PLATFORM: PC, PS4 / 5, XBOX ONE / SERIES X (REVIEWED) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Taking a small handful of cues from the movies and comics but largely standing on its own two feet as a whole new interpretation of the now-familiar characters, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy puts you in the shoes of Peter Quill – AKA Star-Lord – not long after the formation of the team of self-professed Guardians. In the aftermath of an intergalactic war, this bunch of misfits are doing all they can to loot, scavenge and scam their way around the galaxy in an attempt to make ends meet and really just survive in the harshness of space. But when things quickly turn sour as a result of the Guardians' actions, the universe comes under threat once again and Star-Lord and his pals must own up to their mistakes while simultaneously figuring out how to save the day...
A totally linear single-player adventure (which will suit those who weren't keen on The Avengers' multiplayer-centred gameplay), GotG packs a crazy amount of good stuff into its roughly 20-hour campaign. The majority of the game's sixteen chapters involve working your way through a variety of beautifully-detailed and excellently-designed environments while taking out all manner of aliens and monsters using Star-Lord's own weaponry as well as the other Guardians' abilities. Each character has four special moves which unlock throughout the game, so you're constantly learning new attacks and different ways of dealing with the hordes of aggressive aliens that swarm you during combat encounters, and finding the most appropriate combinations of these moves is the key to success in battle. Without spoiling the fun of discovering all the possibilities for yourself, let's just say there's more than enough going on to maintain the excitement all the way to the end of the game. The Guardians' abilities come in handy while you're traversing the environment, too, lending a few puzzle elements to the game as well as allowing for a little bit of exploration into hidden areas that often contain crafting materials and unlockable costumes.
Some light RPG elements give players a little bit extra to do, with crafting materials used to craft perks at workbenches which can beef up your health and shields, add a time-slowing dodge, improve your weapon efficiency and all sorts of other things. Star-Lord is already a fun character to control right at the start of the game, but he really makes you feel like an absolute badass after you've had time to add a few upgrades and get the hang of using the guardians' powers. Think a less button-mashy version of Devil May Cry's over the top adrenaline-pumping combat transported to a goofy and brightly-coloured alternate Mass Effect universe, and you're somewhere close to the general look and feel of GotG.
Elsewhere, the excellent original score wouldn't be out of place in a blockbuster movie and the licensed soundtrack full of stone cold 80s pop and rock classic provides no end of cool-as-flark punch-the-air moments. The writing is nigh-on impeccable, and the non-stop dialogue manages to avoid the overbearing (and overacted) pitfalls that might otherwise have you reaching for the mute button in less skilled hands. The voice acting is also tremendous right across the board – there's a heck of a lot of talking, shouting and larking around going on, and throughout the game you can really feel the rapport growing between the characters thanks to the cast's fantastic performances.
There's a chance that some might find the story slightly loses its way around the middle, when excessively long cutscenes and long and pondering dialogue sections start to become a little too prevalent (really, that's the only reason this doesn't quite get the full 5 stars) but, other than that, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy – possibly unexpectedly – ticks pretty much all of the right boxes. If you're a fan of the franchise, there's no doubt that you absolutely need to pick this game up – it goes way deeper than you might expect in terms of narrative and gameplay, and might actually do GotG better than either of the movies did. Even if you're not fussed about the franchise as a whole, you'll still find a highly entertaining balls-to-the-wall sci-fi shooter that may well introduce you to a whole new world of madness and wonder. It really is an all-too rare example of a game exceeding expectations in almost every way imaginable. Flarking excellent!