It's a great game that's even better than the movies with an amazing story, fun combat and tons of fan-service, but serious technical issues and repetition lessen some of the fun.
Yours truly isn't a fan of James Gunn and crew's Guardians of the Galaxy movies. One of the reasons is that the jokes are far more misses than hits for my taste, so the idea of getting a ten+ hour game with those characters didn't exactly get me hyped when Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix unveiled Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy last summer. Fortunately, the game is flarkin' great. In fact, I'd say it's much better than MCU's guardians.
One of the reasons for this is obviously the characters and story. Where I think that the movies lack depth and are a bit too exaggerated, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy delivers a story filled with charm, humour, drama and action that made each of my two playthroughs fly by. Sure, some of the quips and jokes are a bit forced and unnecessary, but the misses are rare and quickly forgotten because of the great pacing and flow of the general story. Especially because you can direct the mood yourself to some degree in many cases by choosing between two or three responses in a conversation. The majority of these will just affect how the rest of that discussion plays out, but a surprisingly large amount of them also changes core parts of the story and even gameplay in true Deus Ex: Human Revolution-style. Top this with a remarkable amount of optional and random conversations you'll get by exploring the semi-open world segments and finding certain collectibles that give you the opportunity to learn more about your companions and Marvel universe, and it's safe to say I'm more excited for a sequel to this game than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
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Gameplay is still king, however, and this is one of the aspects I'm kind of torn on here. Those of you who like the Canadian developers' Shadow of the Tomb Raider can look forward to many of the same great things, as different chapters will have a nice mix of walking simulator-like sequences, combat arenas and exploration using old and newly acquired abilities. Be warned that the combat gets much better as time moves on though, as it's extremely simplistic and monotonous at first when you and your team have very few attacks and abilities to choose from. This means you'll spend most of the early hours just target-locking enemies and holding in the shoot button while activating the one special Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Groot and Rocket have every now and then. Not exactly super engaging or fun for those of us who passed the teens a long time ago, but it gets a lot better as you unlock new options through the story and spend experience points.
Mixing and matching elemental ammunition, the four different abilities of each guardians member, timing your reloads perfectly in true Gears of War-fashion to do more damage and nailing special combos is so much fun and a sight to behold that I to some degree can look past the fact that combat is built around an auto lock-on which makes the core a bit too repetitive and simplistic. Introducing new enemies and abilities help, but they don't do enough to spice up things when the only noteworthy change from the first couple of hours to hour number ten is that you'll have to destroy an elemental shield around enemies by using your special ammunition for a few seconds. This even applies to the highest difficulty level (which can be personalised to an impressive extent for accessibility's sake, by the way), so adding some flair by doing different actions and using all of the different abilities basically end up becoming something you do just for fun and added variety for your own sake. I like adding some of my own flavour and trying out different combinations while going for that "Marvellous" rating in every combat encounter, so it works better than feared for me. The cherry on top is keeping the momentum and avoiding damage so much that you can huddle up and choose the appropriate team-talk to start a beloved 80's song while your ability cooldowns are basically non-existent, allowing you to go completely berserk and annihilate pretty much everything on screen. Now that's a super hero-fantasy worth experiencing!
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Having to fight through these very "gamey" combat arenas for ten+ hours would be exhausting, which is why Eidos-Montréal has added some more calm areas in-between these sections. These allow our crew to have a ton (seriously, this manuscript must be flarkin' huge) of conversations, banter and character-building moments we can steer in the directions we want with the aforementioned dialogue options, as well as search for new outfits (including from the first movie for those of you who can't stand these looking very different), resources used to gain new perks for Star-Lord, and some lore.
There are also a couple of places solely made for fan-service where the whole point is to learn about the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, find a plethora of Easter Eggs, get some surprisingly heartfelt and well-acted moments with some of your teammates and a few other things that makes the world feel alive.
A few of these can only be found by having a keen eye and using your tools in a smart way that make you feel unique and the smartest guardian in the galaxy, but a bit too many of them are too straightforward and just very obvious side-paths that all but throw the reward in your face, making them more like boring filler than cool inclusions.
That brings me to one of my disappointments with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. The game generally lacks polish. Take the combat as an example. It is as previously stated a lot of fun, but the very designed arenas and lack of diverse enemies stops it from reaching its true potential. More uniquely designed levels and enemy behaviour once in a while would have made a big difference.
Because the aspect that suffers the most from lack of polish is the technical side. My playthroughs have been filled with missing audio, whole or parts of character models blinking in and out of existence, bad sound mixing, chapter names or other gameplay notifications being frozen on the screen when they're not supposed to (even in cutscenes), and most certainly not least, progress-blocking bugs. I've experienced the latter three times. Two of them happened because I chose a dialogue option the game obviously didn't want me to, which lead me to being stuck in areas with no possibility to progress without reloading my last save or checkpoint and choosing something else. Some of these are said to be fixed in patches before launch, but the first one only improved some of them slightly, so I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention my experience on PlayStation 5.
These shortcomings make it all the more fun to say that Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a great game nonetheless. This is easily a multi-platform answer to Insomniac' Spider-Man even if it's not quite of the same quality. The story is very engaging and fun with its fabulous acting and memorable moments, while the combat is great with its flair and style, even if it's a tad simple and monotonous. Mix in some intriguing exploration, enticing dialogue options and a ton of fan-service, and it's easy to look past many technical issues that will hopefully be fixed shortly and the lack of depth and polish to certain aspects of it. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely the best Marvel game from anyone besides PlayStation Studios yet, and I can't wait to see what Eidos-Montréal can do if it gets another chance with a sequel or other Marvel title.
8 / 10
Fun combat and exploration.
A bit repetitive and simplistic.
Serious technical issues.