G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Also on Xbox 360
The G.I. Joe team try to get themselves dishonorably discharged from this game while Cobra slightly rises, at least more so than the movie.
I've been a fan since the old G.I. Joe cartoon was airing back in the 80s and had a healthy collection of figures when I was young. These days I'm not so much into the cartoon, as the series hasn't held up as well as I had hoped, but I regularly read all the comics and collected the 25th Anniversary figures. I had heard the game was bad, but I'm such a G.I. Joe fan, that I was going to play the game regardless of how bad it was. Sometimes fandom can be a cruel, cruel mistress. Whatever bad things you've heard about the game, it's actually worse when you play it yourself. There are may spoilers about the game and some of the movie, but my recommendation for the game is that you do not play it. Ever. So with that in mind, keep reading.
I canít tell if The Rise of Cobra the game is a sequel of sorts to the movie or an extremely alternate telling of "the rise of Cobra." Cobra Commander, Destro, and The Baroness have not been captured by G.I. Joe. If they were previously and escaped, there is no mention of it. Beside, The Baroness is still evil. You capture them as you progress through the game, well, the major players except Cobra Commander. The core game story focuses on a mysterious terrorist organization growing in power that is using M.A.R.S. technology. At the center of this is the MASS device. The classic M.A.S.S. Device storyline is re-told in movie-style game form, which is a nice idea for the old fans. A mission for the Weather Dominator is also thrown in.
I can appreciate what the developers were going for when they designed the game. At the game's best times, it feels like Konami's classic G.I. Joe arcade game from 1992. If all EA had done was update that with new graphics it would have been awesome. Unfortunately, those feelings of classic Joe awesomeness end up being few and far between with all the game's problems. The Rise of Cobra is a run'n'gun game with a cover system. You run around, shoot guys, shoot vehicles, and when there is too much enemy firepower or your health gets low you can hide behind some cover. Of course, neither the running, nor the gunning, or even the cover system always work like they're supposed to, but I'll come back to that later.
You choose two characters for every mission. You control one while the AI or a friend controls the other. If you are playing single player, however, you can switch between the two characters at any time. The AI-controlled character is generally invincible, so if you're playing on the hard difficulty setting, quick character switching can be an important tactic. Why would you play this on hard? Because when you play the game on hard, you earn more Battle Points, and you use Battle Points to unlock new characters. If you're a Joe fan you'll want to see who you can all play as and try them out, right? I played the game through on the had difficulty setting because I wanted to be able to unlock all the characters while avoiding having to replay missions as much as I could. I wanted to play though the entire game, but do it in as little time as possible.
Before I get to the general awfulness of this game, I want to give you an idea of how unpolished it is and how much time was spent not fixing it. Here are four of the biggest bugs I encountered during the game. I was not trying to cause these to happen, I was just trying to get through this single mission. The general outline of this mission is that you have your first encounter with the B.A.T.S., fight a Gunship, fight more troops, take a vehicle for a sloppy spin, fight more troops, play a satellite mini-game, fight a bit more, and finish.
First Attempt: Gunship battles have the ships flying from side-to-side while attacking you, flying away so you can fight some troopers, and returning to try to shoot your Joes some more. This particular Gunship battle takes place on a desert cliff. About midway through the battle, the Gunship flew so far below the top of the cliff that the characters couldnít shoot it. The Gunship would not fly back up in view of my characters, it just stayed hovering below their line of sight. The characters could target the Gunship, but that was it. After a few minutes of waiting for it to fly back up I quit and restarted the mission.
Second attempt: I reached the Gunship again. As I whittled away the Gunshipís life-bar, it flew away for a couple minutes so I could to fight some B.A.T.S. and troopers. I killed all the enemies, but right after the screen transitioned back to the Gunship, two troopers spawned directly behind me. This caused another huge problem. The Joes are unable to target anything behind them. Unfortunately, the game must have thought I was still supposed to be fighting the Vipers and did not allow me to target the Gunship at all, which I could see clear as day. After about five minutes of unsuccessfully trying to target the gunship and shooting off-screen in hopes of hitting the troopers, I quit and restarted.
Third attempt: I reached the Cobra Gunship once again. This time the Gunship flew so high in the sky that the characters couldnít target it. Instead of flying too low, like the first time, it flew to high. Same result, though: I had to quit and restart.
