August 16, 2009
GI Joe? Who the hell are GI Joe? Now I had a bunch of toys by the name of Action Force, but this GI Joe malarkey means nothing to me. What do you mean they are the same? While the cultural boundaries may have blurred a little during my childhood, and resulted in the very American GI Joe being renamed for my more gentile British tastes, that does not mean I do not appreciate how much ass those quality little toys actually kicked. This game alone brings back memories of a bunch of troops, all with their own little batch of weapons and accessories, running around in vehicles with more enough firepower to start a small war. You name it and I probably owned it, a giant Chinook helicopter? Check. Hovercraft? Check. A ludicrously large rolling fortress that folded out into a three tiered base? Hell yeah! Truly they were the pinnacle of boys toys, and now I get to see my favourite heroes again – in computerized form. Oh happy day.
Sadly my joy seems to be extremely short lived as the game is not really what I would have expected. Developed by Double Helix and published by none other than EA, this is a game that is about as formulaic as they come. In fact, while you may look at the graphics and cover system and think of it as a blatant Gears of War clone, this game seems to owe a lot more to old school games like Smash TV and Contra than anything else. To put it simply, you walk into an area and shoot everything that moves until you reach the next area. Job done you may think, but I cannot help but feel certain aspects of the license have gone to waste.
Obviously the game also ties into the movie of the same name, so the characters and such are modeled around the actors who portrayed them in the movie. What is also apparent though is that a lot of the characters share the exact same animations and very little effort has been made to differentiate them. Sure they all have a slightly different gun and secondary attack, but it is hardly enough so that you simply have to use certain characters for specific situations – in fact you could easily complete the game using the same two people over and over.
The real issue is that the whole game is just the same mission only with different scenery; as you blast everything in sight (sometimes with the help of barely controllable vehicles) and move on. Would that really be the tactic that a stealth operative like Snake Eyes would choose? Of course not. Even if you know nothing about the characters before playing this game, it is pretty obvious that a ninja would not just run around with a gun shooting manically. The game could have easily been stretched out with a few character specific missions as a nice change of pace, instead every level feels the same as the one before.
On the plus side, you can play the game with two players, although only in local co-op, so at least you can have some good times with a pal along for the ride. It does not make things that much better, but for some reason having someone slugging it out alongside you is just a lot more entertaining. If you go solo you still have a partner and can switch between them at will. Every vehicle also has two weapons for maximum carnage too. This kind of game is ideal fodder for two players to blast through in little more than a day and never look back. The replayability is zero but it at least offers a few hours of banter and thrills.
As you shoot and punch your way through the game you will also have to find a bunch of hidden intel to open up new characters for you to use and bonus missions to complete. Along the way you will bump into Cobra leaders that need a severe bashing and will also have the chance to blow holes in the enemy ranks with a fun laser satellite. Nothing too original or strenuous but at least it means you have something else on your mind other than watching things blow up. You can also use the Cobra leaders against their former lackeys which is a bit of fun, but one that comes with no real added bonus.
The game has the look and feel of the original action figures too. Which is to say that everything looks decidedly plastic and fake; none of the main character models are overly impressive and the vehicles seem to be built out of Lego (Lego GI Joe – you heard it here first. Maybe.) The scenery is drab and unrealistic with invisible barriers everywhere, not to mention the chosen locations are hardly earth shattering; ice levels, desert levels and jungle levels. The lack of innovation boggles the mind. At least the voice work is decent, as characters pop in and out of the action to update your objectives or let you know what Cobra is up to.
The achievements on offer are a rather generic bunch, and mainly revolve around missions completion and finding collectables (in the form of characters and intel). So far, so generic, but thankfully there are also a number of tasks for using certain characters, getting certain ratings and doing well in the satellite mini-games which certainly helps to spruce things up a bit. The points on offer will still be fairly straightforward for most players and if you have access to a US and PAL machine, you can even get the full one thousand twice. My main gripe would be the fact that such an obvious co-op game as this will only allow player one to unlock achievements, which is harsh on your buddy. With that in mind you will probably end up playing this solo or with a non-achievement hunting friend. If such people exist.
This is a game that could have been so much more but has been pushed down the path of least resistance. Sure, an out and out shooter can be a blast to play but it just does not seem to fit in with the series at times. Where is the stealth of Snake Eyes? Or the close combat skills of Storm Shadow? Seeing characters that are renowned for having certain skills just handed a gun and told to blow up anything that moves seems to be fundamentally wrong. You may well get some fun out of the game, I know I did, but it is not the homage to such a beloved series or group of characters as it should have been and will be a rental at best.
The voice work is decent but never more than that and the background music is decidedly low key. Not terrible but nothing exceptional either.
Exceptionally ropey, with almost identical animations for all of the characters and some cardboard looking villains and backdrops.
If all out blast fests are you thing then this game will not disappoint. It does suffer from being too easy in places and can get amazingly repetitive, but you will still have some fun along the way.
A run and gun game that really doesn’t seem to have that much to do with the series at all, you could replace the Joe characters with anyone else and things would be identical. A wasted opportunity.
A generic list but one that at least shows a bit of variety and challenges you to approach certain levels in a different way. It sucks that achievements are limited to ONLY player one though.
GI Joe is a fun shoot ‘em up for a short while, but then you will realize that you can get pretty much the same kind of action from any number of arcade titles. The action soon gets repetitive and you will have no urge to play the game again, at least having a buddy along for the ride makes things a bit more bearable.