Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy review – a marvellous adventure

The relatively basic combat and glitches spoil this otherwise enjoyable action-adventure romp

The crew of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy game

During the final battle of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, I call over the gang for a quick pep talk. Drax rants about how he craves to win a battle such as this one, and asks the rest of us to stand down so he can finish it alone. Gamora objects, seeking the glory for herself. Groot… well, Groot declares that he is Groot. I rally the others to finish the fight, hoping that the tape in Peter ‘Starlord’ Quill’s portable deck plays some fitting battle music.

So what comes on? Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.

You could argue that it’s a fittingly off-beat moment for Guardians of the Galaxy, a quirky comic book series about a chaotic neutral band of misfits doing good deeds by accident, self-interest, or a momentarily unrepressed sense of honour, but in practice it just undermines the tension. Starlord doesn’t react to the choice of song in any way that acknowledges its inaptness or plays it for laughs, and because it comes about from a truly random shuffle as opposed to the movies’ careful and deliberate curation, it is wholly inapt, rather than just inapt enough to work.

This disappointment just about sums up my time with Guardians of the Galaxy: it does so much right, only for one wrong detail to take me right out of it. The 16-hour single-player action-adventure game dazzles with spectacular visuals and a strong story. However, the simplistic combat boils down to barking orders as Peter runs around taking potshots and making ‘pew pew’ noises.

Starlord moving around an arena in our Guardians of the Galaxy review

This game isn’t an introduction to the Guardians of the Galaxy. It helps a tad to have some idea of who the team from the MCU movies are, but Eidos-Montreal’s take is probably best enjoyed if you’ve read the comics. We join the Guardians as they venture into a quarantine zone to finish a job, but to no one’s surprise, end up triggering a cataclysmic chain of events. As those events unfold, they’ll try to con a mighty warrior to pay off a fine, deal with a sentient supercomputer, and destroy a dangerous cult with some help from Cosmo – a Soviet space dog.

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So it’s got jokes, as you’d expect, and each member of the team plays their established roles: Drax takes everything literally, and Rocket space-swears like a space-sailor. But there are moments of real substance here, too; the overarching story explores themes of loss and acceptance, and it’s told very well, giving enough time to explore relationships between the Milano’s crew and their past traumas.

combat boils down to barking orders as Peter runs around taking potshots and making ‘pew pew’ noises

The decision to have one ending is odd, considering Peter’s many dialogue choices, but I like that these choices come back to either help or hinder me along the way. Unlike games like Mass Effect, in which decisions move me around an alignment system, my decisions here affect the path of future missions. For example, early on, I have to choose whether to hide a cache of explosives, or a space llama I smuggled out of the quarantine zone. While it’s technically a choice it’s also, obviously, no choice at all, and while Rocket is initially mad at me for giving up the explosives, the neon-furred camelid gives Peter a means of escape from a tricky situation later.

Pup in our Guardians of the Galaxy review

Such choices are just one way to leave your own mark on this journey. Each level has hazards and obstacles that require me to direct the other Guardians or fire one of Peter’s unlockable elemental shots to pass. Tons of secrets are hidden in each chapter, though the other Guardians will constantly nag me every time I veer a single step off the beaten track. I can use resources at workbenches to upgrade Peter’s combat abilities, and spend experience earned in combat on skill points for some light character building.

the planets and colonies are filled with colourful plant life and terrifying alien beasts

Combat rarely gets challenging. I’m in direct control of Peter Quill but can give orders to the other four team members. When I’m not ordering the rest of the Guardians to pin enemies down, slice them up, or make them go ‘boom’, I may be running around in circles with my blasters, occasionally changing elemental shot types to weaken enemy shields. But, all too often, I’m just aimlessly taking potshots while the rest of the team does the bulk of the work.

Battles become (even more) trivial whenever I enter a team huddle. Huddles always give Peter a buff, but I get further rewards for choosing the correct rousing speech. So long as my words relate to the floating words in the background, I’m able to call upon the other Guardians’ skills more frequently. It’s helpful during more challenging fights, and occasionally Peter will play some background music from the licensed ’80s soundtrack that actually fits, but I seldom use huddles as they’re usually overkill.

Chatting with Groot in our Guardians of the Galaxy review

Even though combat isn’t perfect, Guardians of the Galaxy’s levels are at least wonderfully designed. I particularly enjoy exploring the planets and colonies, which are filled with colourful plant life and terrifying alien beasts. One lovely touch is that Groot’s room aboard the Milano slowly fills with plants taken as keepsakes from different planets. Speaking of which, character designs are based on the comics, and are very well animated both in quiet moments and during action-filled battles.

Indeed Guardians of the Galaxy looks spectacular all around for the most part, though it’s occasionally marred by visual glitches. Some of the more severe glitches I encountered, such as a pivotal story moment not playing correctly, have been fixed by a pre-release patch. However, further work needs to be done. Every elevator ride I take violently shakes the Guardians – they look like they’re about to phase out of existence or spontaneously explode – and some occasionally stretched textures during tense moments distort how the game’s supposed to look. Such issues break the immersion too many times for my liking, though more fixes are promised in a day one patch.

Combat could’ve been more challenging and it’s a shame that technical issues have spoiled otherwise strong presentation, but I’ve enjoyed chatting with the crew, fighting alongside them in battle, and jamming to ’80s tunes on Peter’s portable tape deck. On the whole, Guardians of the Galaxy succeeds where it counts most.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Microsoft $59.99 Buy now Network N earns commission from qualifying purchases via Microsoft and other programs.

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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy review

Guardians of the Galaxy mostly nails the quirky tone and characters that Marvel fans will be hoping for. Otherwise strong presentation is marred by a few too many visual glitches, but if you can tolerate these and some repetitive combat, it's worth a look.

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