Fourth attempt: This time I was able to pass the Gunship without any game-ending bugs occurring. Amazing. I progressed though the rest of the stage and reached the satellite mini-game sequence, which is near the end of the stage. I defeated every wave, however, once I destroyed the last B.A.T., the game would not transition back to the regular game. I was stuck. If there was a B.A.T. that was off-screen, it wasnít coming into view. The satellite game has a single screen that enemies move into for you to destroy with powerful satellite space beams o' death. I shot my beams along the edges of the screen in hopes that it might hit something that was just off-screen, but nothing. I waited for a few minutes and the game was going nowhere. I quit playing for the day because I was pissed, and understandably so. These are major game ending bugs that should have been fixed before its release, or had at least been addressed in a day-one patch.
There were other obvious bugs such as shots going though solid objects, but unfortunately, those game-ending bugs are not the worst the game has to offer. The worst parts of the game are actually some of the basic, core mechanics of any game, and are also the reasons I played this on hard for my play-through so I could spend as little time as possible unlocking the characters and not replay the missions.
The camera is fixed behind the characters, but not all the time. The times the game plays decently is when the camera stays right behind your character, which is when it feels like the old arcade game. Unlike the arcade game, the missions are not straight paths you follow; they arc and wind throughout the stage and the camera decides what it wants you to see. Because you have absolutely no control over the camera, many times you not be able to see you character. Many other times you wonít be able to see what is attacking you. Still other times you wonít see your either character or what is attacking you. Assigning a button to re-center the camera behind the character or the ability to have a free camera like in nearly every other third-person game would both have been easy fixes.
The targeting system is broken beyond belief. It's an auto-targeting system with its own questionable priorities, priorities that can get your characters killed quicker. Throughout my play-through I was able to determine those devious priorities. As an example; There are four enemies, a point box, and a barrel on-screen, this is the priority of what the targeting targets: point boxes, barrels, least threatening enemy, second least threatening enemy, second most threatening enemy, and finally most threatening enemy. Yes, the most threatening enemy has the least amount of targeting priority while a point box has the most. A Viper could be shooting you from point blank range, but the game would rather target a point box a mile away than the Viper shooting you in the face. To switch to a different target you flick the right analog stick, but it seemed like no matter what direction I moved the stick, it always cycled through the objects and enemies in the order I listed above.
G.I. Joe and Cobra have had some of the coolest vehicle history since their 1985 debut and you get to drive some of them in the game. Except it's not nearly as cool or fun as it should be. I am completely serious when I say this: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has the worst vehicle control of any game I have ever played. Acceleration, braking, moving forward, moving backward, and turning are ALL mapped to the left analog stick. Everything except shooting is all in the same place. It's atrocious. You can switch the controls to vehicle to be vehicle relative or camera relative, but the results are the same. Whether youíre attempting to drive a Hummer, Snow Cat, Tiger Cat, or MOBAT, they all feel like the same piece of junk. What the hell was wrong with just using traditional vehicle controls? And thank God you never have to operate a flying vehicle in the game. I can only imagine how abysmal that would be.
Another problem is that two of the buttons perform multiple tasks. I have played man games where one button is used many different things and is context-sensitive. there were many times in this game, however, that I was worried that if I pressed the button, if I was going to get the reaction I wanted. The first example is that the same button that puts your character behind cover also makes them perform a rolling dodge move. There were plenty of times when I was trying to get behind cover to recharge my health when my Joe would do a roll right into the line of fire. Other times I was rolling out of the way of fire and my Joe got caught taking cover in front of the cover, which is to say my Joe was a sitting duck. The second example is found when you want to open doors or use terminals as this same button is used to activate the Accelerator Suit. A meter slowly fills as you kill more and more enemies. When it's full, you can activate the Accelerator Suit for maximum firepower and running power. However, if you have a full meter and want to open a door, you could accidentally activate the suit if you're not standing in the exact right spot in front of the door, even when the "Press Triangle to open door icon" is displayed. This happened a few times. I must also note that when you do use the suit, a grand versions of the classic G.I. Joe theme plays at an especially loud volume. It's easily the loudest thing in the game. Even if your volume is turned down low your neighbors are sure to hear this music.
The voice acting is inconsistent. Sometimes it's decent, while other times it's so bad that it harshly stands out against everything else that may be happening in the game. Scarlett mutters the driest, most unalarmed and insincere ďOh no,Ē Iíve head anyone say when theyíre under attack. Everyone says "The Baroness" weird, too. They all over-emphasize the "ness" so they say, "The BaroNESS," sometimes even on the verge of shouting the "ness." It gets annoying very quickly The voice they used for Firefly is borderline unbearable as you feel like your ears are being molested with a rusty rake. On top of all that, this leads me to another large problem. The Vipers or M.A.R.S. troops say various things as you fight them. Many times, however, they donít stop talking even though they are dead. Hereís an example: There was one M.A.R.S. trooper alone in an area. After I killed him he said six separate lines of dialogue. There were no other enemies on the screen or near my characters as it took about a minute or two of running to the next area that had an enemy. This single enemy spouted off six phrase after he was dead. Just amazing. The sound effects are also inconsistent. Some sounds seem muffled while others are unnecessarily loud.
