I love Marvel, and Guardians of the Galaxy is one of my favorite franchises. As such, the surprise announcement in the summer that the galaxy's finest band of misfits was making it into their very own video game met with two reactions. The first; glee. But that was also met with trepidation. Coming from Square Enix, publisher of the Avengers game that saw notably mixed reception, I was nervous that one of my favorites wouldn't live up to the hype.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is not like Avengers. It could be further from it. It's a single-player, story-driven game, much closer to Sony's exclusive Spider-Man titles. There's no need to worry about another live service title.
There's still a lot that needs to go into making a good Guardians of the Galaxy experience though. Fortunately, the team at Eidos Montreal hasn't just delivered — they've knocked it clean out of the park. If you were waiting for another great superhero game on Xbox, it's now here.
Bottom line: Guardians of the Galaxy looks good, sounds great, plays well, and above all else, is an authentic experience based on Marvel's misfits.
- Stunning visuals and level design
- Amazing soundtrack
- Authentic writing and character interaction
- Fluid combat system
- Xbox Series X|S enhanced
- Fantastic accessibility tools
- Cosmo is the best boy
- Slow pacing at times
- No options to skip cut scenes
- Ray tracing mode missing at launch on console
Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Square Enix. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The (spoiler-free) story
As a single-player, story-driven title, the narrative is integral to the player's enjoyment of the game. This review will be spoiler-free, with no plot details revealed and no characters discussed that haven't already been made public. There are plenty of details not revealed prior to launch and we're not going to spoil any of the surprises.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: What's good
I could talk about this game for hours, and equally, I don't want to say anything because I think everyone should take a run at this fresh. But that would make for a terrible review so...
Starting from the top, everything about Guardians of the Galaxy looks amazing. It's enhanced for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PS5, and the former is what I've experienced. You get two modes for the visuals, at least for launch, with either quality or performance to choose from. The performance mode gives you a silky smooth 60 FPS which — trust me — is the best way to play this game.
If you look closely you'll be able to spot some differences in graphics between the two, but overall, it's small enough that if you can play it at 60 FPS, you're going to have a much better time.
Besides high-quality visuals, the level design is absolutely fantastic. When the environment needs to be dark and gloomy, it is, when it needs to be bright and colorful, hoo boy, it really pops. Each different environment has its own very unique style. The first mission is a standout for its pink space goo everywhere, while the hustle and bustle under the lights of Knowhere helps set the tone. The game follows a linear path, but there is still scope to explore a little, hunting for collectibles, lore, and interacting with various NPCs.
Then comes the music. If you're familiar with Guardians of the Galaxy you know how important music is to Star-Lord and it's no exception in this universe. Here, Peter Quill takes his moniker from a fictional band called Star-Lord, his favorite as a teenager growing up. The developer team could have left it there, but the attention to detail is no better exhibited than the fact they actually formed the band and recorded an original, 80s rock album for the game. It's amazing. Honestly, I've been listening to the tracks already released on repeat in my car.
|Title||Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy|
|Game size||41GB (Xbox) 85GB (PC)|
|Playtime||25 hours (additional New Game Plus mode)|
The full soundtrack goes far beyond this, though. It's chocked full of 80s bangers from the likes of Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, and Rick Astley. You haven't experienced anything like shooting space baddies while "Never Gonna Give You Up" pumps out of the speakers. For content creators, there's a toggle to turn off the licensed music and while it does affect the overall experience, it means you can stream the game or make as many YouTube videos as you want without fear of pesky copyright infringements. You should definitely play it at least once offline though, the music makes a difference.
The writing is equally excellent. The Guardians of the Galaxy have their own team dynamic and the Eidos Montreal writers have captured it beautifully. As you progress through the game the relationship between them changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but there's a real arc to it. By the end of the game, the team feels different from when it began.
The details are there, too. The way Quill and Rocket rub each other the wrong way, constantly, the way Drax is extremely literal, and the way Groot is, well, Groot. As you walk around the Milano, the characters will quip at each other. If you go off exploring you'll be shouted at for going the wrong way. If you're struggling with a computer Drax even suggests the IT classic technique of turning it off and on again.
Dialog is a huge part of the experience and has actual consequences. It's not quite "choose your own adventure" but your decisions have consequences. Decisions made at one point may have an important impact later on. It also adds a dose of replayability, because I know for sure when I hit the New Game Plus mode (yes, it's included at launch) I'll be making different decisions on purpose just to see what alternative outcomes may look like.
