We’ve had no shortage of good Marvel Comics-based video games. Between the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series (yes, even 3), the Capcom VS series, The Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction, and a slew of decent to great Spider-Man games, you ain’t starved of options. When I heard Square Enix was taking a stab at Guardians of the Galaxy, I was iffy. Most of it was due to the less than stellar reception that their Avengers game received and has continued to receive since launch. But then I saw a bit of it and was interested. It at the very least gave off “this feels like a good Game Pass game” vibes. I can tell you after playing through roughly the first third of the game: it didn’t have to go this hard, but I’m so glad it did.
The primary example/microcosm of this is the fact that there’s an in-universe band called Star-Lord that was created for just this game. And they made an entire album that whips serious ass. It shows a willingness to go above and beyond what’s expected and it pays off like gangbusters. And this is done in context to everything, from the visual style to the writing to the gameplay. It reminds me of how Spider-Man felt when that game first came out, with it using tried and true methods executed incredibly well to showcase a love of the property on display. The best example is writing.
The writing in Guardians is my favourite kind as shown in Backbone and Psychonauts 2: every word has its purpose and is executed to the best of its ability. From the gate, the way the principal cast interacts with each other is excellent, all feeling like actual people who are in this situation and are making the best of it. Between Quill’s genuine attempts at helping the team, Drax’s dry wit, Gamora being super deadpan and Rocket and Groot being a double act, you see the bounce off of each other in interesting and funny ways. These all lead to some incredibly funny moments, like Quill and Rocket holding a bet to see who can kill a certain number of “ship eaters” and the rest of the team taking bets whiles the mission is going down.
But a lot of this wouldn’t matter if it also wasn’t a good game. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out the Guardians of the Galaxy was in fact, a good game. Marvel’s Avengers kind of burnt me with its “serviceable gameplay tempered by no variety”, but what we have here is surprisingly fun from what I’ve played so far. It’s a third-person shooter where you mainly play as Star-Lord but can issue commands to the other members of the guardians. Groot can snare enemies and make bridges, Drax can move heavy objects and stagger enemies, Gamora can deal obscene damage and cut through obstacles with her sword, and Rocket can hack electronics, fit into enclosed spaces and blow things up with various munitions.
These all mesh incredibly well with Peter’s blasters and rocket boots because this game likes to throw a lot of enemies at you. And I mean a lot. In the few fights I’ve gotten into, they’ve managed to all range from chaotic to absolutely wild, especially when our weaving the abilities of the other guardians with your elemental shots to take advantage of the enemy’s weaknesses. And this is complemented with a series of upgrades of all of the Guardians’ abilities and the Huddle Up ability. The way Huddling Up works is that you, like Quill, give the team a pep talk that gets them back in the game, amped up and ready to kick more butt. This is signified by Peter playing a song from his mixtape containing any one of the game’s licensed tracks (or a track from the Star-Lord Album if playing in copyright-free mode), This also resets all of your cooldowns on abilities and brings the rest of the team back to full Health. It’s the most ridiculously rad thing I’ve seen in a video game in a while and I love it.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy makes a damn good first impression if the first third of the game is anything to go by and I’m definitely gonna come back to this in the future. Between the writing, characters, and chaotic gameplay, this feels like the kind of game that, much like the Guardians themselves at times, should not work by any stretch, but it does and I love it because of it.