Sorry Guardians of the Galaxy, but superhero games shouldn’t look like bootleg movies

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Square Enix dedicated most of its E3 2021 presentation to its long-rumored Guardians of the Galaxy video game. Developer Eidos Montreal has traded the dark and moody sci-fi of Deus Ex for the light space adventures of Marvel. While we can’t judge how the game is playing ahead of its October release, we can judge what it looks like right now. Guardians of the Galaxy are promising, but they continue the tragic trend of superhero video games resembling pirate superhero movies.


Awesome mix

Guardians of the Galaxy game is not a direct adaptation of guardians of the galaxy the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. Modern game development takes so long that publishers ditched ties to movies a long time ago, and those moves were for the best. In a nice twist, the game also features contributions from Dan Abnett, the comic book author who popularized this version of Marvel’s Space Team.

But let’s be realistic. The only reason everyone cares about these characters is the way James Gunn reimagined them in the movies. Heck, after Disney bought Fox, the company should have renamed the team “Starjammers,” which makes so much more thematic sense. The game knows what you expect from these characters, and at least from a gameplay perspective, Eidos Montreal has found some smart solutions to meet those demands.

Unlike Square Enix’s hapless Marvel’s Avengers game, Guardians of the Galaxy is a single player experience. You play as Star-Lord, the headstrong team leader who blows up aliens, moves around in throwing boots and pulls out a music player to unleash his ultimate classic rock attack. However, teammates Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot also play a vital role. They take control and help you in battle. More intriguing, you act as a team leader outside of combat making story decisions that balance different egos. For example, siding with Gamora can piss off Rocket. It looks like a Mass Effect bag of dirt, or the Guardians of the Galaxy Telltale adventure game. These are great ideas!

So why does Star-Lord look like a fake cosplayer? Why does Rocket have a horrible braided beard? Why do Drax and Gamora look like cheaper, whitewashed versions of Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana? Why are comic book-loyal costumes a pre-order bonus? From the tone of comedy to themes of unsuitable family in the soundtrack, it’s good for Guardians of the Galaxy to take inspiration from guardians of the galaxy movies. Having said that, it shouldn’t sound like a worst version of the movies.


Chain

Unfortunately, the Guardians of the Galaxy did not start this trend. In recent years, most big budget superhero games have gone for the least inspired aesthetic imaginable. When Square Enix unveiled its Avengers game, the collective gaming community talked about how the heroes look like porn versions of the most famous movie stars on the planet. It was terribly bad. The Black Panther DLC is on its way, and yet I’m not excited. It’s completely understandable that these game publishers can’t afford to pay for expensive celebrity likeness rights. This is all the more reason to adopt an artistic style that does not make it so obvious as your Tony Stark. is really not Robert Downey Jr.

Even fantasy superhero games can’t quite get away from this problem. The Batman Arkham games have cool, neon, urban-Gothic vibes, like a mix of cinematic visions of Schumacher, Nolan, and Burton. Still, games seemed more and more generic as their graphics fidelity increased. The same goes for other recent DC games, such as Injustice 2 (with its digitized faces and oversized gear system) and the upcoming Gotham Knights and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League.

I hate to criticize Insomniac’s Spider-Man games on PlayStation 4/5. The team nailed Miles Morales’ hair, and it’s really impressive. However, these games also look like weird alternative movies. They swapped Peter’s face to make him look more like Tom Holland. Forget ray tracing tech, the nicest aspects of these games are the cel-shaded suits that turn Spider-Man into a 24fps cartoon straight out of the box. Into the Spider-Verse. They break the presentation, but in the best possible way. It was a real missed opportunity not to make the whole game look like this.

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Addicted to a feeling

Stylized superhero games still exist, but they are rare. I really enjoyed Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, which felt more like a Marvel vs Capcom game than the last Marvel vs Capcom game. Plus, we can always count on Lego sets for fantasy.

Comics offer colorful, vibrant, and visually striking pop culture art. Live-action movies can be limited by realism, but video games don’t need to be. Game artists can and should capture this comic book energy. I want to feel like Star-Lord, not look like a fake Chris Pratt.

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