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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Just over a year ago, SquareEnix released Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s The Avengers. The long-awaited game arrived to find a gaming audience who seemed to want it to be something that it wasn’t. From people who wanted to be based on the MCU and not the comics, to some who don’t like multi-player games, the title faced an uphill battle. It also didn’t help that it launched in the middle of the pandemic, which likely affected the timing of content and updates after launch. I still like Avengers (the Wakanda update is great), but for those who wanted it to be a strictly single-player adventure without any of the “games as a service” trappings, Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy might be exactly what they were looking for. I’ve played through the complete story, and this is the best cinematic Marvel adventure of the year.

First off, this is again not based on the movies. The characters in Guardians of the Galaxy each had histories in the comics that pre-dated the James Gunn films, and while some aspects of the art design might be inspired by the MCU (and the 2014 MCU costumes are unlockable), this game is an original story that uses the comics as its basis and not the MCU. Meaning the character’s back stories are slightly different. Here, Drax has already killed Thanos. An even bigger difference is this version of Star-Lord is the confident son of J’son of Spartax (not Ego the Living Planet). As such, the comic/game Star-Lord is a bit more of a confident Han Solo leader, as opposed to the son of Jack Burton like Chris Pratt’s version.

More importantly this is a strictly single-player linear adventure completely focused on the story. There’s no co-op, no multi-player, and no micro transactions. All of the cosmetic costumes can be unlocked in game just by playing and exploring the levels. As you might expect with a story-driven solo adventure, the first time through might not take that long, but you then can go through again with New Game+ and mop up all of the costumes and achievements that you missed on the first time through.

This is a cosmic adventure ripped from the comics. I won’t spoil anything, as there are surprises that made me yell “No f’n way!”, but the game takes the Guardians on an adventure that’s both personal and galactic in scale. It all starts when they’re in a quarantine zone looking for a monster to sell to Lady Hellbender for a nice bounty when they’re caught by the NOVA Corps and then have to find a way to pay back a hefty fine to them. That springboards them into an epic adventure filled with some familiar Guardians faces such as Cosmo (he’s such a good boy) and other surprises. It’s not a cameo fest, as the story remains focused on the team, but there are some amazing surprises in the game including one character who you’d never expect to see in a story like this.

I can’t stress how much I loved this story, and I really want a sequel with this team, cast, and writers all back. The game tries to replicate the banter the James Gunn films are known for, and it works. There are multiple times throughout the game where I genuinely laughed my ass off. There are small jokes early in the game that you might dismiss as just a joke, but then they pay off in a “No f’n way” style later in the story. I was completely invested in this Guardians adventure in a way that a video game story hasn’t affected me since Sony’s God of War in 2018.

The core gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a story-based cinematic game in the last few years. You’ll have a lot of long cinematic cut scenes that occasionally will give you dialog choices. These do affect the game and the story. An example is early in the game Star Lord has the opportunity through a dialog choice to trust the young daughter of the NOVA Corps leader he’s dealing with. If he trusts her, a door will be unlocked for the team later in the game. If he doesn’t, then you’ll have to figure out another way to open that door. That’s just a small example of how the dialog choices can affect things, there are much bigger ramifications later in the story to specific dialog choices.

As for the combat, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t feeling it in the beginning. You control Star-Lord, and the other four Guardians are mapped to the four face buttons. By holding one of the bumpers and then hitting their button you can activate one of their abilities. To complicate things, Star-Lord has his own abilities that are accessed by holding down the left stick button. Early in the game I felt it was a little overwhelming, but by the end of the game I was actually really enjoying combat. Each character has three abilities that you can unlock with ability points you earn following combat. A fourth ability is then unlocked via the story and each one is from a profound moment of character development for each Guardian (I really loved Rocket’s). Once you get the hang of using the Guardians and their abilities, combat becomes a lot of fun.

The Guardians aren’t just limited to the combat. Each one’s strengths are used while exploring the levels. Groot can make bridges, Rocket can hack doors, Gamora can leap and cut down hanging objects or slice through vines, Drax is the muscle so he can break through walls or lift heavy objects, while Star-Lord’s blasters gain elemental powers as the story progresses. Ice, Electricity, Wind, and Fire are used in specific parts of the levels to progress, and they also can be used in combat as some enemies can have a weakness to a specific element. Star Lord’s visor can also scan the environment to find lore information, as well as locating ways to progress such as cracks in a wall for Drax to smash through. Each of the Guardian’s unique strengths can also be used in combat (beyond their abilities) such as heavy objects for Drax to throw at enemies or spots for Rocket to trap with a grenade.

The MCU movies are known for their used of music, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has hands-down the best licensed videogame soundtrack since Grand Theft Auto Vice City. The tracks are used at points in the story (the placement of KISS’s I Love It Loud and Europe’s The Final Contdown are “chef’s kiss” perfect), but they also show up in combat. There’s a “huddle” move that acts like a Super move in a fighting game. You have a huddle meter that builds up and when it does you can hit both bumpers to call the Guardians in for a huddle. There’s a dialog choice here, and if you pick the right one the team will be super-charged while a track from Star-Lord’s walkman plays. It’s hard to describe how damn fun it is to mow down huge groups of enemies to the sound of Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-go or Starship’s We Built This City.

I played through the game on the PS5 in Performance mode, which prioritizes frame rate. Even in that mode, the game is graphically on the same level as anything you’d see coming out of Sony’s first party studios. There’s also a Quality mode and a Ray-Tracing mode will be available post-launch (it’s in the menu, just not active yet). The art direction in the whole game is just excellent. Beyond just the character modeling, the variety of the environments you explore is just excellent across the board. It reminded me a lot of Jedi Fallen Order in how each planet looked different and unique to the one you just came from. Even when you revisit certain areas in the story, they find a way to make it look different so it doesn’t feel like your retreading anything.

Back in 2018 when I was coming to the end of Sony’s God of War reboot, I got a little emotional because I knew this excellent game I had spent the last ten or so hours playing was coming to an end. Guardians of the Galaxy is the first game since that one to come close to that feeling for me. I loved the story from beginning to end (and be sure to stay through the credits), and really want another adventure with this Guardians crew. If a game comes to a close, and you not want it to end but also want a sequel as soon as possible; I guess that’s one of the best recommendations you can give it.

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop is Confirmed

Ever since July, when The Illuminerdi reported that Hailee Steinfeld had signed on officially as Kate Bishop in the MCU, there have been several movie fan sites going hard in an attempt to debunk the casting; even claiming an unknown would get the role instead.

Well today, as I said just yesterday, there are now set photos of Hailee on the set of Hawkeye in costume as Kate Bishop.

If I wanted to be a dick, I could post the receipts of all of the sites that spent the last four months trying to claim she didn’t have the role and some imaginary unknown would be cast instead and are now gleefully running stories about her casting like none of that debunking ever happened. But I’ve beyond all of that stupid scooper drama BS now.

Marvel’s Avengers Review

It’s hard to believe that until now there hasn’t been a major Avengers video game. The characters have appeared in fighters, the Marvel Ultimate Alliances, and of course LEGO games; but it’s been decades since there’s been a dedicated Avengers game and there’s never been one this big. That’s why when Crystal Dynamics revealed that they were working on an Avengers game a few years ago, it immediately became one of the most highly-anticipated video games. Now, at the end of a console generation, the game is finally here.

The question of whether or not it’s worth it almost depends on where your opinion lands on one of the bigger debates in modern video games. While Marvel’s Avengers does have a really excellent single-player campaign, that ten-to-twelve hour epic is really just an introduction to the main portion of the game that will keep it going for years to come. Meaning, the biggest part of Marvel’s Avengers is the “Games as a Service” co-op multiplayer mode that is very similar to Destiny.

Some gamers who believe that the definition of “video game” in 2020 is a cinematic over-the-shoulder strictly single-player adventure that’s exclusive to one plastic box are currently waging a war against a multi-platform service-based co-op multi-player game, and in the process they’re spreading a lot of misinformation to try to tear down a game they’ll never play. Let’s just address the microtransactions (or MTX) in the game that some of these people are calling “predatory” or “abusive”.

