What's Hot: Interesting attempt at Contra-style arcade gameplay
What's Not: Mediocre in every way imaginable
Crispy Gamer Says: Fry
Let's cut to the chase: " G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is terrible. It's a typical tie-in that intends to sell copies solely because the name on the box coincides with a recently released movie. The game inside is entirely irrelevant and colossally mediocre. This is that special brand of terrible game that's just competent enough to be forgettable. It doesn't have the advantage of being notoriously terrible and therefore worth bringing up from time to time in future discussions. You know, conversation pieces like "Daikatana," "Enter the Matrix" and "Master of Orion 3."
Now that I've obliterated any interest you might have in reading this review -- after all, it's mostly the worst games that make for the best reviews -- I'm going to assume you've left, suitably informed that this terrible thing isn't worth your time or money. Fair enough. The only people still reading must be the folks who have a vested interest in the tie-in to a G.I. Joe movie. Maybe some folks at Hasbro, some of the developers, or possibly someone working on another franchise curious to see how the competition is doing. I'm glad you guys are still here, because I'd like a word with you.
GIVE HIM THE STICK
I understand what you're doing. I really do. The real money is in franchises. Especially money from foolish youth and parents of foolish youth. They spend on " Star Wars," "Transformers," " Harry Potter," "Pokemon." So you know to come at them from all angles, shunting them from one property to another. The Harry Potter books direct kids to the Harry Potter movies, which direct kids to the Harry Potter videogames. But it's not a straight path, regardless of which came first. The Harry Potter movies can direct kids to the books, for instance. The Pokemon games can direct kids to the, uh, cartoons (there are Pokemon cartoons, aren't there?). It's a latticework. And also a net. For money.
But one corollary of the fact that videogaming is maturing as an industry is this: It's still immature. There are a lot of foolish mistakes going into game development. Take, for instance, the "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" videogame. No one playing this game is going to want to see the movie or buy the action figures. This is a dead end for your franchise and not a starting point. It might scrape together a few bucks for you people, but it won't endear anyone to your franchise.
This didn't have to happen. But you, Hasbro and Electronic Arts, signed off on a lazy, frustrating, poorly thought-out design with nothing to offer people who've actually played good videogames. It's not going to support DLC. In fact, the kid stuck with his unremarkable lemon is going to turn it around at GameStop and bolster the used-game industry. Congratulations, EA and Hasbro! You have failed your franchise and betrayed the publishers who hate used-game sales.
DON'T GIVE HIM THE STICK!
Now don't feel bad, G.I. Joe videogame. This is a common mistake. Let me explain what you did. Your first mistake was not understanding the appeal of G.I. Joes. I'd say kids dig G.I. Joes for three things: 1) varied little dudes with varying equipment, 2) nifty vehicles for them to ride in, and 3) cool playing spaces such as headquarters and enemy bases. You, G.I. Joe videogame, attempt almost none of those. I say "almost" because you made a token effort to model different Joes by having the characters use different weapons.
But none of these has as much character as even a 6-foot-tall action figure. Backblast lobs artillery shells and Snake Eyes gets a katana when he does a melee attack and Muzzleflash gets an assault rifle and Chainfeed has a minigun and so forth. But when I'm playing, it makes little difference. And there's not much character in the animation, or the voice work, or the different abilities. For the most part, in a game this simple, one Joe is as good as any other. Not that I've seen them all. It's entirely likely someone will only have about a third of the Joes playable once he finishes the game. But you, G.I. Joe videogame, are not a good enough game to be replayed.
PORK CHOP SANDWICHES!
You started out well enough. It's a solid idea. Make a Contra-style shooter played by two characters at a time, with full co-op support on the same television (there's no online support). Make it arcadey. Put in some vehicles. Focus on a scoring system. Unlockable characters with different weapons. Superpowered-accelerator-suit special attacks.
But then you decided to take out targeting. I don't aim when I play? Instead, I flick the right stick to select a target and my little Joe takes it from there? You've pretty much made me feel like a bystander whose job is to simply lean on the fire button. At least that means I have a free thumb to deal with the camera. However, I can't. You won't let me so much as nudge the camera. If this fixed-camera thing worked, it would work. You're going to make me fight things that are off-screen? That's a no-no. Who knew that G.I. Joe's greatest enemy was an intractable camera?
If you're going to be such a control freak with the camera, you should at least show me things worth seeing. But you don't. It's been a long time since a videogame could get away with a snow environment, then a desert environment, then a jungle environment, then credits. All the interiors are the same. Every level is modular, built from bits of all the other levels. I never had any sense of place. There is nothing like a set piece. Enemies spawn. Enemies get killed. Joes walk forward. More enemies spawn. You don't even vary the boss fights. Near the end of the game, the Dennis Quaid sound-alike informed me that I was approaching a Cobra base built on top of an ancient ziggurat. "Ohh, this should be interesting," I thought. "Finally!" But it was a base like any other base. You didn't even try the ziggurat. Would it have killed you to try?
You put in a couple of G.I. Joe vehicle sequences, but I feel like you weren't even trying. These vehicles have even less personality than the Joes. Your take on vehicle controls is particularly terrible, partly because of your fixed camera. It's tedious driving a tank down a corridor and holding down the fire button while everything gets blasted away. I still get that bystander feeling. Your satellite mini-game is even more mindless. I just move a cursor around the screen and blow up stuff? Really? I had the same reaction to the locked-doors gimmick, which is a bit of busywork mostly to unlock concept art. Also, the computer-controlled second character does no damage. Really? That's how you're going to play it, G.I. Joe videogame?
One day, the videogame industry will grow up and you people who want to plug a videogame into a franchise will have to rise to the occasion. You'll have to actually try to make a decent game. But until then, stuff like the G.I. Joe videogame contributes absolutely nothing when it comes to growing your franchise. So enjoy whatever lucre you get from this bauble. It comes at the cost of your franchise.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 game provided by the publisher.
RELATED ARTICLESCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun