Whether or not you’re a Marvel fan, there’s a lot to like about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Sure, this action-adventure is likely going to resonate with you more if you’re already familiar with Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket and Drax. But even if you’re not, there’s enough excellent writing, gripping action and fantastic set-pieces to keep you engaged for the game’s surprisingly long run time. Marvel‘s Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t perfect, but it has everything that a good superhero game should have: fun, danger, epic landscapes and a true sense of camaraderie.
While Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy‘s narrative focuses on all members of the Guardians, players will exclusively be in control of Peter Quill, otherwise known as Star-Lord. With his perfectly coiffured hair, leather jacket and arrogant smirk, he has all the makings of a bona-fide space douche. But after spending a short time in Quill’s company, you’ll soon warm to him; his cheesy jokes set the tone of the game perfectly and the way he rallies around his team gets more heart-warming as the game goes on.
You’ll have some input into the actions of the other team members, at least. During battle, Peter can instruct them to carry out a special ability, and when exploring their skills come in handy in getting past obstacles. Groot’s expanding branches are perfect for making bridges on the fly, for example, and Drax’s inexplicable strength comes in handy for moving around boulders. Gamora, on the other hand, can boost you up to higher ledges or use her sword to cut through vines, while Rocket’s tiny stature means he can crawl through small spaces where nobody else will fit.
These exploration elements make it particularly disappointing that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is very linear in its design. There isn’t much room for exploration outside of the odd secret path to find a collectible; despite looking rather grand in their design, every environment you’ll find yourself in comprises a hard-set path. It’s the antithesis of an open world game, and while there’s something to be said for always knowing what direction you should be moving in, it’s a shame Peter and his friends haven’t been given a bit more freedom to wander. After all, this is a game world so rich and beautiful that it begs to be explored.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy exists outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it offers a fresh take on the familiar band of heroes. It remains faithful though, and each and every character acts just as you’d expect them to. There’s DNA from both the recent films and the comic books here, with plenty of additional characters showing up, such as Cosmo, Adam Warlock and Lady Hellbender, and one or two others I won’t spoil for you. Even Nikki, the young girl whom much of the story revolves around, is based on a member of the original Guardians of the Galaxy comic line-up from the 1970s. Yes, perhaps Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix have played fast and loose with Marvel timelines, but the result is something rich and original that everyone, no matter how deep your Marvel knowledge, can enjoy.
The story and characterisation really is the star of the show here. Eidos has done a fantastic job of bringing each character to life thanks to excellently-written dialogue that’s genuinely funny. The overarching narrative is about as grand as you’d expect for an adventure set in space, but it’s engaging and it’ll keep you playing ’til the grand finale. What helps bring it all together, though, is the absolutely fantastic animation work on show here. Facial animations are spot-on, with lip-syncing and the display of emotions of each character near-perfect. It really helps connect you to each character and draw you closer to their actions.
During your time with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy you’ll be spending an awful lot of time in combat. It’s a good job, then, that for the most part, blasting your way through a bunch of intergalactic baddies is rather fun. Star-Lord has a range of abilities up his sleeve thanks to his multifunctional blaster guns. A standard quick-fire shot will do damage to most enemies, but using the blaster’s elemental powers is key to dealing with enemies quickly and effectively. Unlocking over the course of the game, Peter’s guns can deal ice, lightning, wind and fire damage. And every so often, you’ll find an enemy that has a weakness to one of those elements. Using it against them in battle will bring them down quicker, leaving them weak to attacks from other team members.
As long as you remember to make use of them, the other Guardians are pivotal to taking down enemies. They each have four abilities that you’ll unlock as you play, allowing them to deal heavy damage to one particular enemy or multiple enemies in range. You can’t use them completely freely; each teammate has a cool-down so they can only be used once every few minutes. But making optimal use of them can make all the difference between success and failure.
My only complaint about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy‘s combat is that, sometimes, it just goes on a bit too long. Particularly in the last few chapters of the game, fights will throw a ridiculous amount of enemies at you, and going through the same motions time and again can start to feel repetitive. More grand fights against unique enemies would have been more engaging rather than constantly having to dispatch dozens of the same grunts. One element of the game really helps keep the adrenaline pumping though: once a meter is filled, the Guardians can huddle together, and if Peter successfully delivers a pep-talk they’ll gain a buff. The real draw of this powered-up state, though, is that Peter switches on his music player and you’ll find yourself shooting your way through enemies to the banging beats of an 80s classic.
Yes, music plays an important role in Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s no different here in the game. From Billy Idol’s White Wedding and Europe’s Final Countdown to Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up and Flock of Seagulls’ I Ran, the soundtrack is absolutely excellent and brings the game to life with gusto. Sliding and shooting your way through an endless barrage of space-goons while Everybody Wants to Rule the World plays in the background is something mightily special indeed. It’s not just in combat either; you can play the stereo to your heart’s content when you’re back on the Milano – the Guardians’ ship which acts as a base between levels – and key cutscenes also make great use of the soundtrack.
One last thing worth mentioning about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is its excellent difficulty and accessibility options. It has standard easy, medium and hard pre-sets, but settings can also be tweaked, allowing for a completely custom experience. You can adjust things like how much damage you deal, how much damage you take from enemies on a sliding scale and how long the cooldown on abilities lasts, along with more accessibility-friendly options like auto lock-on to enemies and auto-winning quick-time events. It’s a commendable amount of customisability, and being able to completely tailor the experience to your own skill level is a really nice touch.
It’s hard not to love Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, I wish there was more scope for open exploration, and I wish some of the combat encounters were a little more varied. But there’s a ridiculous amount of heart here. From an absolutely killer soundtrack to brilliantly-written characters that you can’t help but adore, it’s a rip-roaring adventure through space that left me wanting more. Ultimately, it’s one of Marvel’s best video game outings yet.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Review – GameSpew’s Score