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“Some guys have all the luck...These are not those guys.” Back in the days when Blockbuster Video was a thing, that’s the memorable tagline that used to beckon from the VHS cover of some eternally-un-rented, probably best-forgotten comedy flick. But it could just as easily describe Marvel’s brand-new video game version of the silliest superhero squad in the MCU.
In partnership with Square Enix and developer Eidos-Montréal (the same studio behind the two most recent — and acclaimed — Deus Ex games), Marvel is teasing next month’s console and PC release of its ambitiously reimagined Guardians of the Galaxy video game with more or less that exact same slapdash idea. When it comes to an assortment of morons this moronic, it fits, too: “You got this. Probably.”
It’s a tagline meant to capture the endearing lunacy of the MCU Guardians, while also bridging for movie fans the unknown distance between the familiar films and the upcoming game. It suggests that Star-Lord’s peacock-proud, pop-culture optimism (and the backhanded way it inspires his space team) may not have much in the way of a bigger focus — but who’s reaching for idealistic goals when all the universe really needs is love (and some sweet, sweet music vibes?)
Eidos-Montréal recently opened up a generous slice of Guardians gameplay for a hands-on media preview ahead of its Oct. 26 launch, dropping us somewhere deep into its chapter-based story (Chapter 5, to be precise). It served up a primo opportunity not only to see how the team tees off against a new batch of video game baddies, but also to gauge these new guys against the big-time backdrop of their MCU forebears — a Titan-sized task if ever there were one.
After spending close to three hours bonding (and occasionally, hilariously de-bonding) with Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Tree (did we say Tree? We meant Groot of course), what did we learn? Tons, it turns out…and most of the news is really, really good. Probably.
No, you won’t hear the dulcet vocal tones of Chris Pratt or Zoe Saldana as these new Guardians swing back and forth between cooperation and bickering. Likewise, the character designs are meant to be original takes inspired by both the comic book and big-screen Guardians, which means they each have a look and flavor all their own. But it took almost no time for us to forget about the MCU and get invested instead in this new-look squad — yes, the hilariously stupefying banter and completely in-character cross-talk, at least over the course of a few in-game hours, is really that good.
In our slice of time with the game, the big character standouts ended up being Rocket, Drax (at least when there was some inane observation to be made), and — thank goodness — the main man himself. That last point is an especially big one, since Quill is who you’ll be spending most of your time with in the Guardians’ ringleader role. Messing around aboard the Milano, we even triggered a surprisingly poignant and well-acted moment between Rocket and Quill, with Rocket reflecting somberly on the science-experiment horrors that made him the raccoon he is today.
Then, in true Guardians fashion, they brushed off all the serious talk and were right back at each other’s throats — just the way we like it.
Even with no Mantis on board for the video game, the core five Guardians squad up nicely when it comes to actual combat. Though it took us a while to catch on, Quill (the sole playable character) has a deep playbook of marching orders he can choose from to work the other Guardians’ superpowers into the fighting mix. It’s not just for show, either: the rotating barrage of enemy types makes things chaotically challenging, and tapping the right hero’s unique abilities at the right moment becomes a strategic, split-second choice that can make the difference between victory and starting over (which we admittedly did…a lot).
Star-Lord’s Quad blasters came ready to rock with an elemental ice ability, a handy thing to have when a giant enemy electro-shield needed freezing. But Quill can’t do this alone, and it’s up to you to figure out whether Drax’s up-close approach or, say, Rocket’s distant sniping is more apt as an ice-breaking followup move. Either way, your entire team is always at your command — and by some cosmic miracle, what they lack in get-along chemistry they more than make up for when it comes to slicing and dicing up bad guys, squad-style.
They love the ‘80s
We don’t know what Square Enix had to do to get so much killer original music into Marvel's Guardians, but the steady stream of authentic 1980's sounds — some of it far deeper than familiar one-hit wonder fare — doesn’t just make for a terrific backdrop for this game; it even makes us wonder where it’s been hiding out all this time in the MCU. James Gunn’s curated selection of 1970s Awesome Mix tracks have propelled Star-Lord through two movies (and one titanic dance-off), but seeing the Guardians get down with a raucous rinse of pop-punk-metal tracks from the Me Decade feels supremely apt for Quill’s show-off leadership style.
We don’t want to belabor this part too much, especially with the full game still a month away from ultimately proving us right or wrong. But the clever writing and solid voice acting, sewn together with the pop-culture bliss of a 1980s jukebox filled with everything from KISS to Patty Smyth to New Kids on the Block — it all hints at something we think Eidos-Montréal has instinctively grasped about what makes the Guardians resonate.
It’s one thing, after all, to understand the comics themselves and the MCU source inspiration for games like this. But it’s another to understand the real-world, pop-culture zeitgeist in which the movies and the comics have found such huge success. Marvel’s Guardians doesn’t seem to be trying to mimic the MCU’s cool factor; instead, it seems to be carving out a cool factor all its own. It’s refreshing, and it makes us want to spend more time grooving to the beat inside Eidos-Montréal’s unique world.
Star-Lord’s alternate history
Thanks to bits of biographical shading in both MCU Guardians movies, even non-comics fans have a decent grasp of Peter Quill’s Earth-based origins. But Marvel’s Guardians shakes things up with a fun lore tweak that fully commits to a different explanation for why “Star-Lord” ends up emblazoned on the back of his red jacket.
In the game’s backstory, Quill just so happened to cut his childhood music-appreciating teeth on a fictional Earth act (one no doubt of 1980s vintage) known (surprise!) as "Star-Lord." It was his favorite band growing up, the new story goes — so when it came time to decide on a self-appointed space-hero title as the frontman of his very own band of mercenaries, he let his lingering inner-kid do the choosing.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is set to blast off on Oct. 26 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.