Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Hands-on Preview — Dancing across the stars

Let’s just say I’m really glad I have a killer pair of gaming headphones. Why, you ask? Well, when you start playing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re going to want to hear every bit of the soundtrack and banter that comes your way. We were invited to preview the game by Square Enix and Eidos Montreal, and it’s amazing how assumptions can change once the product is in your hands. Yeah, Marvel’s Avengers might not have been everything it was cracked up to be, although they have really rebounded with some great post launch content, but it’s unfair to judge Guardians based on that. This is a team familiar with Marvel’s Avengers, being a support studio, but what they are crafting is it’s own invention, and a pretty dang fun one at that.

After watching a tutorial video, they threw us right into the fray in chapter five. The Guardians have just escaped from Lady Hellbender, and are going to pay their fine to the Nova Corps after trying their best to just brush it off. A member of the corps and one of Starlord’s love interests, Jor-El, has sent a message ahead, but the wonderful llama you have in tow (wut?) has chewed up your array cables, scrambling it, and left you blind heading to meet her. Some of what she was saying did seem a bit odd, but maybe it’s just the bad connection?

When we exit the cutscene, we’re finally able to move about the Milano, Starlord and co’s ship. This seems like it will act as your hub in between missions, where you’ll be able to talk to the crew, upgrade your weapons and abilities, and even better, hit up the jukebox for a bunch of delicious music. There’s everything from Aha’s “Take On Me”, to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, to Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”. Those who have paid a lot of attention to the Guardians at least recently know that the tunes are a huge part of their DNA, so it’s nice to see this be a cornerstone of the experience, besides the fact I can jam out in the Milano.

While I didn’t take part in messing around with the upgrade systems (I’ll be honest, that’s on me, totally missed them in all my excitement), I did go through some of the cabins. Seeing each area dressed up appropriately was really cool to see, with Starlord’s own cabin being messy and featuring a good bit of 80’s memorabilia. The cool thing about moving around the ship is the encounters you have with the other Guardians.

There were several moments with Gamora in particular where she opens up about her past, talking about Thanos, turning on him, as well as asking Starlord about what he was talking about when I picked up what looked like a watch band in Starlord’s cabin. It feels very alive, and that’s good news for people wondering how this version of the squad will be. The same thing happens when talking with Drax, who is still taking things too literally. One of the funniest moments was walking into the bathroom a second time and finding Rocket using Starlord’s toothbrush. I was almost dying laughing as he talked about it fitting into “small cracks”, as well as his “gross negligee” comment at the beginning of the level. Good on Eidos for preserving another part of what we expect from the Guardians.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy | Story Trailer

Once you’ve landed at the Nova Corps space station, it’s time to move your way through the chapter. As far as I can tell, everything you’re going to do in a level is linear, no open world to explore. But where the game does open up your choice is with dialogue options that can change up the way situations unfold. This occurs randomly, and can be completely ignored in some situations, being a button press that initiates Starlord entering the conversation. These play out somewhat similar to a TellTale game, with fewer options but possible consequences depending on what you choose. For example, Starlord picks up a Nova Corp helmet that’s lying around as they’re searching for someone to pay the aforementioned fine. He can hear some chatter over the comms, but it sounds pretty odd. You have a choice, talk back in hopes of getting someone’s attention or saying nothing. I chose the former, and the rest of the Guardians weren’t thrilled I’d given away our position. It’s a neat addition, especially given you’ll be able to replay levels and make different choices.

Turns out, there’s a reason there was no one around on the space station. When a squad of Novas come by, they have glowing eyes and are talking just as funny as before on the radio. Well, they’ve been brainwashed by something, so the Guardians yet again are in a mess and have to fight their way out of it. This is where the game steps it up outside of just being a standard action game, with plenty of variety to the combat.

Let’s walk through this a little bit. As Starlord you’re going to be firing away with your blasters as you use your jet boots to maneuver around the battlefield. That doesn’t mean you just need to hold the right trigger though, because there are multiple systems in play to keep things spicy. First, ammo types. Your top right bumper is an alternate fire, featuring one of four ammo types you can use. This is important to note because you will face enemies that have a different ammo type icon next to their health bar, and using that will make your regular shots more impactful. For instance, there were enemies using ray shields, but the ice ammo type almost immediately knocked it offline, and it was important to use it to freeze them in place so they couldn’t get it back online, then finish them off with regular blaster shots. I only got to use the one, but I’m looking forward to how much having them all available influences the later half of the game.

