Considering where comic book movies are today, it's easy to forget there was a time when comic book adaptations were almost certainly expected to be subpar. The Marvel Cinematic Universe helped change that trend for films, and Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest proof it's now changed for video games too.
Guardians of the Galaxy's greatest achievement is the manner in which it captures the vibe that made the movies so compelling. Yes, it takes some time to get used to the different voices and faces, but the development team at Eidos-Montreal has taken the personas of the team established in the MCU and put them in a game so convincing it could work as an actual Guardians movie.
It's fun, has a compelling story and features an amazing soundtrack -- Guardians of the Galaxy is the best MCU game to date.
Essentially a retelling of the first story arc featured in the original 2008 comic, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fascinating blend of the movie and comic book characters we've come to know and love.
That helps those unfamiliar with the comic to transition into a universe that's a little different from the MCU. That lack of connection to the movies was one of the reasons that last year's Marvel Avengers game fell flat, but the same mistake wasn't made here. The overarching theme of the Guardians being a family of misfits carries over perfectly from the movies to the game.
While Star-Lord's new look and voice take some getting used to, you let it slide because the characters are so familiar and likable. Drax takes everything literally, Rocket is quick to get mad, Gamora is a badass with issues thanks to her adopted father, Thanos, and Star-Lord is the lovable dummy who brings the team together. Groot still has only the "I am Groot" line, but this version has many different deliveries and a hearty chuckle when fitting.
Chuckling is something I did plenty of while playing Guardians. The team members are always bickering with each other, whether in or between battles. These quick conversations start off with observations that turn into insults and outlandish responses. At points, I would just put the controller down and let the Guardians continue to talk with each other. The amount of dialogue seemed almost endless -- at least at first.
Guardians plays similarly to other action titles. You control Star-Lord, whose Elemental Guns have a standard fire and elemental attacks that unlock throughout the game. He can also melee bad guys, allowing for a mix of the three attacks to deal major damage when fighting enemies.
The other Guardians fight in the battle, but Star-Lord can call on them to do special moves, such as Drax's charge that launches enemies into the air. Each move does a varying amount of damage and stagger to an enemy, while the character is also able to knock down or do some crowd control. Abilities have their own cool downs, but if you time it right, there are some big combos that can be pulled off.
One thing I love is the soundtrack. It's packed full of '80s hits. Some of my favorites: Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out for a Hero, Billy Idol's White Wedding and Scandal featuring Patty Smith's The Warrior. This is the best '80s soundtrack for any video game.
But the music isn't implemented as well as it could be. During battles, the team builds up motivation and can huddle up. It's up to Star-Lord to decide what kind of motivation he's going to give the team -- do the right one and everyone heals and can do multiple special attacks. What's supposed to happen is that this starts a needle drop and a random '80s song plays that pumps up the player. That's just not how it works.
The volume for the music is low in comparison to the dialogue and effects -- a good needle drop rocks you and ideally draws everything else out, not the other way around. Also, these tracks start from the beginning, so there are some songs that take a few seconds to start and even longer to get to the hook. And last, a few tracks just aren't ones that pump you up. When Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry Be Happy or Culture Club's I'll Tumble For You start playing, I don't feel amped up to beat up some bad guys. I will confess that it is a little funny when Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up pops up.
The music wasn't the only thing that wasn't executed properly in this game.
The biggest issue with Guardians is the lack of quality bosses. The top comic book game franchises -- the Batman Arkham and Marvel's Spider-Man series -- have memorable boss fights because those two comic heroes have a treasure trove of compelling villains. The Guardians? Not so much. Thanos is supposedly dead in this timeline, so the biggest bad guy is out of the picture. The ones you face in the game don't feel special. There's a lack of satisfaction when beating the bosses, with a few exceptions.
Guardians of the Galaxy also featured a number graphic and physics glitches during my playthrough. I've found myself stuck in walls, had display messages overlap each other and in a brief instance saw Star-Lord's head disappear completely.
And while I love the constant bickering between characters, later in the game, it seems there's a bit of repetition. Dialogue that was so fun at the beginning of a fight started to grate in some instances towards the end of the game.
Also, what's with all the sliding throughout the game? In every chapter, there's some reason the team has to slide down to a new area. It's likely a way for developers to do seamless transitions without loading, but there are so many of them. What happened to a good old-fashioned door?
Guardians of the Galaxy is not my favorite comic book game, but it is my favorite game with MCU characters. It has problems, but the charm is there, and I hope to see more of this team in future sequels. This approach of making the characters more similar to their movie counterparts is what developers should consider when making comic book games in the future.