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Streamers can lose the music in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — but it does kill the vibe

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has some big departures from the MCU, but the importance of music is a throughline they both share. So naturally, in the modern age of DMCA takedowns on Twitch and other streaming services for licensed music, the game is unstreamable in its normal state. To combat this, Eidos-Montréal offers a Streamer Mode option, which either replaces or removes the licensed music throughout Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

But when music is so essential to Guardians’ mood, what does Streamer Mode even look like?

Players can toggle Streamer Mode on and off at will with a “licensed music” option in the audio menu. And the effect is immediately noticeable from the game’s start screen. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy begins with a typical “press button to start” screen, with Peter and the rest of the Guardians thumbing through music tracks on their ship. With Streamer Mode on, the menu goes silent and a permanent text block appears at the top of the screen that says “Streamer Mode: On.”

While having that text across the top of the screen throughout your playthrough might sound obnoxious — and it is — it’s the silence that’s the real killer. Music really sets the tone for the films, and it similarly punctuates the action during a playthrough of the game. When you load onto the Milano, there’s usually a classic blaring through Peter’s music player — and you can walk up to the player and change to your favorite bop whenever you want. The game offers an excellent selection of pop-rock hits from the ’70s and ’80s, like “White Wedding” by Billy Idol, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

Streamer Mode hits the mute button on all of these licensed tracks, but players can often still tell which music is meant to be playing. With Streamer Mode on, I walked up to Star-Lord’s music player just to see what would happen. “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley was playing on my jukebox, but I couldn’t hear it. I could, however, check out the album art, so I knew exactly what I was missing out on.

The start of a Huddle, where the Guardians can get powerful buffs and where music usually plays
Image: Eidos Montreal/Square Enix via Polygon

But these licensed tracks aren’t just there for some easy listening while lounging around the ship. They also play in the background of blockbuster gameplay moments and feature in a major combat mechanic. “White Wedding” blasting during a spaceship battle was a great moment during my first-time playthrough, but it’s simply not to be for streamers or fans who plan to watch the game on Twitch. Without the music, moments that are meant to pop will just sit awkwardly in silence — like when Endgame shows Star-Lord jamming out with his headphones in, looking like a jack-ass to any onlookers.

All of that said, there was thankfully at least one key sequence that was more-or-less unhindered by Streamer Mode. A little over halfway through the game, a majority of the Guardians need to sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin to solve a puzzle — seriously. With Streamer Mode on, the Guardians will sing the lyrics to the beat, but the background music that normally plays is missing, making the entire scene awkwardly a capella. But had I not just played it days before, with the licensed background music, it wouldn’t have seemed odd.

With the amount of references and humming in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s nice that Streamer Mode doesn’t require the team at Eidos-Montréal to completely rework scenes and puzzles to avoid litigation. Square Enix and Eidos-Montréal do what they need to do with the mode in order to let streamers enjoy the game. It’s not the developers’ fault that we are living through a major battle in the world of music licensing for streaming.

Streamers who only play in Streamer Mode may not notice a real difference in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, outside a few quiet moments. But knowing the moments they’re giving up on (something Rick Astley would never do), I can’t help but feel sad for them. Sometimes, I’d activate Star-Lord’s Huddle ability in combat just because I wanted something like “The Final Countdown” by Europe to play for the rest of the fight. Streamers and their audiences will never get that moment — nor will they experience the comedic twist where “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” randomly played during my Huddle in the penultimate boss fight.

Music is a mood-setter in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not a critical mechanic, and it’s not going to ruin the experience if players can’t hear it for any variety of reasons. But it helped me get into that headspace for Guardians of the Galaxy every time I booted the game up, and it’s a shame others may miss out on the ambiance.

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