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Superheroes are big these days! Some might say they’re too big, but those people have been shrunk to a miniscule size by Pym Particles and thus they think everything is too big. Personally, while I’ve never checked out many of the superhero-themed movies that are all over the place in theaters, I’ve always enjoyed superhero games. We’ve got another great example of the genre here in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
After incorporating as an official mercenary team, the Guardians of the Galaxy (Earthling Peter Quill, who goes by Star-Lord, and his sorta-pals sorta-frenemies sorta-allies Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora) are on a search for the next big take. They think they’ve found it with a mysterious creature hidden inside a protected area under the control of the Nova Corps. Sure, sneaking in and capturing it isn’t strictly legal, but was it really a crime if you don’t get caught?
That’s the kind of thing the Guardians get themselves into on the regular, and this game follows them on their many heists and misadventures throughout the galaxy.
Square Enix’s take on Guardians owes a lot to the classic Telltale adventures, particularly when it comes to how you handle most of the game’s non-combat situations. Star-Lord can choose what to do and say in many cases – and saying nothing is often a choice – which in turn leads to different reactions from the other Guardians and characters Star-Lord interacts with.
This can lead to long-running consequences that will come up to bite you later in the campaign. It’s a nice touch and takes a little of the edge off Guardians’ linearity; since the devs know what’s coming and when, they can easily put in plenty of flavor throughout. This flavor, particularly when it comes to all the idle chatter that comes up throughout the game, is the main reason you’re going to play Guardians of the Galaxy. It really nails the Firefly-esque flavor critical to the films and it lends a ton of character to all of the Guardians. Yes, even Groot, who barely speaks.
Of course, even if you’re mostly playing for that Marvel goodness, there’s an actual game here as well. It’s a third-person shooter that has elements in common with the later Mass Effect games and climb-’em-ups like Uncharted. As Star-Lord, you’ll clamber around the various bizarre places that the Guardians explore, searching for upgrades and lore-revealing goodies as you go. When it’s time to throw down, you can blast away with our hero’s iconic Element Guns, which work on a simple cooldown-based mechanic and can be loaded with various elemental ammo to freeze, burn or blow away enemies. There’s that ubiquitous dodge ability, too, for all your Souls-style needs.
Really, the more important and interesting aspect of this is when you put the other Guardians to work. In the field, their skills might help you get past seemingly unbeatable obstacles; Rocket can hack, for instance, which might get blocked doors open, while mighty Drax can lift and carry huge weights to create new platforms. This goes for combat as well, where most enemies are best dealt with using a particular Guardian or Element Gun ammo. Groot entangling quick enemies can be a big help. Gamora just straight up stabbing those same enemies to death might help even more. There’s a reasonable number of perk and ability upgrades to check out, ensuring that Guardians remains pretty enjoyable throughout its run.
Unsurprisingly given the infinite amount of resources that Marvel and Square Enix have to throw into this game, Guardians of the Galaxy’s presentation is top notch. All the characters look great, the monsters are mostly fantastic and exciting to fight and the setting design is top notch. Despite all this, Guardians’ graphical presentation is completely overshadowed by its soundtrack. Good god, the soundtrack. The soundtrack!
Most games that play on 1980s nostalgia just go for a store-brand take on the tunes of the era, but no, all the good stuff is present and accounted for in Guardians of the Galaxy. Just like Marvel’s namesake movies, the game is loaded with golden oldies that aren’t quite moldies. It’s got Wang Chung. It’s got Blondie. It’s got Motley Crue. It’s hard to imagine how much all this must have cost.
It was equally difficult to imagine how much it cost to make last year’s Avengers game, which was suffused with service-game silliness and can’t really compare to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This superhero-based game nails the feel of its source material in a way you don’t often see outside of the Batman Arkham and Spider-Man series. While the gameplay is nothing you haven’t seen before, it’s well done and propped up by the fantastic amount of detail and flavor throughout. Fans of the films and comics should definitely assemble for this one.