NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE OF PLOT DETAILS
That was a Tweet I sent out last night, so yeah, I liked “Under Pressure” quite a bit.
With both “Tangled up in Blue” and now “Under Pressure”, I feel the Guardians of the Galaxy are meant to be video game superstars, whether they’re in a big budget, AAA game or something more intimate like this latest series from Telltale. It’s just so much fun being with this characters and exploring the weird side of Marvel’s cosmic universe so much that when “Under Pressure” ended, I was so disappointed that it was over. A lot of that has to do with how well Telltale gets these characters and allows each of them to have their moment, even though an average episode only takes around ninety or so minutes to finish and most of the time you’re playing as Star-Lord. From the thumbnail descriptions on each episode, it somewhat teases who I think will be getting the spotlight in each episode, but that doesn’t mean that Telltale doesn’t give everyone, well except maybe Groot, something to do. Drax for example in “Under Pressure” is struggling with his purpose after what transpired in “Tangled up in Blue” and wondering exactly who needs him now. I loved telling him, and for that matter of fact, everyone in the team that they’re family. No joke, I hope Telltale gets to do a Fast and the Furious series someday.
The character who gets the most development in this episode is Rocket, and boy, is it some powerful stuff. In my review of “Tangled up in Blue” I mentioned that I was perfectly okay with Telltale’s direction to more or less emulate the feel of James Gunn’s films, and I was so surprised to see where they decided to take the player when handling Rocket in this episode. If you haven’t watched the teaser trailer for “Under Pressure” or played the recent episode, I won’t spoil it of course, but if you’re choices don’t lead you to side with Rocket, play the episode again because it’s the most emotionally charged stuff that Telltale has done since probably the first The Walking Dead season finale. Rocket is often portrayed as the loud mouth, foul-mouthed, gun-toting comic relief character and I get the appeal of that; It’s funny to see a talking raccoon acting like that. While it’s funny to have Rocket as your catch phrase spouting marketing machine, it’s so powerful to see a character like that open up and allowed to be at his lowest like in the ending of the first film and even more so in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
My issue with the Rocket stuff is that the way the choice is structured to get there. You’re given a choice to side with Rocket or another member of the team, and logically speaking, I didn’t want to side with Rocket because within the context of the situation, it made more sense not to, but I choose it anyway because I wanted to see where that thread lead. I kept thinking to myself when the decision came up that perhaps there should have been some more effort into making the choice tougher such as both choices leading to the same place instead of one forwarding the plot with the Eternity Forge and the other coming off as a detour, an incredible detour mind you, but a detour nonetheless.
“Under Pressure” sees the introduction of two new characters into the Telltale Guardians of the universe, both of which will be familiar to anyone who has seen just the first Guardians film. One is handled about how you would expect them to, but I was happy to see Telltale subvert expectations for the other. After said character was introduced and given what happened in episode one, I thought I immediately knew how their arch was going to play out but like they did with Batman: The Telltale Series, I like it when Telltale smartly takes something you would expect to happen and then turns it around. It’s things like that keep you invested and get you excited for each new episode and in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy, I already can’t wait to play episode three having only completed chapter two yesterday evening.
Compared to “Tangled up in Blue” which had a great opening action set piece, “Under Pressure” is light on action however it’s not something I missed because the interplay between the Guardians themselves is just so compelling. I don’t feel there was a lot of development within the actual plot surrounding the Eternity Forge, especially when it came to the Kree who are chasing after the Guardians, but what “Under Pressure” does is give each member of the team stakes in the plot such that when things eventually escalate, you’re going to care a lot more when they do. Because there’s a lack of any real kinetic action sequences, it makes some of the technical problems more noticeable when they show up. Thankfully I experienced no hard crashes, however there was a lot of noticeable choppiness in character movement that led to some awkward lip synching. It’s not something that lessens the emotional impact of the more powerful parts, but knowing it’s there still bothers you.
With Batman, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier and now Guardians of the Galaxy, Telltale is perhaps at the best that they’ve ever been. Though some questionable logic leaps are required to get to the best part of “Under Pressure”, seeing the stuff that Telltale has crafted for that portion is worth replaying this episode twice if that’s what it takes to get you there. The Guardians of the Galaxy are destined to become video game stars, and I’m glad that Telltale has shown how the property needs to be handled in order to get them there.