Guardians Of The Galaxy Review: "A Flarking Good Time"
The Marvel preface to Guardians of the Galaxy may have done more damage than good, as players are still haunted to this day by the barren and empty experience that was Marvel’s Avengers. As a result, Guardians of the Galaxy has the tough challenge of convincing players it isn’t that kind of game - even if it may be perfectly suited for it. A mere hour into this Eidos Montreal outing, however, and you’ll realise you are in for a sci-fi adventure that is very very metal.
- Before you pick up this superhero romp, check out our top Guardians of the Galaxy tips
A Different Take
Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t concerned with upgrade systems or grinding the same levels over and over like Avengers. Instead, we have a sprawling yet linear tale of the now-iconic anti-heroes as they blast and bicker their way into our hearts. MCU die-hards may have a hard time adjusting to Eidos’ take on the characters, however, the Guardians here feel far more dynamic than anything conjured up in the movies. In fact, you’ll quickly forget what Vin Diesel’s dulcet tones uttering “I” and “am” and “Groot” even sound like.
To those unaware of the team's cinematic or comic outings, Guardians of the Galaxy is a standalone story, where a team of space-heroes for hire mess up in a job with dire consequences. What follows is an epic adventure that spans space battles, exotic planets and a host of interesting characters. It may be bursting at the seams with references from both film and comic, but for the most part you will be given an abbreviated intro to the who’s who of this wacky galaxy. That doesn’t mean you won’t be scratching your chin over a cosmic dog or relatively unknown characters making grand entrances from time to time.
Everyone’s Favourite Space Family
Yet Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t waste too much of its 15-hour or so campaign on anyone outside of the team itself. You play as Peter Quill, A.K.A. Star-Lord, the man-child captain with a loose grip over his team. Through some light dialogue options, you’ll be bonding and arguing, as personalities clash and the resilience of this space-family hangs in the balance. With a hard focus on the characters themselves, Guardians of the Galaxy has a surprisingly emotional core to its story. One where loss and grief shine through to create some genuinely engaging moments that make you feel a part of the team.
That focus never falters either, even as you zip from planet to space station to celestial titan heads. You’ll be in equal parts gawking over the superbly colourful visuals as you are enthralled by the latest debate over whether Rocket Raccoon should be thrown across a cavern by Drax The Destroyer. Listening to the Guardians take in what they are seeing and doing creates an immersive experience that makes the majority of its runtime fly by. Without any of the awkward pauses usually present for in-game dialogue, Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds in forging conversations that feel natural and realistic. Yet even better is that the dialogue is actually entertaining and even funny at times. It might not land every time but replacing some naughty words with the likes of “flark” and “scut” did lead to more than a few laughs.
- Want to know how long the game is? Here's our guide to the Guardians of the Galaxy chapters
Bombs, Blasters and Blades
When you aren’t arguing or fawning over impressive vistas, Guardians of the Galaxy offers a fun, if somewhat light combat experience. Each of its five characters are upgradable, with three main skills and an ultimate, although you’ll not need to do much other than play the game to unlock these skills. Star-Lord is the only one you will control, however Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot can all be ordered to pull off one of their abilities. The combat within the opening hours can be a dull affair as Star-Lord’s weak blasters tepidly eat away at enemy health bars. However, as each Guardian gains new abilities throughout the game, it enables you to mix and match them. It takes a good portion of the game before the combat really feels gets going, but when it does you’ll feel as awesome as a space-pirate should. Taking this one step further is the Rally feature, which brings your team together where Star-Lord will either deflate his team or encourage them to bring the pain to their enemies. This feature has stat bonuses to yourself or the full team depending on the outcome, but the key ingredient is one of Quill’s 80s tunes blasting through his Walkman. Tearing through cultist robots whilst Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” plays is an absolute delight, and really encapsulates Guardians of the Galaxy in a nutshell.
Not everyone is happy about Bobby McFerrin however, as the enemies themselves range from easy to mildly challenging to tear through. There are a fantastic variety of enemy types as you progress from place to place and although at their core they may function under the same archetypes - shield bearers, charging brutes, healers and so on - there is enough variety to keep things interesting. Further difficulty options are there for those looking for more of a challenge, but on the recommended settings, you’ll breeze through the majority of Guardians with ease. It’s only really in the final stretch when the bullet-sponge enemies come out to play, and they are among the dullest foes you’ll face. Luckily however, in what is likely Guardians of the Galaxy’s greatest achievement, it refrains from bogging down the player with constant waves to fight through.
A Moment Of Peace
Make no mistake, there is still plenty of blasting to be done, but mixed in with its cinematics, explorative levels, and consistent chatting, Guardians gives the player plenty of time to take it all in. You might go the best part of an hour without facing off against enemies, as you explore a vacant space ship, or mysterious cave. These moments of respite meant that the combat never became too tiring, as well as keeping its pacing up nicely. Whether it be a puzzle to figure out, a cliff’s edge to scale, or an emotional moment or two, each of its elements mesh together so that Guardians of the Galaxy rarely has a dull or repetitive moment.
With all the gushing in mind, it’s a shame that Guardians spoiled some of its moments with some technical issues. While they were few and far between, an odd missing bit of audio, a ledge that refused to let you go or a door that didn’t want to open would hinder everything else that the game was doing right at that moment. However, when it all works, it really works. There is an awe-inspiring level of detail to Guardians that will leave you staring off into the distance. Whether it is the lighting of a dangerous exotic forest or the dynamic maze of pipes within a massive spaceship. Guardians of the Galaxy knows how to make its world look cool, and it does not hold back from doing so. You’ll be switching up from combat to cutscene to new environments without a loading screen in sight.
A Fun, Contained Experience
Guardians of the Galaxy’s power really came to fruition as the credits rolled. This is a linear and completable experience that takes you on a memorable, fun, and often hilarious ride through the stars. It doesn’t do anything for the third-person action adventure genre, that you won’t find in an Uncharted or Tomb Raider, nor does it have much reason to revisit beyond collectibles and slight variations in its choice system. What it does do though is avoid the typical pitfalls of padding out content and begging its players to keep playing. Instead, you are treated to an emotional, exciting and riveting form of escapism. This is a game that not only respects your time, but respects the material. Simply put, Guardians of the Galaxy is a flarking good time.
Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.