There’s no “pay to win” here. All of the MTX in the game are cosmetics; costumes, emotes, name plates, etc. There are “season pass” style things for each of the Avengers, but for the six that ship with the game these are free and, again, just unlock cosmetics. Completing these Challenge Cards will also earn you enough in-game currency to pay for the Challenge Cards of any post-launch heroes that are added (and the heroes, along with their story missions, are free). With that “controversy” out of the way, I had a great time playing through Marvel’s Avengers.

The single-player campaign, which will take you ten-to-twelve hours if you only do the campaign missions and don’t bother with any of the countless side-missions, is a fantastic Avengers story with a great voice cast. I actually laughed out loud at some of the banter between Avengers at times. Many people have complained that the characters don’t look like the MCU actors, but this game was never meant to be a movie adaptation any more than the PS4 Spider-Man game was supposed to have Tom Holland as Peter Parker.

Opening with an “Avengers Day” event where young Kamala Khan wins a fan fiction contest to go on the Chimera helicarrier, things quickly go bad with a new Terrigen reactor on the ship. You know this part of the story by now; bad things happen, the Avengers disband, and five years later Kamala is swept into an adventure to reassemble the team and find out the truth about what really happened on A-Day.

Kamala is the perfect choice to be the main character in the story, as she’s a huge Avengers fangirl, and she and Bruce form a nice father-daughter relationship. I hope the MCU’s Kamala is handled as well as the one in this video game. In fact all of the Avengers are handled perfectly, and they even picked some great music for Tony, but naming one of the bands will spoil one of the best moments late in the game. Speaking of late in the game, the ending to the campaign is amazing. You will spend time playing as all of the Avengers throughout the campaign, but the finale gives each member their time to shine and the cast is handled excellently in the final battle.

During the campaign the game will alternate between crafted story missions that continue the epic set-pieces that Crystal put in their last two Tomb Raider games, and some multi-player style missions. Obviously the story missions are the highlight, and including some of the MP style missions in the single-player game is a slight disappointment, but they’re still better than those stealth levels that broke up the action in the PS4’s Spider-Man game. There’s also one part in the campaign where you will need to “grind” a War Table mission or two to complete an assignment quest right before embarking on the final mission.

While you can jump right into the Avengers Initiative multi-player mode before tackling the campaign; playing through the single-player will unlock several costumes you can use in the MP modes and all of your gear and unlocks carry over. You’ll also learn each character by playing through the campaign, so I’d recommend doing that before diving into the multi-player modes.

If you played the beta, you’ve had a small sample of these modes. What the beta didn’t have was the full skill trees (there are now three tabs), and the factions. The factions are, again, similar to Destiny where completing tasks for them will unlock special bonuses. Their assignments work just like the ones in Destiny, where you pick the one you want from the faction vendor and then go and complete the quest in missions.

Playing the beta was just a taste of what the main game would have, such as the beta campaign missions actually being from about an hour into the final game. The beta also wasn’t as optimized as well as the final either. Playing on a PS4 Pro, the High Performance mode in the final game is much smoother than it was in the beta. The game also looks really impressive at times, and even almost next-gen in some parts, which makes sense as the game will be receiving upgrades on the next gen consoles and even PC (modders have already found high-res 4K textures that are too taxing for current graphics cards).

Again, whether or not Marvel’s Avengers will be something you’ll enjoy will really depend on how you feel about online co-op games. The campaign is excellent, and is the cinematic Marvel epic for 2020. Beyond that though is the main “meat” of the game, and it’s best described as Marvel Destiny. If you like Destiny and love Marvel, you’ll definitely like this game. I’m a big MMO player and still play WoW to this day, but I do like the genre on consoles as well. One of the first console MMOs was Phantasy Star Online on the Sega Dreamcast. It took years, but Destiny adapted that model to a FPS, and now Marvel’s Avengers takes it and applies it to a superhero game.

