A Bland Offering from G.I. Joe
G.I. Joe maintains a soft spot in the hearts of millions. From the original toy line marketed to Baby Boomers in the 60s to the popular cartoon of the 80s, G.I. Joe has managed to become a piece of Americana. It’s no surprise then that such a cultural phenomenon would make its way to the big screen sooner than later, raking in a hefty sum along the way.
Look no farther than Transformers for proof. And as anyone even passingly familiar with the video game industry could tell you, accompanying any summer action blockbuster are the inevitable video game tie-ins. Unfortunately, what they could also tell you is these games rarely manage to be good. With such promising source material, will G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra manage to buck the trend? Let’s find out.
Gameplay is captured through an overhead perspective and a run-and-gun style, putting you in control of a team of Joe’s looking to stop some nefarious Cobra schemes. Each character has a standard range attack, special attack, dodge maneuver, and melee attack. Combat is straightforward, borrowing heavily from the Gauntlet series. Cobra grunts spawn from generators strewn throughout the game. Before each stage you can select from six G.I. Joe’s: Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Heavy Duty, Ripcord, and Shipwreck. Each character has different stats that are leveled up as you exterminate enemy soldiers and best the occasional boss battle. The lack of depth and variety to an already simple premise quickly makes the game feel redundant. Five of the six Joe’s play enough alike that they are only small steps away from the same character re-skinned. Only Snake Eyes with his sword attacks makes him a more unique play experience.
Graphics are adequate, if uninspired. While characters have alternate appearances, it is essentially no more than a different color to the same attire. Terrain and landmarks are passable but don’t add much to the experience. Cutscenes take place from time to time using larger avatars for each character and the likeness of the actors from the movie. Still, these are few and far between, leaving in-game characters looking rather bland.
While it’s accepted that graphics on the DS will never be as impressive as other modern-day systems, the DS is designed for innovative games utilizing both screens and the touchpad. Surprisingly, G.I. Joe fails to utilize the stylus, keeping the lower screen regulated to the map and dialogue. During missions other members of the team frequently jump in to discuss the events. These common interruptions tend to err more on the side of inconvenient annoyances than helpful story expansion. For a game being touted as built especially for the DS, there is a complete lack of utilization of the system’s strengths.
Controls are generally sticky around corners or edges of obstacles. This makes it difficult for the wrong reasons; instead of cunning and strategy, many of the game’s challenges are tricky simply because of clunky controls. Movement, while otherwise crisp beyond the aforementioned sticky obstacles, is sluggish when in a vehicle. Simply moving forward can be a chore if you lose your momentum, and it may require a running start while pressing every which way on the D-pad to get moving again.
Sound also follows the trend of decent but unspectacular. Music is there but never outstanding, and it keeps to a low enough volume to fill the space but never contributes to the feel of the game. Sounds are your standard DS action game fare with the customary explosions and gun fire. It gets the job done but brings nothing extra to the table.
For all the game’s shortcomings, it is easy enough to pick up and play while never being overly difficult or challenging. There are certainly tough situations and boss battles along the way that up the ante, but it’s never to the point where you can’t quickly get back to where you were and finish the job you started. While rated for teens, younger kids wouldn’t have any problem picking up the game and shooting bad guys in cartoon-esque violence. The game has a solid play time with over 20 missions to complete and incentives to play, as each character can upgrade their abilities along the way.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is lackluster nearly across the board with nothing new or unique. Older gamers may find it overly familiar and hope to hear a “Green Elf needs food, badly!” thrown in to confirm their suspicions. Still, it may appeal and be an adequate game to the younger, casual game crowd who was enamored by the movie. Don’t get me wrong, due to all of its flaws and unrealized franchise potential, it certainly comes up short. But for a licensed movie game, it is possible to see a demographic that will enjoy seeing their big screen heroes brought down to the Nintendo DS and not care about the flaws that tend to influence review scores.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
Average to the core. Doesn’t offend or impress. 2.0 Control
Vehicles are cumbersome, targeting can be difficult, and corners are sticky. 2.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Does what it needs to do and nothing more. 2.3
Repetitive for older and more advanced gamers, it may be appealing to younger fans of the movie.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.