G.I. Joe has always had a special place for me. As a child, I owned most of the toys, watched every single episode of the animated show and read the entire Marvel comic series. It was just a matter of time until Hollywood decided to adapt it into a live-action movie. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra hit theaters recently in India and with the movie comes the inevitable video game adaptation. While there have been a couple of decent movie-based games this year (Ghostbusters, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), most of them have been entirely forgettable attempts at cashing in on a movie’s release. Unfortunately, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra falls deep into the latter category.
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Rather than going for a semi-realistic military themed action game, the developers decided to make G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra more like old-school shoot-em-ups like Contra, complete with large on-screen score counters, unlimited ammunition for guns and hordes of enemies both big and small. You get a bunch of unlockable G.I. Joes, out of which you can pick any two and take on a number of missions. It’s somewhat like 2006’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance, only that game was actually good. The concept of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is interesting in theory but falls flat when it comes to overall execution.
The game boasts a sizeable number of playable G.I. Joes, many of whom have to be unlocked by hunting for collectibles or completing optional missions and spending “Battle Points” earned by completing missions with good scores. Each Joe falls into a particular combat class. Duke and Ripcord, for example, are Combat Soldiers, who wield assault rifles, while Snake Eyes and Scarlett are Commandos, who are more agile and are better at hand-to-hand combat than others. There’s also a Heavy Weapons class featuring big guys with big guns like Heavy Duty and Backblast. Each character also has a special ability, which is unique to them and can be triggered once you have done enough damage using standard attacks. Gung-Ho will launch a special grenade which carpet bombs a small area while Snake Eyes unleashes a devastating area of effect attack with his signature katana at close quarters. The game does a decent job of making each character feel different in a certain way. However, not all characters are useful and some are just thrown in to increase the number of playable characters. There’s no reason why anyone would want to pick the almost useless Agent Helix over Heavy Duty for example.
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Majority of the gameplay involves taking your Joes through various extremely linear levels while shooting down waves of enemies with the occasional boss fight thrown in. The game employs a third person viewpoint and within five minutes of play the biggest problem of the game becomes apparent – the camera. Unlike most third person shooters, you have absolutely no control over the camera. The camera angles shift often based on what the game thinks is an optimal view of the battlefield, which as you may have guessed, most of the time it isn’t. Enemies regularly position themselves in areas where you cannot see them and your only option is to just blind-fire in all directions hoping that you’ll hit something. Adding to the horrible camera angles is the frustrating targeting system. You cannot aim freely in the game and targets will automatically be selected based on some weird logic where useless items such as score bonuses get precedence over a humongous enemy turret spewing deadly lasers and volleys of rockets at you. There is an option to manually switch targets using the right analog stick but it’s extremely fiddly as well since usually there are a dozen enemies and power-ups littering the screen.
If that wasn’t enough to complicate matters, the game also throws in a cover system which is more or less ruined by the fact that you cannot control the camera. Most games that employ a third person cover system have a standard behind-the-back camera, so that when your character takes cover behind an object, it is between the character and the enemy. However, in this game it is very easy for your character to accidentally take cover on the opposite side of an object placing him or her directly in the line of fire. Also, most of the objects you can take cover behind are destructible and will disintegrate after taking a few rounds of enemy fire. It’s actually better not use the cover system at all and to simply keep moving or dodging instead. There are a few instances where taking cover becomes important but for the most part running and gunning gets the job done.
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If the on foot controls weren’t bad enough, at various points in the game, you’ll have an option to use vehicles. Simply put, it’s almost impossible to use them. I’m generally not a big fan of steering in-game vehicles using only analog sticks but here the annoyance is compounded further by the fixed camera problem. Most of the time you cannot see where you are going until the game decides that the camera angle should be switched – and that usually happens after you’ve run into a wall. It’s best to just leave the vehicles alone. At times the game also throws in a satellite strike mini-game, where you need to obliterate waves of enemy forces by raining down heavy ordnance from the skies. In practice, it just boils down to moving the analog stick and pressing a button to fry enemies. Meh.
Next page: IVG Verdict