For my money, you can split the Marvel Cinematic Universe into two fairly separate camps. There’s the truly distinct films where a director makes a mark on a franchise, and there’s the ones that are run-of-the-mill popcorn flicks that probably get a bit of an easy ride from critics and audiences alike because they’re invested in the wider universe. Or, you know, to put it another way, there’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and then there’s Black Widow. These are the MCU yin and yang.
Sometimes, a film sort of occupies the middle space. Black Panther is like that to me; on one hand Ryan Coogler truly created something special. On the other hand, there’s uninspired action scenes that sort of just exist, without much justification, and lack any of the flair or inspiration of the rest of the film. Why bring this up here, at the top of a hands-on with the new Guardians of the Galaxy game? Well, because I think it’s a little like that. It’s good fun, and is clearly better than the deeply flawed Avengers game. But in some ways, it struggles to really inspire.
Guardians developer Eidos Montreal is exceptionally good at worldbuilding. In 2011’s Deus Ex Human Revolution, the studio re-envisioned a classic gaming universe with brilliant clarity and vision. The sequel wasn’t quite as good – but I honestly don’t hold the studio too responsible for that; it was clearly rushed out of the door. Ultimately, I hold them in high regard – and the good news about Guardians of the Galaxy is that all of that worldbuilding prowess is on display.