Sunday, July 3, 2022
HomeGamingMarvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy – First impressions

Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy – First impressions

So, when this game was first announced I was actually excited, but my god, the game looked rough as hell. As more and more footage dropped, however, it started to look more polished and even if some animations are still rough, the final package is dramatically better than I expected, minor bugs aside. The Eidos Montreal team has done an amazing job, make no mistake. This is a Guardians Of The Galaxy game through and through. I’ve laughed out loud multiple times, which I rarely do with games.

Story

First impression: I’ve only gotten to Lady Hellbender’s part, but my first four or so hours playing the game have had me laughing out loud at story developments and deliberately hanging out on the ship to hear the dialogue, so it’s safe to say that the game has a thoroughly entertaining story.

Just to get this out of the way, this is not the GOTG of the MCU. Not exactly. In this iteration of the now-iconic team, Star-Lord has only been part of the Guardians for a year and while the Infinity Stones are mentioned, Drax has already killed the mad tyrant Thanos. So, it definitely doesn’t follow the events of the films. However, their version of Gamora is fantastic, Groot and Rocket are entertainingly written, and in every single way that matters it still feels like the GOTG that we fell in love with in the films. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the interactions at the start of the game between the Guardians are quite humorous while also help to explain their relationships. Drax and the rest of the squad have zero trust in Gamora who’s their newest member, having only joined in the last few months, and still hasn’t proven herself in their eyes.

I’ve witnessed some brilliant quips at Quill’s expense by the rest of the team, mostly by Gamora, some funny interactions with Rocket one of which involved getting Drax to throw him, and there’s also some insane flirting between Drax and Lady Hellbender. I personally enjoyed all the dialogue here and it hits the GOTG vibe perfectly. In the movies and source material, each team member, while interesting in and of themselves, only really came into their own in the context of the team. Eidos clearly understood this and Mary Demarle and her team have knocked it out of the park. Given Mary’s stellar work on the Deus Ex entries, this was expected.

Sound

Now, while the game shines in quite a few areas, the sound mixing overall could be improved. The voice acting is solid and I have absolutely no complaints. The soundtrack, as one would expect, is fantastic and the choice of tracks reflective of Peter’s backstory as it is in the films . What surprised me the most though, is that the original tracks recorded by the in-game Star-Lord Band are incredibly well done. They do feel like they were ripped from the 80s, bar the recording, which is a very nit-picking audiophile thing that most people will not have an issue with. They nailed that 80s vibe to perfection and it feels like a time capsule in a very good way.

The only negative in terms of sound is the mixing. Explosions and so on could feel more present and a bit louder every now and then, some things feel perfectly fine while other things sound a bit off. The other issue is the dialogue. When on the ship, if you go into a room and the door closes you get the exact audio effect you would expect from listening behind a closed door, however, if you walk in the lower deck of the ship and listen to Rocket who’s on the one level above there’s no directional or distanced audio; it still sounds like he’s right next to you. It’s disappointing, especially considering they thought about closed doors when mixing but seem to have missed this. It’s nothing major but it does bring down an otherwise amazing package.

Gameplay

In contrast to others’ opinions, I love the linearity. It was the right choice given that this is a GOTG game and writing and story flow is key. In my opinion, if it was more open in nature the momentum and pacing simply would not be there as much. Eidos clearly wanted a movie-like experience and open-world gameplay, with occasional narrative moments akin to something like Far Cry, would detract from this.

Dialogue doesn’t really have any serious game-impacting implications, however, it does lead you down different paths which can either be more exploration or combat-heavy and have their own brilliant lines of dialogue. So, while the choices don’t really change how the story plays out, unlike The Witcher for example, you can find hidden resources and some brilliant costumes off the beaten path and it helps flesh out the experience.

I see many complaints about playing as only Star-Lord, but I have no issues with it for a few reasons. Playing as Star-Lord and issuing commands works perfectly fine and leads to some fantastic combos. And with the elemental attacks you unlock for Star Lord’s guns, and considering the cooldowns on abilities, you need to strategize. Movement and positioning are key, issuing commands at the right time to target the right enemies is vital, and using the elemental attacks in the right way is essential. This is not a game that will allow you to get away with simply spamming attacks. In addition to that, certain status effects allow for additional combat options against enemies, such as when Drax picks up and throws frozen enemies, so combat is engaging and forces you to plan how best to utilize the team.

