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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy game could be the surprise hit of the holidays

Will Square Enix redeem itself after the Avengers flop?

The gang's all here although they look a little different than expected

The gang's all here although they look a little different than expected.

Square Enix

When Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy game, developed by Eidos Montreal, was revealed at E3 this year, it didn't win over the crowd. The lack of the familiar Marvel Cinematic Universe likenesses and some crazy aliens didn't wow those watching and gave a similar, disappointing vibe to the reveal of Square Enix's Marvel's Avengers in 2019

But now that I've actually played the game? I'm sold. 

I played through a chapter of Guardians last week and was impressed with everything it had to offer. The combat, while somewhat basic, had a strategic aspect to it. The visuals were superb, and each character was imbued with the same personality as their MCU counterparts, making it easy to overlook their different looks and voices. Its soundtrack could also become an easy favorite for me as an '80s kid. 

The chapter began with the Guardians on Star-Lord's ship, The Milano, discussing a fee they have to pay to the Nova Corps. You play as Star-Lord and can talk with the rest of the team: Rocket Racoon, Gamora, Drax and Groot. Each conversation has dialogue trees, even Groot's, although they seem designed for exposition and backstory as opposed to having some sort of effect down the line. 

After a space llama (yes, really) screws with the ship, the Guardians head to a Nova Corps outpost called The Rock. They find that the space cops aren't around, and that's only the beginning of their trouble. 

For the most part, combat is simple and what you'd find in similar third-person action games. Star-Lord can deal damage with his pistols or hand-to-hand, with pistols being preferred over getting up close. There are two shots: a standard shot that does light damage and a freeze shot. It's best to start off freezing the enemies and then laying into them in order to get max damage early on. Star-Lord also has rocket boots to dash or hover around the area, while his helmet can provide important details about the environment such as what objects can be interacted with. Rocket can upgrade his abilities once you acquire enough components scattered throughout the areas. 

Strategy kicks in when the other Guardians enter the fray. Each has their own special attacks. Rocket can shoot explosives, Drax can charge into enemies, Gamora can do big sweeping attacks with her sword and Groot can root enemies to keep them in place. Each move has its own advantages and a cooldown, so using them in a certain order can help take down enemies faster. More abilities for each character become unlockable as you progress and earn ability points. There are even environmental attacks Star-Lord can order, such as Drax throwing explosive barrels or Gamora cutting heavy boxes hanging above enemies. 

Take enemies down with the pew pew

Take enemies down with the pew pew. 

Square Enix

Over the course of a fight, a momentum bar builds leading to explosive group attacks. To help build that momentum, Star-Lord can call a team huddle, where the five huddle up, give each other some affirmations and then unleash their abilities. 

The combat was engaging, but what impressed me most were the characters. They mirror the MCU counterparts' personalities so well that, while I spent a few minutes taking down notes, I'd chuckle at the constant back and forths that occur whilst idle. Rocket is brash to hide his fear of people getting close. Drax has no understanding of sarcasm or metaphors so that's always fun. Gamora is still tough, a bit of a smart ass, but also reveals her fancy for dolls. Groot is as charming as ever, especially when he whispers, "I am Groot" while searching for something. 

As an '80s kid, I also have to point out the incredible soundtrack. It's full of actual hits from the decade, including Blondie's Call Me, Billy Idol's White Wedding and Soft Cell's Tainted Love. You can listen to the hits while on the Milano, but I hope there are plenty of needle drops featuring songs throughout the game. 

Given it's a big-budget game based on a billion-dollar franchise, it'd be a stretch to call Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy the sleeper hit of the year. But it could very well be the comeback of the year. It's a great example of coming with low expectations and leaving very pleasantly surprised.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy comes out Oct. 26 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series consoles and costs $60. The Nintendo Switch version will be available via Switch Cloud Gaming on the same day for the same price.