Wow, how did this title ever get published in this "finished" state? Don't get me wrong; G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra actually looks pretty good. The character models are decently done and mimic their movie counterparts quite well, and the animation and movement are likewise fluid. So, why the bad "wow"? I know it might be hard to imagine that a game based on a movie based on an action figure line based on an '80s cartoon based on an older war comic based on an even older action figure line might not be the best caliber video game, but believe me when I say that you'll have more fun downloading the next NXE update for the 360.
I suspect that most gamers will side with me when I say that the level of expectation is lowered for most movie tie-ins. History will show that most games based on movies just tend to peter out, with the exception of a few gems like Spider-Man or maybe even Robocop. Remember that? Yeah, side-scrolling old-school style, baby.
To be honest, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra is not that far removed from its older side-scrolling cousin, Robocop. The basic premise of the game is to move through linear levels and shoot everything. Shoot bad guys, shoot barrels, shoot bunkers, shoot robots, shoot drones — just shoot everything, whether it's moving or not. It's like a more 3-D version of Ikari Warriors. Unlike Ikari Warriors, unfortunately, G.I. Joe mires what little gameplay there is behind ghastly long, cinematics where Hawk yells at Duke to obey an order, Duke says something that would inspire an energy drink commercial, then you finally press the A button and get to the shooting.
Really, that's about all there is.
While you're moving through the linear paths in each level, shooting everything, you'll occasionally pick up glowing and pulsating briefcases and objects, which unlock character bios or other in-game goodies. That allows you to then purchase additional Joes to join your team, with points that I guess are the equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese tokens. Don't ask me why you have to purchase your own teammates after rescuing them. You'd think the gratitude for saving Roadblock from a poorly designed fortress that's being defended by Cobra lackeys would be thanks enough for him to join you, but it just doesn't work like that.
You'll want to save up your Joe Bucks and buy the additional unlocked characters, though, for two reasons. First, each Joe has his own strengths that are best suited to specific terrain, with unique special moves that can be a benefit against particular Cobra forces. Second, and more importantly, it changes the scenery in the game so you don't feel quite so gypped in playing G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra in the first place.
Of course, what would a movie tie-in be without also capturing one of the biggest CGI wastes in the game? I'm talking about the Accelerator Suits. The amusing thing is that in the movie (or the commercials, if you managed to save yourself the $8 movie ticket price), the Accelerator Suits were shown in their full potential by slowing down the film, à la Steve Austin. In the game, your Joe gets shoved into the tin can and moves at double speed with increased fire power. I wouldn't expect the game to go all Matrix-y and make every boss battle an epic slow-down fight, but really, the game version of the suits is just as poor an idea as they were in the movie. What's amusing is that each Joe can wear the suit. You just have to kill enough Cobra troops for the ability to activate it. That's it. I think that would make for a very unique military proposal. I can just picture Hawk talking to a board of directors and saying, "Yes, these suits make our Joes harder, better, faster, stronger and allow them to single-handedly take down a HISS tank. But we just don't want them to use it until they kill, oh, let's say a dozen troops first."
Speaking of it, yes, there are HISS tanks. And Trouble Bubbles! At this point in the game, even the tiny things are a silver lining and keep the thoughts of your destroyed childhood nostalgia from choking too much. Likewise, a complement of Joe vehicles will occasionally be dropped off, allowing you to pilot them. Well, maybe "pilot" is the wrong word. You know those old remote control cars that very young children have, where the car inches along and is tethered by cable to the "remote" control? That's how the Joe vehicles drive. Forget Forza or even Grand Theft Auto; the driving mechanism in this game is just horrible. The only real plus is that you'll be able to speed along to your final objective and get that much closer to being done with the game.
One of the few things that actually saves this game is the offline co-op. Normally I'd blast a game for its poor multiplayer options or lack of forethought, but this is actually the perfect type of game for having a friend over and playing side-by-side. I mean, if you're going to suffer through it, you may as well have someone else have to deal with it too. In all fairness, the two-player mode works well because otherwise, your second non-played Joe tends to have some fairly stupid AI and is more likely to shoot your bunker than a trooper if the angle is off.
When you're playing solo, which will likely be very often because no one is really going to want to play the game with you, you'll be able to switch from your primary Joe to a secondary with a quick button tap. It's a little clunky at times, often requiring a couple of button mash attempts to properly switch, but it works well enough. You don't have to switch, really, since health regenerates over time, as is the norm now with video games. Of course, you will occasionally get zapped by something that you just can't see properly because of the camera angle.
And that brings me to the biggest flaw in this rollercoaster train wreck of a game: The camera. Oh merciful heavens, the camera. You cannot control the camera at all. It's so unnatural and awkward that it's almost infuriating that anyone at EA thought it was a good idea. Sure, in two-player co-op mode, I understand the need to force the camera to a track, but in a single-player campaign, it's just downright terrible. It doesn't get any better when you try driving any of the vehicles, either, because not only are you dealing with bad driving controls, but you've also got a camera that could care less about where you're actually trying to drive to.
I'm sure I've painted a fairly bleak picture for you here with G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, and I believe I'm being more fair than a lot of other players who I've talked to. The graphic models are decent, the voice work is above average, and there were good intentions in building the IP on the franchise. The problem is that the entire game feels cobbled together and misses the target on a lot of very important things, like fun. If you're really a glutton for punishment, you could beat the game in a single 10-hour sitting. You could probably also stare at the sun for 10 hours. The graphics wouldn't be quite as good, but I bet you'd have more fun and at least wouldn't have to worry about seeing a game or movie sequel for the Joes.
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