Square Enix’s take on the squabbling, Avengers-adjacent crew is a winning mix of action-adventure and character-led drama – and beautifully rendered

It’s fair to say that Square Enix didn’t have the smoothest entry into the Marvel Universe. The company’s Avengers-themed online action game has had problems with bugs, matchmaking and endgame repetition, and is struggling to retain an audience. But most critics agreed that its story and characterisation were strong; they just didn’t belong in a live game. Guardians of the Galaxy, due out next month, is the developer’s chance to redress the balance and remind Deus Ex and Tomb Raider veterans about its skill with single-player, cinematic stories.

The story is classic Guardians, in that it’s based around a minor misdemeanour that quickly transforms into a colossal cosmic drama. A demo of the game, set in its fifth chapter, has the squad arriving at a police station to pay an overdue fine. Before touching down, you can explore the Guardians’ spacecraft, the Milano, a beautifully rendered mess with scratched floors, junk strewn everywhere and a 1980s boombox perched on a shelf. It looks lived-in and chaotic, like a slightly dysfunctional family home, which is very much the vibe Square Enix is going with for the whole game. This is an action-adventure, but it’s also a sort of soap opera – a character-led drama.

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