impact on the overall experience. Any combat sequence that we see in the comics or in film portrays the movements of the majority of the Guardians as being quite sleek and elegant, but this title feels a bit clumsy and rigid in comparison. In the bottom right corner of the player’s screen, a bar gradually fills before allowing you to call an epic team ‘Huddle’. The huddle is an opportunity to revive all fallen allies, but also to provide a huge damage boost if the correct options are chosen. When Quill calls the huddle, the team expresses how they’re feeling about the current encounter, if they’re overconfident you want to refocus them if they’re feeling overwhelmed it’s about picking the team up again. With each huddle, you have two choices, and if you choose wisely, everyone receives the aforementioned damage boost, while the incorrect options means that only Quill is the beneficiary. Speed up access to huddles by regularly using Guardian Mode abilities. The cool aspects outweigh the weaker elements, but those weaker elements cause enough frustration that they should be revised should a sequel be on the cards.
Guardians Of The Galaxy is an incredible sight to behold. The world design is phenomenal, the lighting is of the highest standard, while the characters have been rendered at an incredible level of detail. Due to these three visual pillars, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll find yourself disappointed by anything more than the occasional technical hiccup that causes someone to get stuck in the terrain, or when the team comes in for a huddle and the conversation fails to begin. Meanwhile, the voice-acting is of the highest quality, and the soundtrack, mixing a blend of licensed 80’s bangers, with its own original score is, as you would expect from a Guardians Of The Galaxy piece of media, exceptional. The jokes, a staple of the Guardians franchise, are there, and though there are a couple that miss the mark, others hit hard, and have the ability to strike a chord multiple times.
Though the gameplay experience is a little by-the-numbers, and unrefined in a few small, select areas, it’s hard to fault the work of Eidos Montreal here. The bar had been set at an exceedingly high-level courtesy of the two Spider-Man titles, and the art of Guardians Of The Galaxy has every right to reside in that same level of prestige. It’s full of heart, some great one-liners, a gripping plot that gives players just the right levels of agency and sticks the landing much better than Peter Quill in the Milano.
Guardians Of The Galaxy was reviewed on a PS5 with code kindly supplied by Bandai Namco Australia