There are many cinematics that use the in-game graphics, which look okay, but are nothing special. When the game switches to a CG movie, the visuals take a huge dive. For example, the satellite mini-game transition appears to be PlayStation 1 quality. That's right, not PS2, but PS1. That's just inexcusable for a any game nowadays.
You get to play as the movie characters of Duke, Scarlett, Heavy Duty, Ripcord, and Snake Eyes. If youíre a Joe fan that collects the action figures, you would have noticed many movie-styled action figures of characters that were not in the movie. In the game you get to play as them. You can unlock Gung Ho, Backblast, Helix, Shipwreck, Beachhead, Kamakura, and Sgt. Flash. I must mention that Kamakura has an eye-insulting bright green and yellow costume. I wish the game was better because Helix and Flash are both such great characters to use. Each character is placed into one of three classifications: combat, heavy, and commando. All the characters have a special move weapon, such as Helix's bubble shield, Gung Ho's rockets, and Snake Eyes' super ninja attack. Some moves are more useful than others and you'll figure out which characters you prefer.
You do get to hear from other characters in the Joe-verse. Because I know you are curious, here is a list of the characters you donít play as, but other characters talk to during missions: Snow Job, Lift-Ticket, Tunnel Rat, Dusty, Wild Bill, Breaker, Recondo, Stalker, Data Frame (wearing the most ridiculous head piece of any Joe), Dial Tone, and General Hawk.
Cobra characters can be used as well, with saboteur Firefly joining the movie versions of Storm Shadow, Destro, and the Baroness for the unlockable Cobras. Once youíve destroyed the M.A.S.S. device, you get to play a stage as Firefly, Destro, or The Baroness to escape from and destroy the Mobile Pit. Despite having the same failings as the rest of the game, I did enjoy destroying the Joesí mobile base, which I never liked anyways. Plus, when you use Cobra characters against their own troops they actually say things such as how much they hate what they're doing or are in disbelief of their actions. It's actually kind of amusing. As for the enemies you fight throughout the game, it's a lot of M.A.R.S. troopers, Vipers, red ninjas, B.A.T.S., Iron Grenadiers, Flight Pods (new robotic versions of the Trouble Bubble), robo-mines that float towards you, Gunships, and H.I.S.S. tanks. Keep in mind that everything is redesigned with a movie-style look, so if you were hoping for classic Joe vehicles you will mostly be disappointed. What else is disappointing is that Cobra vehicles seem to take more damage when you punch or perform melee attacks on them. It's a terrible realization.
The most difficult enemy to topple, by far, is the S.N.A.K.E. armor. It is a such pain in the ass to fight. You see, the S.N.A.K.E. armor is completely invulnerable except for a small piece on its back. I dreaded these battles every time because I had more trouble fighting these than any of the bosses. When you have to fight two S.N.A.K.E. armors at the same time, well, you better hope you have some great gaming skills because those battles are pure murder. There are a couple tricks that make it a tad easier, but I'll leave it to you to figure out if you want to subject yourself to such pains.
Aside from the extra characters, other unlockables include concept art, PSAs from the old 80ís cartoon, a trailer for G.I. Joe Resolute, and an all to brief making-of featurette on the music of the game. Itís nice that they have a little extra acknowledgment for the music. Dispersed in the stages you'll also find ďfile cardsĒ of the characters, vehicles, playsets (buildings & bases), and Intel to unlock them for later viewing.
So was there anything actually good about the game? Sure, there was. The music is easily the best part of the game. I never had any beef with the score as Itís very epic, sweeping, and an excellent score to go to battle to. Itís just too bad that this wonderful music is in such a garbage game. Aside from the storyline of the game, there are a few other shout-outs to old Joes fans. In one stage there are a couple of original Trouble Bubbles on the ground. You can't do anything with them as they are just part of the scenery, but it' neat to see them. The classic H.I.S.S. tanks also make an appearance, which was also a nice surprise.
If you are as big of a G.I. Joe fan as I am, then you will probably play The Rise of Cobra regardless of the bad reviews. However, be warned, this is a very terrible game and it will take great courage and patience to see it through. There is no great payoff at the end, either. The Cobra mission at the end is a nice diversion, but it still suffers from the same failings as the rest of the game. I am only rating the game this high because the music was so good and I got to play as my new favorite Joe character, Helix.
Score: 3.0 / 10