Marvel's continued push into video games brings an imminent new entry. If you'd asked most fans, it's unlikely they'd have picked Guardians of the Galaxy as the most likely to immortalized in a game. I know it caught me by surprise.
It's also not Square Enix's first foray into the Marvel universe, either. But Guardians of the Galaxy is no mere Avengers spin-off. It's made by a completely different studio, for one, and focusing solely on a strong single-player experience. Just like Sony's already popular (and brilliant) Spider-Man games.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy launches in October, but before that, I had the chance to sit down and spend a couple of hours playing the game for the first time. And honestly, it surpassed what I'd hoped for. The preview of the game took place in chapter 5, somewhere in the middle, and where the first signs of the Universal Church of Truth appear.
A proper Guardians of the Galaxy experience
Making Marvel games is tough. The brand has such a storied history and such an enormous, knowledgeable global fanbase, that it's hard to get it right and really easy to slip up. Before sitting down in front of the new game, my biggest fear was that it would somehow miss the mark on feeling like a true Guardians of the Galaxy experience. It's a very different proposition to Avengers, for example, but the good news is that they seem to have nailed it.
The music is one of the most important parts of making this a true Guardians of the Galaxy experience. Peter Quill's love of 80s tunes is one of his core personality traits, and in Square Enix's take on the story, he takes the name Star-Lord from his favorite band. They could have left it there, but instead, members of the audio team actually formed the band and recorded an original album. You can listen to the first track, Space Riders With No Names, right now on all major streaming platforms. Not only is it an impressive achievement, but the Star-Lord tracks sound really good.
The full reveal of the soundtrack is still to come, but besides what has already been made public, during my preview time I was treated to a little Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Billy Idol, and it's more than just background music. During the huddle (more on that below), you get a blast of very loud, very awesome music, and it's just impossible not to sit there and get your groove on. I really hope nobody was watching when I couldn't help but break out into a bit of Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up.
Along with the music, though, is the team dynamic. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a loveable, if dysfunctional, family, with Quill at the lead, and the writing from what I've seen so far is superb, as is the voice acting. Though Rocket does perhaps go a little overboard with using the word "flarking". The characters all have rich backstories which can be explored through exploration and conversation, and the team dynamics really feel on point. The friction between Star-Lord and Rocket, arguing over "my ship", the way Drax is very, very literal, the way that Groot is, well, Groot is Groot.
I could go on for hours, but the important point is that this game feels like you're in a Guardians of the Galaxy universe. When it needs to be serious, it is, but it can also be silly and light-hearted.
A fully single-player game
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a single-player game in its truest sense. Despite having a team of five characters, there is no co-op, no online play, just you. It might sound disappointing to some that you can only play as Star-Lord, and at first, that was the reaction I had. But it works. Peter Quill is the leader, he's the guy the rest of the team turns to (whether they like it or not) and his actions, his decisions, are key to the game's progression.
The rest of the Guardians will play as AI NPCs, in that they'll jump into battle and start slapping bad guys on their own, but you still have ultimate control. You have the ability to direct individual characters to attack specific enemies, and at times there will be special moves using bits of the environment you can trigger them to take on. Every character has skill upgrades to earn throughout the game, so even though you're not directly controlling them, their abilities can certainly make the difference.
There's no open world here, which is fine, but there's still plenty of scope to explore. The Milano, for example, isn't just your base, it's packed with things you can nosy into. Each character has their own room, and inside there are items that can trigger conversations into everyone's backstory. There's a jukebox where you can change the tunes, and even small details like closing the fridge door someone left open, or the "Sarcasm for Dummies" book laying on Drax's bed.
There will be collectibles to acquire, too, and no doubt related achievements. I found one called a "cold case file" on Groot, but the preview ended before I could go back and discuss it with him. Even if the answer to everything would have been "I am Groot".
As with any Marvel game, there is also a heap of cosmetics to acquire, but it looks like you'll find at least some of those out in the game's various missions, too. I came across one for Drax by exploring a bathroom of all places.
Looks amazing on Series X, challenging gameplay
My preview was on an Xbox Series X and even this unfinished, early version of the game looks incredible. It uses really vibrant colors, and the detail in both the characters and the world around them is something special. But it's not all show and no go, either.
This is actually a fairly challenging game to pick up. Sure, jumping into the middle of the game without a warm-up didn't help, but even on easier difficulties, you can get a decent challenge out of this.
Combat is a satisfying blend of melee, ranged, and tactics, with special moves to learn as you upgrade Star-Lord and mechanics to get your head around. Quill's elemental blaster will be a key component, but you're not going to shred enemies like they weren't there. Some of the mini-bosses I came up against had huge shields, lots of health, and could do more damage to you than you could to them. You have to figure out how to break down their shields and pick the right time to unload a high-damage attack.
Part of the tactics is also using the other Guardians to tip the balance in your favor. And when you charge up the necessary meter high enough you'll get thrown into a huddle. This is exactly what it sounds like. The characters all come together and you have a choice of things to say as Star-Lord. If you say the right thing, every member of the team will get a damage buff. If you don't, only Star-Lord does.
To really nail your performance you'll have to get to grips with all this as well as Star-Lords movement, and it will feel a little tricky at first. But when you get the hang of it, it's really satisfying. And it's not just combat, either, the short time I spent with the game also showed off some puzzle elements, too, and of course, a fairly intriguing story. I don't know the beginning, or the end, but I did see the first glimpse of one of the game's villains, the Universal Church of Truth, and the storyline feels well written. Of course, final judgment on that will have to wait.
Fortunately, we won't have to wait too long. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is set to launch on October 26 on Xbox, PC, PlayStation, and even on the Nintendo Switch as a cloud version. This feels like it's going to be a really strong, really entertaining, and exciting Marvel game.
Guardians of the Galaxy is also a great choice to reach out to non-Marvel fans, as it's one of the most accessible, fun franchises under the big red banner. I was excited for this game before, but having played it now, launch day can't come soon enough. This could end up being one of the best superhero games you can play.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.