Guardians of the Galaxy (PS4) Review

After sadly steering clear of the Avengers game due to, well, everything I was sceptical when this was announced. Thankfully the reviews made sure to point out that it was a single player story driven experience free of all the daily challenges and micro-transactions of its bigger brother, and soon it was on sale at £38.99 so I snapped it up, and I’m glad I did. It’s a fun game but a great story, one that obviously takes most of its cues from the film series but does add in a few more Marvel comic characters and locations into the mix as well. Let’s take a look!

Background:

How do I live in a world where this is the second time Dweller-in-Darkness has appeared on this blog in the past two months, in two entirely different projects? Bizarre!

Guardians of the Galaxy was released worldwide on October 26th 2021 on the PS4/5, the XBOX One/Series X, the PC and oddly a Switch port, which I assume was quite the down-grade, visually.

Once again I got it for the PS4 because of the PS5’s scarcity meaning I haven’t got one yet and I refuse to pay silly money for not even that big of an upgrade… (though apparently would still pay a good chunk of money for not even that big of an upgrade… go figure!)

Gameplay:

Star-Lord fantastically shoots a weird squid-thing in its massive eye.

While it would be easy to assume you take control of all five of the titular Guardians the gameplay, much like the narrative itself, is entirely focused on Peter Quill / Star-Lord. It’s a 3rd person adventure shooter, so while there are many scenes when you have to fight large amounts of enemies with your guns there are exploratory parts and some light puzzle solving. Star-Lord’s gun is not only single fire but you also unlock abilities so he can hover and shoot or unload a bunch of fire at once, plus as the game progresses he unlocks different modes for his gun in the form of Ice, Electric, Wind and Fire modes, all of which can not only effect certain enemies weak to certain elements but also allow more environmental puzzle solving (freezing water, restarting old tech via electricity, that sort of thing) Throw in some quick dodging, a shield that can recharge along with a bog-standard health bar and pick ups to refill them both and by himself Quill is a perfectly fine playable character, if not a little one dimensional in combat.

The big twist though is that in the middle of battle you also sort-of control the other four members in Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot. While the A.I. will do most of the work you have access to a wheel where you can pick their special moves and tell them when to do them. Just like Quill you can unlock them as well via Experience Points, allowing for more variety in combat as the game goes along. Well, sort of… most of each of their abilities are pretty similar to each other, Gamora is pretty much slash one enemy for a lot of damage, lots of enemies for less damage, just a couple of enemies for more shield damage (something like that, I basically never used it whatever it was) or hit one enemy several times for massive damage. Still, it’s fun, tying up an enemy with Groot’s roots then blowing them up with a Rocket grenade while flying about shooting things as Star-Lord is a great time, even if by the final stages it starts to feel a bit samey.

See the words “got this” hanging above Gamora’s head? That means you take the right option with “got this” in it… Why are these even a thing again?

There is also a special “huddle” you can activate that with give you a first person view of the other team members who then say a few lines, some of which will appear in the background as writing, and then you chose one of two motivational speeches to fire them up. One speech will give everyone infinite use of their special abilities for a limited time while the other just ups Quill for a bit, but both play a classic 80s pop song in the background for the duration of the fight. Honestly the choice is completely unnecessary, the words in the background always correspond with words that appear in the right choice, so I only failed once and that one time was towards the end of the game when I guess I just wasn’t paying full attention. Still, beating up a load of aliens to the sound of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin was a surreal experience I won’t soon forget…

There are also situations where you can get different outcomes though they often make little difference in the long run, at most an extra cutscene during the final battle because someone you saved or convinced arrives whereas if you failed they, well, wouldn’t. There is constant and often very funny dialogue during times your exploring levels and sometimes a Guardians member will pose a question allowing you to pick from two or three options, though again they don’t make any difference to the game other than hearing different responses. Throw in a couple of ship combat levels and a healthy dose of collectables (especially alternate costumes for each Guardians member, some of which are based off obscure comic issues which is always fun) and that’s your lot. In between stages you can often just hang around the ship and talk to the other members or just play some tunes. Overall it’s a fun experience but I can’t help think that was less because of the gameplay and more the story and voice acting…

Graphics and Sound:

A stunning alien vista means I’ll stay optimistic… even if everything on the planet has been trying to kill me.