Those who believe they’re fighting a crusade to “save” cinematic single-player games will never play this, and they’ll continue to push outrage narratives to try to attack the game due to the genre its in. Yet, the game is a lot of fun. The campaign is very satisfying, and it’s fun to group up with friends as the Avengers and smash up some levels. The most exciting thing is the future, as there’s a huge list of post-launch heroes on the way that’ll keep the game fresh well into the next generation of consoles.

I really enjoyed my time with Marvel’s Avengers. The campaign was absolutely worth playing through and delivered a great Avengers story (with just enough dangling threads for future expansions), and the multi-player modes will give the game lots to come back for. If you’re a Marvel fan who likes online games that live on past the end of their single-player adventure, it’s pretty easy to recommend this Avengers game.

Game: [usr 4]

A copy of the game was provided by Square Enix for this review. Campaign completed, and multi-player modes played.

Donald Glover Rumored to Return as Lando

Back in February, I ran a story about the long-rumored Disney+ spin-off for Solo: A Star Wars Story that’s in some form of planning saying that Disney and Lucasfilm were very serious about trying to bring back Lando. At the time I didn’t specify which Lando it was (due to certain people who love debunking), but it was Donald Glover they were trying to bring back.

Today Kessel Run Transmissions reports that they’ve heard that Donald Glover has either signed on or is close to signing on to return as Lando. They stress it’s still early and could still fall through due to how busy he is with other projects. However, it’s a good sign that Lucasfilm’s efforts to get him to come back over the last few months were successful.

Kessel Run Transmissions previously scooped The Bad Batch before Lucasfilm announced it, so they’re building quite a good track record for themselves. Also, this Glover information backs up what I heard back in February about them really wanting to have him return.

The idea I heard back then was for him to appear in the spin-off that’ll likely deal with the Crime Syndicates like Crimson Dawn and Black Sun, but then he’ll get his own Lando series following that. They did set up a Lando series with the ending of The Rise of Skywalker with the original Billy Dee. Even so, Lucasfilm would obviously want flashbacks in that with Glover as well. Which means there are a lot of opportunities for the young Lando to appear in Disney+ shows.

Up next for Star Wars is the second season of The Mandalorian, which will arrive on time in October. Then both the Obi-Wan series and the Cassian Andor series will be filming back-to-back in Pinewood UK. This Solo/Lando show and the rumored Ahsoka series are obviously further out, but with Star Wars Celebration next month cancelled; Lucasfilm could always make reveals of what they’re working on over the next few months.

Marvel is Beginning to Lay the Groundwork For Their Greatest Villain in the MCU

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Disney’s purchase of Fox and those Marvel characters returning home isn’t so much the X-Men, but rather Marvel’s greatest super villain having the chance to be done right for the first time. Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four in the 90s gave us a decent Doctor Doom, but most audiences are more familiar with the botched Fox attempts at the character. But now Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios are preparing to give the best comic book villain the respect he deserves.

Something Fox sort of ignored about Doctor Doom was the country of Latveria. Sure there were nods to it in the movies, but you never saw Doom ruling over his country, or even the country at all. It sounds like that won’t be an issue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we will see major Latverians other than Doom introduced, perhaps even as a way to set up the big guy. You know how Marvel likes to play the long game and set things up in advance.

Which brings us to the subject of this whole story. I’ve learned that Marvel Studios is planning to introduce Lucia Von Bardas to the MCU. In the comics, she’s actually the successor to Doctor Doom after he was deposed as the ruler of Latveria and even used the Doctor Doom name for a time. As we haven’t been introduced to Doom yet, it’s possible Lucia Von Bardas could be used as a way to introduce Latveria, perhaps even as its prime minister (as in the comics), who then would be replaced with Doom.

However she’s used in the MCU, that they’re wanting to bring in a character like Lucia Von Bardas shows that Marvel Studios knows that there is a lot more to Doctor Doom than him just screaming “Richards!” all the time. Fleshing out Doom with supporting characters like Lucia Von Bardas is similar to how they built up Wakanda before Black Panther was introduced in Civil War.

It’s really starting to sound like Doom is very close to making his long-awaited debut in the MCU, and movie audiences will finally be introduced to the greatest comic book super villain of them all.