First off, we should state that we were big fans of the 1980’s incarnation of the toys and cartoons, and, while the movie this game is based on has gotten mixed reviews from both the the professional reviewers and fans, we found it generally entertaining. When we were offered the chance to review the game that tied in with the movie, we said sure! Anything to continue the story and help us re-live some of our boyhood fantasies.
The game, like most movie tie-in games, does not completely follow the movie, nor does it totally adhere to the events that are depicted in the movie. Instead, the game stands on its own, but certainly the likenesses of the characters and voices are based on the actors and actresses found in the movie, along with the general plot points. This game loosely takes place following the fall of the M.A.R.S. facility at the polar ice cap from the movie and evolves from there.
Gameplay is of the 3rd person “run and gun” shooter style, with the left stick controlling your character’s movement, and the right stick controlling which of the onscreen targets you are shooting at. There’s no aiming required (which is good because this geek is notoriously frustrated with the lack of mouse+keyboard controls on console FPS games!) Generally you move your character along a pretty clearly marked path (usually some sort of canyon or hallway type avenue with the occasional branch or side cul-de-sac) shooting everything that moves along the way. Cobra troops, automated defenses, and a few vehicles will stand in your way, as well as obstacles. You fight as a two-person team, controlling one of the two Joes on the screen. If playing solo, you can switch back and forth between which Joe you control, the other being handled by the AI which does a decent job of providing fire support. The other option is to have a friend play with you in a coordinated manner to beat up on Cobra bad guys. We have to say we enjoy this sort of gameplay option and wish more games would allow for it.
The visuals are decent, and certainly functional, although it can be somewhat hard at times to pick out objects, even while playing on a large 1080P HDTV set. There are some good explosions and animations though, and character movements are quite fluid. The environments are interesting and compelling, although somewhat repetitive looking. Our biggest frustration with the visuals is the lack of camera control. There were times while playing where our character would get somewhat stuck on an obstacle and we couldn’t see what we were supposed to be firing at, or worse, what was shooting at us!
The game does a good job of tutoring new players along the way, with the first mission explaining the controls, adding them one at a time in a way that does not confuse the player with memorizing too many buttons too fast. The interface is also very good at telling you which button to press to make different actions happen (like noting to press the Triangle button when you approach a terminal to activate it.)
There are two things we really liked about the game. First off, the accelerator suits, while somewhat gimmicky in the movie, allow for short bursts of all-out Cobra butt-kicking fun in this game! Second, for fans of the old TV show and toys, you’ll find a MUCH larger assortment of your favorite Joes to play than were depicted in the movie, and quite a few of both the Joe and Cobra characters make appearances throughout the game. We really enjoyed seeing old favorites like “Snow Job” take a supporting role, or calling in air support and hearing Wild Bill’s “YA—HOO!” bellow out of the speakers. It really helped link our childhood memories to the modern version and made the game feel much more complete than the movie.
So, in the end, we found “G.I. Joe, The Rise of Cobra” entertaining, albeit with a few minor issues. It’s easy for casual gamers to pick up, continued the new story set up by the movie, and paid homage to our 1980’s childhood Joe fun. Is it a “must have?” Like the movie, if you’re a fan you’ll enjoy it for what it is. If you’re looking for a hard core challenging battle game, you might be disappointed.
We give “G.I. Joe, The Rise of Cobra” 4 out of 5 stars.