Here’s some examples: you can take out a wave of enemies quickly by having Groot immobilize them, then have Rocket Raccoon mow them down with his myriad weapons. Or when you encounter large enemies that Star-Lord can’t handle on his own, you can have Drax stagger them and then have Gamora swiftly finish the job.

There is also a mechanic, the name of which currently eludes me, where you rally your team together and you must choose one of two dialogue paths. If you get it right, the entire team gets a boost, get it wrong and only Star-Lord does. I was concerned this mechanic might get used too much and break the pace, but luckily it doesn’t. Thanks to Eidos Montreal’s experience, it only added another cool facet to the game instead of the intrusive, annoying game mechanic it could very well have been. So, cheers to them. There are also some very Starfox-like ship moments which were a very nice surprise and makes the game even more enjoyable. Oh, and there’s a New Game+ mode for when you complete the game but want more Guardians goodness.

Ultimately, I think that the decision made with combat here was the right choice. If you could control multiple characters, that would have required an entire re-balancing of the combat and a much bigger budget for animation work and so on. The combat we got is more than serviceable and frankly, I think the budget would have to be taken from elsewhere and we likely would have ended up with less dialogue, detailed environments, and other cutbacks. It was the right call, despite what some people may initially think. GOTG is all about how the Guardians relate to each other and their team dynamic and that shines in the game’s writing and is very present in the gameplay.

Visuals

This is another area where the game shines but also has some odd issues. There are some visual bugs with shadows and the pop-ins are egregious. Star-Lord’s animations in combat are, more often than not, sub-par and the facial and character animations are somewhat lacking. This can be jarring, given that the many other characters you see in the game tend to be of higher quality. That’s not to say that the overall work on the Guardians is bad, outside of Star-Lord’s animations, they just stick out when compared to everything else.

The costumes are fantastic and have a great selection from different eras of the GOTG comics, and to a much lesser extent, the movies. Model work, as I have already mentioned, on the plethora of characters you will meet are great and much better than the trailers let on. There are a few uncanny valley moments, but they are not as frequent as I expected.

Now, where I am blown away is the overall visual presentation. The effects may not be anything special, but the environments in the game are fantastic and absolutely brimming with detail. The amount of detail in scenes, the colour use, and scaling is fantastic. Raytraced reflections also do genuinely help elevate the visual presentation even more. The art team has done an amazing job here. I cannot praise the environments and the overall art direction enough. The game is visually stunning and I frequently find myself staring in awe of what the art team created.

PC Performance

I have yet to fully scrutinise the CPU usage, but I can say performance so far is stellar, given the detail and the RT reflections. At 1440p, with DOF, Motion Blur, Chromatic Aberration off, and RT on Very High, I rarely dip below 70fps and tend to stay in the 80s up to 100 range when exploring. This is with an 8700K with all cores at 4.7GHz, 16 GB of LL DDR4 RAM at 3600Mhz, and an ASUS TUF RTX 3080 OC. There are no Anti-Aliasing options which is odd, but there is sharpening to eliminate as much blur as possible that was introduced by the AA solution. There is also DLSS, which I do not use, as I noticed the image quality drop especially in motion, and there are some issues with bloom and so on. However, people have reported that with 50% sharpening the image qualityis better than they expect and the performance jump can also be significant even with DLSS on quality setting.

Ignore RT being high on the benchmark. It’s set to Very High and performs as so, but the benchmark incorrectly reports High.

Loading times on an EVO 970 PLUS NVME have been disappointing, at around 8-10 seconds, which when you fail a quick-time event can become frustrating. I have also had to reload a checkpoint a few times due to bugs. There’s also an odd performance drop in a cutscene with a monster in the first level which multiple people are reporting. Overall though, this is a solid PC build with solid GPU frame timings and genuinely decent performance.

Conclusion

So far, Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy by Eidos Montreal has been everything I wanted: a razor-sharp, well-written, movie-like romp with unique yet familiar characters. The dialogue feels like GOTG, the characters feel like GOTG, the worlds feel like GOTG. What I am trying to say here is that if you wanted a true, genuine GOTG experience, this is absolutely it. It has a fantastic story, with some brilliant writing choices, and allowed me to enjoy more time with this loveable band of misfits. This is likely going to be my GOTY and I could not be happier with the end product. Eidos Montreal has done a commendable job, even if the end package is a bit rougher than you would expect. So, strap in and break out the tape deck; we’re going to be in for quite a ride.

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