We hope you’re not sick of superheroes yet because it seems like every movie, show, and game releasing in the next few months will have some sort of comic book character cracking wise. With Insomniac Games announcing its own take on Wolverine alongside a PS5 Spider-Man sequel, and Marvel continuing to churn out hits in the MCU, it’s Square Enix’s turn to take another swing with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Related: The best pre-order deals for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on PS4, PS5, Xbox and PC
Digital Spy got the call up to join the Guardians ahead of release and we managed to breeze through the entire game (around 12 hours in total), cackling as we blasted through the intergalactic drama created by a tree, a racoon, a Terran, and a bunch of aliens.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review – Story
So what is this new game? Well it’s a single-player beat-’em-up that will be played through the lens of the group of dysfunctional Guardians we have grown to love from the comic books and films.
You play through the entire game from Peter Quill’s (Star Lord) perspective, and he will be the one to give out commands and request help from his team.
This manifests itself in combining abilities from each of the other guardians in combat and exploration, utilising their skills for raw damage or politely asking them to hack open a door or carry something heavy for you.
The story kicks off with the Guardians already gelling together as a team, living aboard the Milano spaceship as they collect bounties, complete jobs and generally get up to mischief.
The galaxy is recovering from a gruelling 12-year war against the Chitauri that has left our heroes disenfranchised by the space authority, Nova Corps.
Quill, who abandoned the Ravagers after the war to launch a career in criminality, struggles to guide his ragtag group of murders and assassins from one disaster to the next, and you join them illegally exploring a part of space that Nova is particularly interested in.
The original gang is present (Gamora, Rocket Racoon, Drax and Groot), complete with their own compelling backstories. Drax is revered among the galaxy for supposedly killing the Mad Titan Thanos, and Rocket and Groot are on the run after breaking out from the Collector’ museum on Knowhere.
The story is delivered in chapters, and you’ll be running on a linear journey that has you interacting with some of Marvel’s biggest characters.
Your various crimes eventually catch up to you, and you’ll be sent to a Nova Corps ship to pay a fine for your deeds, leading you to The Grand Unifier Raker, who heads up the dangerous cult The Universal Church of Truth.
Those of you familiar with the GotG comics will know all about this terrifying religious sect, and the game’s story loosely follows a similar pattern. Along the way you’ll bump into a kaleidoscope of weird and wonderful characters including: Cosmo, a Russian telepathic space dog; a purple llama with a proclivity for chewing wires; Lady Hellbender, an exotic creatures collector and all-round giant badass; and Mantis, a flighty, unpredictable superbeing who appears to know all threads of time and space.
Even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes get a brief mention, though the puny humans are mocked throughout the game and you definitely shouldn’t expect to see IronMan come flying in to rescue you, as cool as that would be.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review – Graphics
While this game doesn’t really take full advantage of the next-gen graphics available on the new consoles – we played on a PlayStation 5 – we still think it looks great, especially when you head over to the neon-drenched streets of Knowhere. Ray-tracing was turned off for our playthrough, but we still got a smooth 4K 60fps experience, and the level dripped with cool.
Given that the game follows a narrow, narrative pathway through all your chapters (there’s slight deviation for a small bit of exploring) you’re basically funnelled into various fighting arenas to clear rooms of enemies. These locations look great as you bounce between the Milano, Nova Corps spaceships and other worlds, with each area having its own distinct look.
This is enhanced by the gorgeous skyboxes that can be anything from the depths of space to the towering cityscape of the celestial head of Knowhere.
During our gameplay we noticed a few visual bugs that were a tad distracting, but otherwise, the game is bright, vibrant, and as whacky as you’d expect from Marvel’s most incapable guardians.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review – Combat
So how is the combat? Surprisingly fluid once you get the knack of it, though it did take us a little while to find our rhythm. As Star Lord, you have your own guns (which will eventually gain new powers over the course of the game), but your true damage potential comes from using a radial wheel to select your pals and then fire off their own unique abilities in combination with each other.
Our Guardians can store four move, with each being situationally useful for clearing out mobs of enemies or focusing down a single target.
In the heat of battle, this got a bit complex, and our sluggish brains and unfamiliar muscle memory couldn’t keep up with the digit gymnastics to get really effective. After several hours we finally fell into a rhythm with it and we were weaving our abilities in between gunshots, but it will take a while.
