"The Expendables" is a perfect fit for a video game. The movie's non-stop action and plethora of one-liners seem tailor-made for a video game, but unlike other blockbuster films, the original never had a video game tie-in. With "The Expendables 2" due next month, the same mistake isn't going to be made again, as we'll have a video game tie-in to coincide with the movie's release. While the game is a shooter, it will only be available as a downloadable title instead of a retail one.
Ubisoft brought a preview build to a Comic-Con press event, and it showed off all you really need to know about the game. The game is an isometric twin-stick shooter where you play the roles of either Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) or Yin Yang (Jet Li). The co-op aspect is permanent, so if you can't find others to play with you either offline or online, you'll always have the computer AI backing you up. Drop-in co-op is also supported.
Just because this is a twin-stick shooter, however, doesn't mean that it strictly adheres to the genre's rules. You have a regenerative health system and a cover system, complete with blind fire option. You can revive fallen comrades on the field, and if all of the slots aren't already taken, those who fall in battle can choose to come back as another character. Unlike other shooters, the characters have different abilities. Caesar, for example, was the only one who could set down explosives to open up new paths and clear out old ones. All of the characters can pick up weapons from fallen enemies, but their primary weapons are all different. Ross has dual pistols, Yang has throwing knives, Jensen has a sniper rifle, and Caesar has a combat shotgun that looks like a grenade launcher when viewed up close. Killing enough enemies produces a star; pick it up to get the ability to unleash a close-up kill on an enemy.
From what we've seen, this title ticks all of the expected checkboxes for shooter fans. There are lots of enemies to kill and a number of structures to be destroyed. The close-up kills look great, and there's some variety in terms of the weaponry you pick up in the field. The levels are quite lengthy, and there is a scoring system in place for those who play for more than just level progression. These are simple things to ask of a shooter, but after seeing a few recent titles that have omitted some of these requirements, it's promising to see this one adhere to the basics so well.
There are a few things in the demo that may worry some fans. The first has to do with aiming. With the exception of Jensen, no one on the team has a visual aim assist, such as a laser sight. Considering that the gunfire was often the same color as the ground and that ammo, while unlimited, does need reloading, some sort of visual cue would've been helpful. The other worry has to do with blood, or lack thereof. Though the first trailer for the game showed off lots of blood being sprayed when enemies were hit with close-up kills, nothing was seen in the demo. Having blood present would go a long way in terms of compensating as an aim assist since you'll know when you've hit your target.
There's certainly a lot of care put into the presentation. The character models for the main four protagonists look exactly like their film counterparts, and the abundant explosions look great. The frame rate holds up well despite what's happening on-screen, and even the in-game cut scenes look good. The audio is also nice, and the game plays it safe with one-liners. There was a bit of dialogue in the demo, but you never heard the same lines over and over again. It seems like some of the original cast was available to lend their voices to the game. While Stallone's voice was that of an impersonator, the voice used for Crews is either the real thing or a great facsimile.
The Expendables 2 will be available soon, though just how soon really depends on your platform of choice. PlayStation 3 owners will get to play it first at the end of July as part of the PSN Play promotion while both Xbox 360 owners and PC players will see it on their platform of choice the week the movie releases in theaters in mid-August. Expect to hear more about the game around that time.
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