They Lost Me at
Ahead of the upcoming summer blockbuster, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra video game is set to hit every major gaming platform except the PC. Rather than sticking to canon established in the past, this new-look G.I. Joe has been crafted for a new generation of fans. While this likely won’t sit well with grognards of the Hasbro IP, newcomers will enjoy the concept reboot – even though the gameplay and presentation will leave most players wanting.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a third-person action-arcade shooter from EA that continues the narrative from where the film leaves off. For those of you unfamiliar with the G.I. Joe franchise, know that you’ll take on the role of several members of an elite fighting force. This time, rather than focusing on American might, the franchise has evolved a more politically correct façade, becoming more inclusive through its international membership. Despite being stripped of its Cold War parallels and propaganda, the Joes are still pitted against the ubiquitous terrorist organization known as COBRA. This high-tech band of paramilitary miscreants has threatened the world with a deadly plot that only the Joe forces can foil.
Needless to say, storytelling is not the IP’s strong suit (there’s simply no way the movie can be any good). Nevertheless, the plot at least gives players the chance to unleash some fury with some of their favorite characters from the series. Playing through 20 missions made up of three to five checkpoints, there are several hours of Contra-like action on hand that youngsters are sure to enjoy. Unfortunately, this game is rated T for Teen. That means the game’s target audience is not technically allowed to play the title. Though three difficulty settings are on offer (hardcore does an admirable job of upping the ante), there isn’t enough polish and class to hold the attention of a seasoned adult gamer.
Throughout G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, players will blast their way from level to level, accruing points to set high scores, and calling upon the skillsets of various familiar characters. These characters are divided into three classes: Combat Soldiers, Heavies, and Commandos. Luckily, players won’t have to choose just one character or class to slog through the whole game. In fact, at the beginning of each mission players will select two Joes with whom they want to use. These two characters will work together throughout the level. Using a mix of character classes will help players advance more easily depending the scope of the mission. Eventually, teleportation modules become available which will allow players to switch out characters mid-level for an added layer of strategy.
That being said, strategy really is an afterthought in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. This really is just an excuse to blast things in the world of G.I. Joe. The devs did introduce a co-op aspect to the title that is an important feature, though I wouldn’t say it makes it that much more strategic. Sure, you and your friends can target the same foe in order to get through a section more quickly, but that’s about it for battlefield tactics. Regardless, playing the game with a friend on the couch may be a nice way to spend the afternoon for fans. Subsequently, I’m glad the devs decided to make local co-op an integral part of the game. Unfortunately, playing solo is humdrum due to the poor friendly A.I. And getting matched to other players online is not possible, as no online co-op component is available – this is a major letdown that smacks of rushed development (a classic movie tie-in misstep).
Control in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is decent but not particularly polished. My biggest complaint here is that players cede 100% control over the camera to the CPU. When will developers learn this is never a good idea? A cover mechanic is part of the game, but the only reason why you’ll ever want to take cover is to recover health. There rarely is a substantial tactical need to protect yourself, as guns ‘a blazin’ seems to be the best strategy. This is reinforced by the auto-targeting system that locks on to enemies and never lets them go. While this is a great feature for aspiring shooters, old hats will find it to be mind-numbingly simplistic. What’s more, flicking through various targets with the right analog stick is half broken. Sure, flicking the stick will make the reticule move to another enemy, but you’ll never know to which foe it will go. Inevitably, players will wind up shooting bits of cover and asinine point clusters rather than focusing in on priority threats.
The game also allows players to take advantage of a beefed up arsenal and the Accelerator Suits featured in the upcoming movie. Players will constantly gain up to three special combat actions. These simply make you more devastating for a few seconds, allowing you to rip through more challenging baddies. Further dumbing down the challenge is the inclusion of Accelerator Suits – talk about lame! By racking up kills and points, players will eventually fill a power meter that allows them to become invincible for a not-so-short period of time. By saving this ultimate powerup for ideal moments, there’s nothing aligned against you that can stop you. Truly, the Accelerator Suit foiled most of the game’s challenge, I’ve also got a feeling it’s going to be even more detrimental to the appeal of the film.
Strewn throughout the game is a load of pickups that, while adding a meta-game component to the mix, are little more than inane fodder for OCD completionists. Sure, I like the idea of unlocking concept art, cinematics, and cartoon clips, but there’s nothing substantial to make me want to waste my time. The only ones that felt rewarding were contact dog tags which allow you to unlock more playable characters. That being said, these collectibles are forced fed to you, requiring no investment in time other than advancing the plot.
Presentation in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was simply not where it needed to be. Visually, the game is polluted by fuzzy resolution, poor textures, featureless environments, stilted animations, and meager cinemas. The graphics are acceptable for facilitating gameplay, but they’re certainly not up to snuff. On the aural side, the musical themes are of high quality, as they were created specifically for the game by Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan at Monarch Audio. Hopefully the movie boasts as good a score. Ironically, voice over work was supplied by the movie’s cast, but it is some of the worst I’ve heard. Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of Hawk is particularly grating.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra isn’t exactly fan service, as it changes a lot of the conventions established through the cartoons and action figures. Still, it will likely appeal to youngsters craving to blast around the world of G.I. Joe. Too bad the Teen rating will frustrate the target audience’s chances of getting their hands on the title. The co-op functionality and the vast array of collectibles are nice additions on the surface, but being unable to play with friends online and not unlocking anything substantial keeps the experience lackluster.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.7 Graphics
The fuzzy, cookie-cutter visuals are enough to get the job done but little else. 3.1 Control
It’s technically easy to blast your way through this game, but the auto-targeting feature and CPU-controlled camera could have used a lot more work. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While the musical themes are solid – an obvious highlight of the game – the voice over work is painfully kitschy to listen to. 2.8 Play Value
Twenty missions, lots of collectibles, and co-op play can’t make up for the fact that this is a forgettable title. 2.9 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.