The abilities do feel suitably powerful, and can be further upgraded with skill points to make them more powerful. Each Guardian falls into a vague archetype to help you out.
Groot is a support-type, healing you and locking down enemies to make them vulnerable. Gamora is a single-target destroyer that does huge damage to larger enemies and bosses. Drax is your disruptor, staggering foes to help you finish them off with a final combo. Finally, Rocket is your group damage dealer armed with grenades that can clear out multiple targets together.
The bosses are a highlight of the story, with well-thought out gimmicks to make each one slightly different and forcing you to rethink a strategy beyond “just shoot the hell out of it”.
There’s one particular boss that was our favourite – we won’t spoil it here– but it’s against a huge character from the Marvel universe that cranks up the epic sense of scale and pushes your reaction time to the limit.
Play through enough of the story and you’ll unlock a final attack for each character that is totally over-the-top and wonderfully overpowered.
We’ll let you discover these for yourself, but as a teaser, Rock’s mega-move arms the tiny racoon with about 50 oversized machine guns that will easily clear out an area of minions in seconds.
Do enough damage in a fight and you’ll be able to call all the guardians into a big huddle. This is basically a chance to get a brief power-up to help you kill a boss or clear a room, and it’s awarded for completing a little riddle.
Successfully solve the puzzle and your team will be given a buff to wreak even more havoc. If you fail, only you will get the boost and a few derogatory comments from your team.
It sounds complicated and weird, and it is, but that is generally what Eidos-Montréal is setting out to achieve within the chaos of combat in this new game. Some banging ’80s track will then rip from the speakers, and you’ll be doing double damage to your opponents for a short time.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review – Dialogue
One of the highlights from our time with Guardians of the Galaxy was the dialogue and interaction between the characters. Through our play-through there was barely a silent moment as the team bickered and argued constantly, regardless of whether we were in combat.
There were some genuinely funny moments as we explored the levels, even when the Guardians were literally just screaming at each other because we were idle for just a few seconds.
There’s also the ability to somewhat direct the story by choosing your own responses during key moments in cutscenes. Is Nova Corps asking you to finally pay up your fine? Opt to pay up and unlock certain dialogue options later down the line, or keep the money to yourself and receive a stern glare from the galactic police.
These decisions don’t drastically impact the story much, and might only give you slight variations, but they are fun additions that keep you engaged in an already brilliant story.
There aren’t too many secrets to be found or much exploring to be done outside the main mission path, though you will find upgrade materials to unlock special perks and boxes throughout the missions to reveal new skins for your Guardians.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review – Verdict
If, like us, you’re sick of the wave of open-world exploration games that seem to pile up on our console hard drive, you’ll likely fall in love with Guardians‘ tight story and gameplay.
It’s refreshing to find a game absent of a littered map full of 500 points of interest, and we enjoyed not constantly being distracted by side-quests. Guardians of the Galaxy has an excellent story to tell, and the pacing moves at a fair clip to keep you interested, even if you’re not a particularly big Marvel fan.
However, if you are, there are plenty of easter eggs and hints to the wider universe, and we genuinely marvelled (pardon the pun) at some of the inclusions.
We recommend heading to the Collector’s museum at some point to check out Frog Thor, Heimdall’s sword, and a bunch of other fun memorabilia you’ll recognise –we are now hoping for a sprawling cross-referencing game that draws all of the greatest comic book heroes together, but we suspect that might be several years away.
If we had to gripe, the combat gets a little generic after you get through the middle chapters, and you’ll quickly learn that only a few of the powers are truly worth using to clear a room. We also feel it’s a misstep to not have sections of the game where you can play as the other Guardians. A hacking mini-game as Rocket, or a chance to plough through enemies as Drax would have been a laugh, but alas, you’re stuck to Star-Lord.
It’s also a shame that this game isn’t a co-op experience to give you a chance to play along with a buddy or two and role-play as your favourite heroes, but we understand why the game is a solo experience. You have this chaotic mix of guns and banter as you feverishly button-mash to kill your opponents – this is exactly what we expected from a Guardians of the Galaxy game when we heard about it, and we love it.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows on October 26.
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