Graphics are very pretty indeed, lots of really bright neon colours everywhere, some really fun alien planet designs and the Guardians themselves are well rendered with great facial capture. No complaints there.

Sound is great as well. The voice actors all impress and the standard OST is fine if not particularly memorable. Then there is the crazy amount of licensed 80s songs on offer, from Iron Maiden to Def Leppard, from Bonnie Tyler to Tears For Fears and all-time classics like EUROPE’s Final Countdown and even the Rickroll itself “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. It’s pretty crazy, hopefully the game sold enough to cover what must have been a hefty licensing cost…

Story:

Peter Quill back in the good old days of mullets and Pac-man… a tad on the nose, but hey. I’ll take it.

The story starts off with Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot already a team with several missions under their belt and all having survived a Galaxy-wide war that lasted many years and cost a lot of life. The team enter a forbidden area to capture an impressive creature to sell to famous beast collector Lady Hellbender, but during the course of the mission they find a small yellow stone and let loose a deadly creature…

*SPOILERS FROM HERE UNTIL THE NEXT BOLDED SENTENCE!*

The Guardians get caught by the Nova Corps. and don’t have the money to pay the fine but get a brief reprieve after they help when the Nova Corps ship is damaged by an exploding ship. During this time Peter meets Nikki Gold, the daughter of an old Kree flame of his and wonders if she could be his daughter. Either way the Guardians come up with a plan to pretend to sell either Groot or Rocket to Lady Hellbender and then break the person out afterward but that plan goes wrong and while they do steal enough money to pay the fine they now with Lady Hellbender-hired mercenaries after them. As they try and pay the fine they find a large group of Nova Corps. members brainwashed by a cult named the “Universal Church of Truth” that were extremely aggressive, so they head to Knowhere to talk to Cosmo the telepathic Russian dog that leads the place’s security.

The best thing about this screenshot is that it isn’t a cutscene, I took the screenshot at just the right time for Peter to be looking at the “camera” with a fed up look on his face.

They’re soon sent back to the Nova ship they were on first and find it too full of mental slaves and Raker, the leader of the Church, reveals Nikki had been chosen as the new Matriarch of the Church, much to Peter’s horror. Each Guardian is shown a perfect future through a mental attack known as “The Promise” but each break out if it (for Peter is was reversing the day he was taken to space while seeing his mother killed just after he was given his father’s “Element Guns”) and head back into space. Drax, as it soon turns out, hadn’t broken out of it and soon becomes completely enslaved by The Promise, leading to the Guardians finding Mantis and using her mental powers to help. She leads them to Adam Warlock, the hero of the war who was presumed dead, and soon they all travel into Drax’s mind and save him. Warlock reveals that the evil monster released from the stone that’s behind all of this was actually some evil part of his own soul he had driven out of himself, a being he calls Magus.

The game momentarily switches to a generic space shooter… that still looks pretty!

Eventually the Guardians bring down Fin Fang Foom and give him as a gift to Lady Hellbender in order to gain her help in taking down the Universal Church, and soon a big battle occurs between the mind-controlled part of the Galaxy and the Guardians and Hellbender and her creatures (plus more depending on how well you did in earlier parts of the game). Raker is soon defeated and Peter saves Nikki from her promise (and finds out he isn’t her father) with Nikki gaining special powers and Warlock reabsorbing the Magus. Everyone celebrates until later on the ship when Magus takes over Warlock, leading to the actual final fight, one that ends with Nikki as a new member of the Guardians and Warlock back in his right mind.

*SPOILERS END HERE!*

Overall it’s a really fun story, with some great dialogue and even the odd dramatic humanising of several of the Guardians members. Seeing several currently still comic-only characters mix with the more MCU-y style Guardians was a good treat as well.

Thoughts Now:

Well, that’s one way to use flaming jet boots!

Guardians of the Galaxy was a really great single player experience, thank goodness. Fun to play, if not a little repetitive, and a top-class story to boot. Due to being so heavily story based I won’t really be replaying it any time soon, but overall it’s a highly recommended week or two in front of the telly.

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