Strap in for one of the most epic gaming experiences this side of Knowhere, y’all. When director, James Gunn dropped Guardians of the Galaxy in theaters it became an instant slice of fried gold. Everything from the tone to action was a new pitch of perfection. It also gave us a world that instantly felt filled out and lived in. With just two Guardians films Gunn made it feel like he had given us space opera lore as full and thought out as Star Wars. Now, Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix repeats the feat of lighting in a bottle by striking the exact same sort of perfection with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy the game.
The story takes place 12 years after an enormous Galactic War in which the Chitauri caused hell to reign all across the galaxy. You take on the role of Peter Quill. A space pirate that recently separated from his pirate crew, The Ravagers. Following the disbanded Ravagers, Quill puts together the rag tag group of crewmates and self dubs them The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy opens with the team searching for a rare beast to capture in order to bring it to Lady Hellbender. Of course, since this is a team lead by Quill things go sideways really fast and their little hunting trip turns into a fight for everything they know.
Guardians manages to perfectly capture the films’ high flying, radical combat of the films. It can best be compared to the intro to Guardians Vol. 2, in which the team takes their turns at a giant alien. The game does this totally on the fly while being completely organic and smooth. You are controlling Star-Lord and using his Elemental Blasters while throwing in his special Cosmic Powers which is already a really great fluid experience. The game doubles down by allowing you to also give commands to your team in order for them to unleash their own unique special abilities. It’s ridiculously player friendly, and allows you to pair different characters’ attacks together to ultimately give you a very rad formula of butt-kicking and combos. This allows each character to pull their attacks together for devastating special moments where you set off a free-flowing, butt-kicking that has each character landing simultaneous blows.
Guardians of the Galaxy is as epic as Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic with just as rich of a story to tell. Its combat is closer to God of War with hints of the Batman Arkham games. That sort of combat is already all aces, then throw in the earlier mentioned on the fly team command combat, and you have all out rewarding, groundbreaking brawling.
One of the big standout moments in the game comes from the Huddle Up mechanic. This is rewarded to you for doing well in combat. Once the Huddle meter is filled, and activated, it initiates a small cut scene in which the Guardians Huddle Up. During this moment the team lets you know how they are feeling about the current bit of combat. As their leader you have to pick the line of dialogue that pairs with their comments. Succeed and you get the team fired up and perked out to fight. Quill then pushes play on his Walkman and one of his kick-butt tunes plays to rile the whole team, which allows them to perform their special moves repeatedly. If you choose the wrong line of dialogue the team gives Quill a hilarious hard time and doesn’t receive the combat buff. It’s such an awesome moment that is highlighted by this crescendo of ballad 80s rock vocals rising behind Quills pep talk. It’s a great moment that made me stand up from my seat to give an audible “hell yes!” more than a few times. Best, of all these moments never get old, each is welcome and offers a new bit of bickering dialogue.
The controls of Guardians of the Galaxy are an achievement. If you look at all the combat moves available, not to mention the on the fly team combat moves that you have to order your team mate to execute, it can look like its going to be overly convoluted and weighed down. To the contrary though. The controls are incredibly smooth and still have a punch to them that makes the entire thing feel like you are there. Best, of all this is exactly the sort of combat that the team used in the films. It’s awesome to be able to organically feel that cinematic experience in game.
Everything you choose to do and dialogue that you choose to roll with – all effects how the game turns out. Relationships that you nurtured within the team have huge consequences, but again the well-balanced experience doesn’t pull the player down with anything dower that makes you feel like one choice instead of the other might ruin the gaming experience.
Guardians of the Galaxy also got the sentimentality right on the money. Just like in the films, there are touching moments where you can talk to your crew mates about their past, and each of them has a past similar to Quills. Something that hurt them and left them an outsider. Much like the films, it comes down to this bickering motley crüe essentially being a family that nurtures each others outsider sensibilities. They are really nice and well-written moments that put a tear in your eye from time to time, but always with that positive message that they are a family… even if they give each other a hard time while proving it.
Throughout the game, Star-Lord is constantly finding hidden junk. These bits of junk range from being right in your face and impossible to miss, to off the beaten path and totally hidden. They are worth seeking out. The junk can be used by Rocket to craft perks for Quill. These perks range from Extended health to a charged up Elemental Blaster shot that can stagger enemies and do massive damage. There are a good number of these and each is worth getting… especially if you, like me have an obsessive need to complete the game one-hundred percent. While looking for junk off the beaten paths, you might also find hidden outfits for your team of Guardians. The outfits are really cool. Each calls back to clothes or looks that these characters had in previous issues of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy comics.
The more you battle and the better you do at battle; the more XP you will find yourself owning. These bits of XP assist in unlocking new skills. Each character has three tiers of skills to unlock. These are the special moves that you command your team to use during combat. When paired together in different combinations, they can result in devastating damage to your enemies. Plus, when chained together the combat looks really cool.
Quills Elemental Blasters have a life of their own. These suckers put the cherry on the combat sundae. The further you progress, the more powers the blasters will gain. These take that aforementioned group combat to the next level, by adding elements like wind, which allows you to pull enemies directly to you. This helps in situations when you are being blasted at by snipers while trying to take on the other 50 bad guys doing everything they can to end you. The design of the Elemental Blasters is seriously the stuff of nerd dreams. I would put these suckers on the list of imaginary must haves up with the ranks of lightsabers. Trust me, they are that rad.
The base crew is made up of the lovely faces from Gunn’s films. Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot and of course the ever literal and deadly, Drax. Don’t worry though the game is full of surprises and easter eggs. There are a lot of very cool appearances that are outside the box character casting… with a few truly legendary characters thrown in for awesomely good measure.
It wouldn’t be Guardians of the Galaxy without Peter Quill’s Walkman and selection of amazing 80’s tunes. Eidos Montréal Square Enix doesn’t let us down. The track list in game takes you from Motley Crüe’s Kickstart my Heart to Flock of Segal’s I Ran. It’s a larger than life bit of tunes that give the game its own signature bit of fuel.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a space epic that perfectly captures Gunn’s cinematic universe and builds and improves on it. This is the flarkin’ best game of the year. A totally rad experience that is constantly getting better with each chapter. Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix expertly crafts a masterful space opera that is as heartwarming as it is butt-ass. Don’t miss out on this flarkin’ game, y’all.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy arrives Oct. 26 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, GeForce Now, Microsoft Windows.