Review by Alyx Jones
Edited by Jake Basten
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Head of Audio: Mike de Belle
Composer: Ian Livingstone
Sound Design: Duncan Bradshaw, Chris Grant, Raffaele Presciutti, Joe Thom, Tessa Verplancke, Mike Leaning (Additional)
Voice Directors: Adam Chapman, Jimmy Livingstone
Reviewed on: Playstation 4
A return to the Lego Marvel franchise, sees us zooming through the streets of Chronopolis, with a mission to bring down mutant villain, Kang the Conquerer. Some of our favourites from the original game such as Thor, Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, and Hulk return, but with some new companions such as the crew from Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr. Strange, and Black Panther!
The newest addition to the Lego games franchise features the ability to rewind and fast forward time – a skill that Dr. Strange makes great use of – as well as being able to fly around Chronopolis in free roam and solve crime. As with all Lego games, simple puzzle-solving and making use of different characters special abilities still features heavily, but this title feels as though it has a larger focus on boss fights and was criticised for gameplay sometimes being too repetitive. However, despite this and the impact of the SAG-AFTRA strike (see below), the game was still well received.
The great thing about the sound of all Lego games is the actual sound of the lego bricks in the game. Although it is set in this fantastical, superhero world, the clicks and clacks of building lego in every level makes it feel like we are just at home playing with a lego set. The light clunky footsteps and plastic impacts set against the hyper-real sounds of explosions and laser blasters really makes the game. It’s like being inside a child’s imagination with epic music, big explosions, and boss fights, but with the real sounds of clicking bricks together at the centre.
Each and every character has their own unique weapons, voice, and abilities, from the metallic rewind of Dr. Strange playing with time, to the woody stomps of Groot, they are all recognisable and distinguishable. Similar weapons such as laser/blaster guns still have unique sounds, with Rocket Racoon having a duller sounding blast compared to Star Lords “pew” sounding shots with a longer tail. The high frequency ringing of Thor’s hammer tends to cut through as it passes in combat, against the vocalisations of a multitude of enemy creatures, the player must battle through.
In levels such as large metal bunkers or factories, there is a noticeably different reverb response that helps the spaces feel large and uninhabited. Often there are machines whirring away in the background, with buzzes, static and mechanical ticking making up background ambience. There is a lot of detail to the sound design, for example Rocket Racoon must complete a crane puzzle and the bleeping of him operating the machine goes alongside the windup and pulleys of a huge robotic claw.
Impact sounds in this game feel large and over the top, but that is the nature of such a vast array of Marvel Super Heroes all under one roof. Right from the beginning, firing Iron Man’s jets sets off explosions that rock structures and send lego bricks firing off in all directions, and this sets the tone for the whole experience. It’s exactly what fans expect from this title, and the sound design does its job!
“Hail, Hail! What’s the matter with your head, yeah!” (Redbone – Come and Get Your Love) plays upon opening the game. Marvel fans will likely be familiar with this tune from the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Star Lord is known in the film for his mixtape making, that is brought across into the game world as collectable mixtapes of some well known tracks. Licensed music in games can sometimes miss the mark, but it’s very effective in referencing filmic moments and certainly isn’t overused in the game.
Composer Ian Livingstone lends his hand to the bespoke music behind this Marvel mega adventure. Having worked on the previous Lego Marvel title and Lego Dimensions, he is no stranger to creating an effective soundtrack for this fantastical adventure. Livingstone also recently worked on Shadow of the Beast, that is a lot of orchestral work, but with a more “ethnic” thread, running throughout.
With composers like Alan Silvestri, Brian Tyler scoring the Avengers films, and the more rock-rooted Tyler Bates behind Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s an interesting history to bring together into a video game.
Livingstone definitely meets the expected epic, orchestral nature of this score, with staccato strings and percussion, standard with any superhero title. However, there are places in the game where the music is more interesting than the stereotypical response to this title. Elements such as tuvan throat and hand percussion add more depth to the soundtrack and gives something more to listen to than the over the top Hollywood scores.
Different environments such as Manhattan Noir have their own, very different music, with melancholy saxophones taking us far from thoughts of saving the world. The music switches as we fly between different environments and The Old West again is a complete contrast, with acoustic guitars and harmonicas, at a much slower tempo.
One thing that is noticable about Livingstone’s compositions is that they feel like they are based in having a consistent element or “drone” throughout, and there isn’t usually a noticeable loop point, unless a level/environment restarts. It’s how game music should sound, without an obvious start or end point but still very effective at creating moods and melodies, as well as supporting the sound design when needed.
Sadly Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 was another game affected by the SAG-AFTRA strike that meant many voice actors present in the previous title did not return to continue their roles. The strike lasted 340 days, but ended in September 2017, so the voice cast are free to return to any sequels!
There was excitement for the casting of Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy) in the main role of Kang. His deep tones suit Kang the Conquerer, creating a dark overlord voice to match the mutant lego villain! Greg Miller (Kinda Funny Games) also has a part as unlockable character Howard the Duck, a satyrical character who appears as a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1&2.
The voice acting overall in this game isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. Often character performances fall a little flat, or stray too far from the original film characters. While this isn’t a film, the character design is lifted from the film franchise so similar voices are expected. The casting clearly suffered from limited options without much of the original cast. Losses of big names such as Troy Baker and Nolan North definitely hurt the final result.
Overall, while there is a let down with some of the voice acting, it’s not all bad, and there are plenty of funny lego moments that aren’t let down by the voice actors. The music is great, thankfully not a bombastic score, with plenty of colour and variety of timbre to it. The sound design is everything it should be and supports the gameplay perfectly. There are a lot of boss fights to power through in this title but the free play and collectibles are fantastic fun. I have yet to play a bad Lego game!
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The Sound Architect