It’s no secret that Guardians of the Galaxy had an uphill battle on its hands. After Earth’s Mightiest Heroes failed to recoup their losses last year, things weren’t looking so hot for Marvel’s Rag-Tag Space Outlaws. Add to that an underwhelming E3 reveal, and you might as well kiss Square Enix’s partnership with Marvel goodbye. But, after spending a week with Marvel’s loveable band of misfits, I’m happy to report that Marvel’s Avengers is not only one of the best superhero games, but it’s easily the most entertaining game of 2021.
Without going into too much into spoiler details, let’s just say the plot has the titular heroes once again forced to save the universe from a threat that they accidentally unleashed. Much like past Marvel games, Guardians treads a fine line between letting the developers come up with their take on these iconic characters while not diverging too far from their on-screen counterparts. While this interpretation of the Guardians takes a while to get used to, they eventually grow on you. What is surprising is how much growth goes with each hero. Through the game, each of the guardians goes throughout their own character arc. Drax, for example, had his past only briefly explored in the films, but it gets much more development here, and his arc ends on a gut-punching note.
Eidos Montreal is well known for its focus on storytelling, as seen in its two Deus Ex titles, but Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t afraid to get deep, especially for a superhero game. Even some of the side characters and antagonists feel incredibly fleshed out. The plot is still relatively light-hearted, filled with the constant back-and-forth batter that the team is known for, but the few moments of hefty drama are handled gracefully and don’t feel out of place.
Compared to the open-worlds and online arenas that we’ve become accustomed to, Guardians of the Galaxy is a refreshingly linear adventure. The only diverting paths lead to extras, such as costumes, data logs, and currency. The latter is used to upgrade Star-Lord with various perks, such as slowdown after dodging and improved shielding.
While the straight-forward adventure sprinkles combat sequences throughout, there are a few diversions that help things from getting stale. You’ll have to partake in environmental puzzles that have you using one of the Guardian’s unique abilities, like having Gamora use her acrobatics to help Star-Lord jump up a platform or having Drax use his strength to move something from point A to B. None of these sections are too taxing on the mind, but they’re a nice break from the walking and shooting you’ll partake in.
You’ll also have the option to pick from various dialog choices. While some are simple responses to progress the story, some conversations will allow access to different routes and get extra help from other characters in specific sequences later down the line. It’s a nice incentive to spend time choosing specific lines of dialog. But even if you mess up, the story will progress mostly the same, so you don’t have to worry too much. Guardians of the Galaxy is a surprising length adventure, taking around 10-12 hours. Once you pass the credits, a new game plus option opens up, and you have the option to replay chapters.
Combat is where you’ll spend most of your time, with Star-Lord as the only character you’ll control. He only has his trademark blasters, but he can use them in conjunction with his jet-boots to hover around the battlefield. Throughout the game, Star-Lord obtains elemental abilities used to stun and hurt enemies while solving simple puzzles. While you can’t directly control the other members, each has a variety of special moves that they can use. Gamora can hack up her enemies, Drax can use his stamina to stagger his foes, Rocket can use a variety of grenades to attack or set up enemies for a blow, and Groot can use his branches to fight or trap his foes.
This diversity makes combat a blast to play, with the game constantly encouraging you to mix things up, thanks to the wide-arrange of enemy types. Some are weak to Star-Lord’s elemental ammo, while others need to be staggered to deal damage. It forces you to strategically use each character’s abilities, especially since they run on a cooldown meter. It all makes for exciting enemy encounters that never get dull, even if the game is on the easy side. Death is rare since enemies spill out health cubes, but the feedback and insane carnage on display make for an exhilarating trip. After completing fights, each character can learn new moves through EXP, adding much-needed variety to each character’s move set.
The last bit of gameplay comprises small sections where you pilot the Milano for brief bits of space combat. While they offer simple entertaining throw-backs to Star Fox, they sadly suffer from stiff controls. But, even with its minor shortcomings, Guardians still provides one heck of a good time through its journey.
Graphically, Guardians of the Galaxy looks good on PS5. The environments are varied, with no two planets or space stations you visit looking the same. Each world you arrive at constantly gives you the impression of a living, breathing location, thanks to strong art direction and excellent enemy design. From the start, you’ll have the option of going quality mode or performance mode. Quality sticks to 4K at 30 FPS and never drops. Meanwhile, performance is only at 1080p, and there are some noticeable frame drops below 60 FPS, though it’s not unplayable. Hopefully, a patch will be released to fix some of these issues.
The music is filled with great licensed 80’s tracks, like Kickstart my Heart, The Final Countdown, We’re Not Gonna Take It, and even Never Gonna Give You Up. It all rocks and never feels out of place. Even the game’s main soundtrack is pretty good, fitting every major sequence with well-done orchestrated pieces.
Is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy going to win game of the year? Not really, but it’s a damn good time whether you’re a fan of the movies, the comics, or good single-player games. Eidos and Square Enix have successfully course-corrected themselves after last-years divisive Avengers game. Guardians of the Galaxy is a focused, length, and (most importantly) entertaining Super Hero romp that will make you giddy with joy to your second playthrough. So, do yourself a favor and come and get your love on with this interactive version of Marvel’s Space Outlaws.