Besides that, your team is incredibly important to victory. Each one of them is going to fight on their own, but directing them to use one of their special abilities can change a fight. The Guardians attacks look to be like your ammo types, with up to four available for each of them, but in this demo I had one for each squad member. Rocket had a grenade that could affect multiple enemies, Groot could use his branches to hold baddies in place, and Gamora and Drax hurled themselves with reckless abandon at our foes, with Drax’s attack causing extra stagger. Similar to something like Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance, it’s beneficial to make sure you’re saving these moves for moments where you might need them the most.

Even though they’re not player controlled per say, the Guardians can still be downed, either held in place by a trap that you have to get them out of, or completely spent and needing a revive. This is where the “Huddle” ability comes into play, a sort of ultimate ability that Starlord has. Once you “raise your tape player”, the other Guardians huddle up, talking about how tough these opponents are. It’s important to pay attention to what they’re saying, because you’re going to choose a speech to make, and if you get it right, not only will the team spring back into action, you’ll all have a damage boost for a while. Thankfully, even if you mess it up they’ll be back in the fight, but only Starlord will get the extra advantage. Oh, and having some 80’s goodness play after a huddle only makes it better.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the fights, but everything put together is a lot of fun to play. This isn’t necessarily going to be revolutionary for third person shooters, but for a superhero action game it’s hitting the right buttons. Once I got the hang of Starlord’s movement, as well as the systems at play with the ammo types and team abilities I was flying around and shooting up everything that moved. There are some enemies that can be a pain and a bit bullet-spongy; the heavies with shields were annoying, but if you pay attention and do your best to use the tools at your disposal you’ll take them out fast enough. There are also environmental moves you can find occasionally, with Drax throwing an explosive barrel, or team up finishers that are an easy button combo that will pop up over the enemy.

What really brings everything together though is the setting and characters. Playing through an empty space station with space cops wouldn’t be a ton of fun by itself, but add the Guardians and their hilarious banter to it and it’s a heck of a good time. While it’s just one level, none of the back and forth feels forced or overly repetitive, an area Marvel’s Avengers struggled with. Some of it is certainly the choice to go with something single player, but all that really matters is that it works, plain and simple. Obviously we have to see if this manages to hold up over an entire game, and I’m sure a couple of lines are going to repeat during large battles, but first impressions are that it won’t be that bad.

So, the real elephant in the room is the look of the Guardians. Anyone following the Marvel run of games understands how Marvel’s Avengers was received once it was revealed, mainly with a lot of memes making fun of the design of the Avengers. It’s not that they looked bad, but after eleven years of movies it seemed like the expectations of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes came from the value menu, and it led to plenty of backlash. I’ll be honest, you could easily apply the same logic here, but you probably shouldn’t. While your four squadmates really can’t be changed that much to assuage comparisons, Starlord has undergone a pretty hefty makeover, and any resemblance to Chris Pratt is sheerly in attitude. This is generally where I bring up my Spider-Man games speech, we don’t complain about Tom Holland not being the model for previous games (even if the recent change brought it closer), and those are fantastic. As long as you give me a comic book story and keep the characters accurate in their portrayals I’ll be happy, and it feels like that’s where Eidos is going. Also, I like Starlord’s almost Grease look.

There’s plenty more we could say about the game, but the easiest way to sum it up is that I’m looking forward to playing the game again. A puzzle isn’t built up of one or two pieces, that’d be pretty boring, so I’ve only seen a bit of what Eidos is assembling. That being said, the picture is starting to become clearer after this preview, and it’s going to make a pretty picture if it continues being this fun. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy launches October 26th, 2021 for PS5, PS4, XBOX SERIES X|S, XBOX ONE & PC.

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David Burdette is a gamer/writer/content creator from TN and Lead Editor for Gaming Trend. He loves Playstation, Star Wars, Marvel, and many other fandoms. He also plays way too much Call Of Duty. You can chat with him on Twitter @SplitEnd89.

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