Rebooting retro, 80s kids’ cartoon franchises as blockbuster live actions movies is all the rage these days, but without fail every one that rears its ugly head possesses an inherent disconnect from the brilliance of its source material. Most of these films fall somewhere along the spectrum of excruciation between having your fingernails pulled out one-by-one and having gasoline poured into your eye sockets. Initial excitement over the announcement of a new G.I. Joe film quickly turned to extreme trepidation once it became clear the atrocity that is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra would be the end result.
It seems you can’t have a kids-related action film without the requisite, horribly awful video game version to accompany it. There are some exceptions to this, but the console version of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is absolutely not one of them. The development team would have been better off scrapping the movie tie-in concept entirely and simply focusing on making a better game with the cartoonish retro appeal of the original animated series. While you can’t fault Double Helix for being stuck working within the parameters of the garbage movie it was given to work off from, you can fault it for everything else that’s wrong with the game.
The Rise of Cobra picks up shortly after the events of the film. As the game opens, G.I. Joe mainstays Duke and Scarlett set out on a mission to save fellow comrade Heavy Duty from the clutches of COBRA and follow-up on reports of the evil militant organization’s increased activity in the region. The throw-away plot builds slightly from there, though this simple premise amounts to repetitively blowing the crap out of anything and everything you encounter and saving a large number of fellow Joes who stupidly get themselves captured.
You’ll take two Joes in at a time on each of the game’s generic missions. Most of the time you’ll simply hoof it through very linearly designed, themed levels (arctic tundra, arid desert, thick jungle, etc.), slam your finger down on the fire button to pump hot lead into the nearest auto-targeted COBRA operative until they dissolve into yellow goo, and then repeat until you’re bored to tears. Once and a while you’ll get the chance to pilot various cool G.I. Joe vehicles, but they handle about as easily as trying to steer a whale that’s hopped up on PCP. Throwing rocks at your enemies would be more effective.
When playing solo, you can conveniently switch between both characters quickly. Playing co-op with a friend is a far more preferable way to punishingly plow through The Rise of Cobra, if you absolutely must. In addition to your default weaponry, you can deliver up-close melee attacks, trigger a short-burst special power that’s unique to each character, and eventually trigger a crazy Accelerator Suit barrage that pumps up both characters with superior speed and firepower for a short time. Slaying the cornucopia of robots, turrets, COBRA soldiers and other dangers thrown in your path as machinegun fodder gives you experience-like points to spend on unlocking new Joes to play – once you’ve rescued them, that is. Ultimately, you’ll basically shoot up everything around and dodge behind cover to avoid incoming fire. Intermittent boss battles change things up slightly. Oh, and you can open doors – Woohoo. Needless to say, the third-person shooter combat is highly repetitive. A quote uttered by Storm Shadow right after we blasted his face in sums it up perfectly: “this grows tiresome.”
Awful camera angles are possibly an even more formidable adversary than the COBRA forces you’ll run into at every turn. There’s really no camera controls to be found here at all, and the often distant third-person perspective doesn’t make it easy to see where to go and what you’re shooting at half the time. What’s more frustrating than the fact angle controls don’t exist, is that there are many instances where you be randomly jabbing at buttons in vain wishing they did.
The auto lock-on feature all but forces you to shoot at the same foe until they’re defeated. While you can switch to another enemy at the tap of a button, it’s hardly fluid. As we mentioned earlier, the vehicular moments in the game are truly painful to suffer through, thanks to unintuitive and sloppy steering and aiming controls.
Visually, The Rise of Cobra straddles the line between pretty decent and barely passable. The tiny onscreen text will destroy your eyes from turbo squinting, but the cutscenes are enjoyable enough. One thing that will irk old-school G.I. Joe fans is that the visual accoutrements that gave individual characters their uniqueness have been dulled down or ditched completely in favor of lame gray power suits. There’s not a lot that lets you differentiate between the two onscreen characters, and there are moments where it’s easy to lose track of your Joe and inadvertently mistake a COBRA soldier for your character. It’s as if almost every ounce of personality has been stripped out. This is more due to the direction the film took than the developer’s wrongdoing. It’s yet another reminder that new isn’t always better.
Any potential for the action-packed shooter fun that might actually be hidden in here somewhere to show its face is constantly tripped up at every turn, making for an unforgettable experience… in the worst possible way. Being inspired by 㦙 years of rich G.I. Joe history” does not immediately make the end result worthy of the G.I. Joe name. The Rise of Cobra brings that point home like nothing else. True G.I. Joe fans will want to avoid this like the plague. I almost I feel bad for the younger generation of G.I. Joe enthusiasts that are missing out on some true 80s goodness by mistaking this imposter for the real deal.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.5 Graphics
Some decent moments are marred by frustrating camera angles and less than lovely visuals. 2.8 Control
Functional controls aren’t that comfortable to wield, and the lack of camera controls is an outrage. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Not-so-hot voice acting fails to get us stoked. 1.8 Play Value
It stops being fun within minutes. 2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.