The teamplay extends into the game's combat system, too. Admittedly, at first, I was as disappointed as many others that you can only play as Star-Lord. But it works. His position as the team's leader is an integral part of everything, but you still have some control over the other Guardians in combat and to call upon their own individual skill sets as you progress. Each character has their own abilities to unlock and Star-Lord can call upon these during battle. Once you remember the button combinations, it becomes second nature to send Gamora off to slice and dice or Rocket to drop something explosive on the enemy.
Happily, starting the game at the beginning makes the combat feel less frantic and confusing than it did during my initial preview where we were dumped in the fifth chapter. The game does a grand job of explaining the mechanics to you and holds your hand just enough as you learn to utilize the strengths of each member of the team. When you hit the later stages with everything unlocked and much, much battling under your belt, you'll find it's a really fluid combat system that matches the challenge perfectly.
As an extra to the abilities, Star-Lord has a number of perks that can be crafted at workbenches throughout the game and each costs materials that you'll find without too much trouble. If there's a side passage somewhere, go down it, chances are you'll find some, or better, one of the many unlockable cosmetics.
That's right, all the cosmetics are in the game, even the ones that come as a pre-order bonus. There are zero micro-transactions.
Guardians of the Galaxy also has some pretty strong accessibility tools including one of the best difficulty selectors I've ever seen. It goes far deeper than just choosing "easy" or "normal" difficulty, various aspects of the gameplay experience can be customized. If you want to keep the overall difficulty the same but do more damage, you can. It's both surprising and refreshing to see such an approach, making this truly a game anyone can enjoy.
As I said earlier, I could talk about this game for hours. But I won't, I'd rather you went and played it instead.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: What's not good
Fortunately, Guardians of the Galaxy is overwhelmingly good, very little bad. Even so, there are some things which could perhaps be better. The good news is that it seems to be largely bug-free. I did encounter some issues during my review period with artifacts, usually in areas where lighting would have a stronger effect, and also some pretty rough frame dips later in the game. The day one patch has already been released though and at least from my experience has fixed things I've seen.
Having spoken to another reviewer, though, there does seem to be a potential bug that could wipe your progress unlocking outfits. This only seems to happen if you start a fresh game (not a New Game Plus run-through) in another save slot to your original one. So maybe avoid doing that for now.
The ray-tracing mode is also not present on console at launch, and it will presumably be a third option in the video settings menu. The menu mentions it but the day one patch already pushed out to reviewers specifically states that this mode is still missing.
Otherwise, there's not really much to dislike about Guardians of the Galaxy for existing series fans. Some may find issues with the overall pacing, however, and the fact you can't completely skip cut scenes. You can sort of fast forward through many, but there's no blanket option to just skip ahead to the next time you actually do something. On the first playthrough, this isn't a problem, since you really shouldn't be skipping any of the dialog or the story, but if you're in NG+ or going back to a specific chapter maybe to find collectibles you missed, it does make everything drag a little.
The overall game time is maybe 25 hours or so for a full playthrough, and then again for a New Game Plus. It never feels short, though, which is both a strength and a weakness. The story is really absorbing, but it's not so much a pick-up-and-play kind of game. Some of the chapters can take over an hour to complete, and so being able to skip some of the in-between parts on subsequent playthroughs would help.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: Should you play it?
In a world of free-to-play games, micro-transactions, and live service, the Guardians of the Galaxy come swooping in to save the day backed by the sounds of the 1980s.
If you're a Marvel fan, or even if you simply love story-driven games, this game is absolutely worth playing. While I had reservations headed into this review, there's absolutely no doubting that this has been a labor of love for the Eidos Montreal team. Guardians of the Galaxy isn't a completely similar style game to Sony's Spider-Man series, but it's close enough to matter. It's a single-player game, with no strings.
Like Spider-Man, the team behind Guardians of the Galaxy can be immensely proud that they've not only made a good game, but they've made a good Marvel game. It pays the highest respect to the franchise by creating its own take on the universe with absolutely superb writing.
It also, finally, puts another truly epic superhero game on the Xbox, something Marvel fans especially have been craving. I'm not overselling it when I say this is easily my game of the year. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a triumph and a game that truly deserves to wear the famous red and white logo. It also brought a tear to my eye, make of that what you will.
Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine