Games based on comic IPs have been notoriously hit or miss over the course of gaming history, but with the pop culture impact comics are currently having; there’s been a recent shift. Games like the Spider-Man series have had nothing but rave reviews, while games like Marvel’s Avengers continue the “hit or miss” trend we’ve grown all too accustomed to. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, from one of the development teams that worked on Marvel’s Avengers, has blown away all expectations I had from pre-release footage of the game, and honestly showcased what a good studio can do for a well known IP if given the proper focus and direction on the features that matter.
What made Marvel’s Avengers leave a sour taste in many people’s mouths was the focus on the “games as a service” model. This led to a subpar story, little combat diversity, and overall grindy experience that didn’t evoke the sensations of being any of the superheroes you were playing as. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy seems to have taken note of that, and focused on an entirely single-player experience that sees you playing as Star-Lord and taking control of shot calling the other Guardians. What makes this shift so poignant is the lack of a leveling and gear system for starters; there’s nothing to stop you from feeling like Star-Lord from the moment you enter your first fight. Eidos-Montreal did a phenomenal job with the fighting animations and effects, leading to combat that while simplistic, can feel dynamic. There are two health bars for enemies, one for stagger and one for actual hit points. Filling up the stagger bar stuns the enemy and if low enough on health, allows for flashy finishing moves. In combat you have access to the Guardian’s skills, with each team-mate having 3 skills to start. Star-Lord also has his own skills, accessible through a different menu by pushing in the left stick instead of the bumper. After a certain point it’s very easy to get into a rhythm of skill spamming and running around to clear hoards of enemies, but as they get tankier in the later game the fights can drag on for a long time. Thankfully there’s the “huddle” mechanic, which has to be my favorite feature of the game. When a meter is filled through combat, you can call the guardians to huddle up while lifting your cassette player. While huddled, the Guardians offer insight to the battle and say how they’re feeling. You’re tasked with giving a response appropriate to certain keywords or feelings they’re having, and if you do so correctly you get a massive damage buff and fully heal the party. Not only that, the music changes to be one of the 80s songs from Star-Lord’s mix tape. The game features about 30 different songs, and huddling up makes every fight feel like a cinematic when the song switches. It’s definitely one of the most satisfying mechanics I’ve played with in recent memory.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy not only has fun combat, but an incredible set of environments to play through. As a spacefaring crew, you’d expect to visit a variety of different worlds, and this game absolutely delivers on that front. From the first mission on the Quarantine Zone and just taking time to look around at the environment I knew the game was going to be something special. The puzzles and hidden secrets feel organic as well, and finding collectibles and parts to create upgrades can feel very rewarding when there’s a particularly complex solution. While the environments were beautiful, what truthfully stood out to me about this game was the dialogue. This wouldn’t be the Guardians of the Galaxy we knew if there wasn’t good banter, and I can assure you this game is FILLED with hilarious dialogue. Walking around different environments the characters will remark about certain landmarks, enemies, threats and overall thoughts. While looking for collectibles there are times where you’re chastised for going off-course and making the group wait for you. In some of these sessions you’re actually prompted to join in on the conversation, and each option feels like something you’d hear in the movies or in the comics. I really can’t stress how fun this made some parts of the game, and every cutscene was better for the way these characters were written. While these aren’t the same-universe Guardians from the movies, they’re just as funny- if not funnier.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy honestly blew away my expectations from the promotional material, and I thought it was weird that not much else was showcased after the fact. With Marvel’s Avengers going the way it did, I feared the worst for this game as well. With that out of the way though, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was an absolute pleasure to play through and one of the most genuinely fun games I’ve played all year. It’s certainly hard to put down once you get invested in the story and the characters, and seeing that there’s potential for games like this in the future has me excited for future titles with the Guardians IP or whatever else comes next. While there are minor grievances like some repeating dialogue, needing to reload checkpoints to remove glitched prompts from the screen, and very few pitfalls that require a reload to escape from; Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy not only is a load of fun to play, but showcases some of the best of what the PlayStation 5 has to offer.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 5