Developer Eidos Montreal’s take on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy brings us one of the very best story-driven games of 2021 – and it’s great to see Square-Enix pivot back firmly to a single-player action game. There’s no multiplayer, no online, not even co-op – and refreshingly, there’s not the slightest hint of the ‘games as a service’ concept that sat so uneasily with Marvel’s Avengers. It’s all about you, playing as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, haphazardly adventuring through a well-scripted story, chapter by chapter. Based on the Dawn Engine, as used in Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Guardians of the Galaxy is a genuine treat, but how does it play out on the new wave of consoles?
First off, I really want to stress that Guardians of the Galaxy is a genuine surprise, an exceptional game and a visual tour-de-force. It often looks stunning – and that starts with the locations. The Quarantine Zone, a planet of derelict machinery fused with a pink crystalline gel, is a perfect backdrop for the Guardians’ first mission. Materials come out beautifully in the midday sun. Light shafts seep from behind pillars of dense scrapyard tech, giving the world a rich, opulent look. Lighting also brings out the sharp, specular layer on the pink rubble, a lot of which is destructible. All round, there’s a heavy art-driven approach to each area and every set-piece. Later planets have wildly different biomes, of course. The second mission puts us under rainy, scorched skies, for example, while wind physics affect foliage. It’s a battle against the elements as we hop between moss-covered islands – where again, material work is stand-out.