Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is out now on PC, PlayStation and Xbox, and it’s been one of our favorite AAA games of the holiday season so far. Here’s why, based on our time with the PS5 version.
When Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was announced by Square Enix, we wondered how much it would be like Marvel’s Avengers, which was also developed by Eidos Montréal. Because while we had a lot of fun playing that game and it was gorgeous to look at, it also felt a bit detached from what made the most recent Avengers movies so great. It was nice to have a new protagonist, but we didn’t see enough of some of our favorite familiar faces. Some of Marvel’s biggest stars felt a bit underdeveloped (from a narrative perspective), and it didn’t help that they didn’t have the visual likeness of the actors that portrayed them in the movies that launched not long before the game did.
Guardians of the Galaxy also doesn’t feature the faces of Chris Pratt of Zoe Saldana as Star-Lord and Gamora, but as non-human characters Rocket and Groot look near-identical and Drax isn’t far off either. More importantly, however, Eidos has grasped what made the movies so successful. They’re not the best Marvel movies by a long shot, but they’re super fun to watch, with tons of humor and the best soundtracks you’ll find in the Marvel universe. Those elements translate perfectly to the game we played here.
As with Marvel’s Avengers, the development team has tried to do its own thing here, which means the name Star-Lord now pays homage to a fictional metal band from the eighties and Gamora has different personal issues than the ones we’ve gotten to know about in the movies. All of that has seamlessly woven into the gameplay as well, and will be drip-fed to you during and in between missions. Because the outcome of missions also affects the conversation you have, everything feels very organic as well – like you’re really an evolving group of rogue guns for hire going on an interstellar adventure.
An area where the developers stayed close to the movie material is in the tone of the narrative and conversations, as the game is full of sharp humor and moments that capture the essence of the individual characters and their interactions. With radically different personalities, it’s certainly a colorful cast, and how they interact, clash and bond makes them so beloved – it’s a credit to the writing that that element was captured so well in this game.
But although you have choices to make in conversation that will affect how the crew interacts, the adventure itself is linear in nature. This makes Guardians of the Galaxy feel shorter than the Avengers game did, but with a more tightly directed narrative that is better suited to the source material than the semi open world structure of that game. It also helps in making sure none of the missions and locations feel generic, with some great visual designs for the exteriors you visit as well as the interiors – your space ship in particular being a highlight.
The “fun factor” of the narrative and characters translates well to the gameplay, which eschews difficulty and tactical combat for some old school button mashing and explosive on-screen action. The moveset is diverse enough and you can employ the special abilities of other characters as well, but you’ll be fine just mashing away and there’s no steep learning curve that forces you into multiple retries either. The only times we had to reload a saved game, in fact, were cases where small glitches stopped us from progressing – a small blemish on an excellent game that will no doubt be polished away post-launch.
We haven’t even given a shoutout to the soundtrack though – which is an integral part of Guardians of the Galaxy in movie form and returns here. Surprisingly, it’s not just a narrative mechanic that plays during story scenes, but also features in combat, where you can charge up a special movie that activates Star-Lord’s walkman and blasts out classic tunes like Never Gonna Give You Up, The Final Countdown and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. Some of these tunes are so much fun to listen to that I caught myself running away from a bad guy just to make sure the fight (and song) didn’t end before the song was over.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a tremendously fun ride and captures the essence of the successful movies very well. It should resonate with fans and is one of this year’s top action adventures.