G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra videogame review

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra wallpaper (PS3 game)
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra game is an all-new run-and-gun shooter based on the movie of the same name, which hit theaters on August 7th.

The videogame is developed by Double Helix and Backbone Entertainment (DS version)and published by EA for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, DS, PSP, PC and Mobile. It was released on August 4th ahead of the feature film. My review only covers the console version, the Xbox 360 version in particular. But I imagine that the other versions (outside of the handhelds) are the same.

In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra the videogame, players take control of famous “Real American Heroes” squad of military soldiers as they take on wave after wave of oncoming enemies in search for their comrades and the answer to why their previous arms dealer is now apparently working for the evil Cobra forces.

G.I. Joe is a classic brand and this is the first game to be based on the brad in quite a long while. Does the game live up to it’s name or does it dissemble upon playing like a busted action figure?

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra videogame logo

System: Xbox 360
Also Available On: PS3, Wii, DS, PSP, PC, Mobile
Released: August 4, 2009
Players: 1 or 2-player local.
Genre: Run and Gun Shooter, 3rd-Person Shooter
Save: 4MB to save your game (Xbox 360). There are 4 save files. The game saves automatically after each mission.
Online Support? No
Developer: Double Helix Games (Backbone Entertainment for DS version)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Country of Origin: United States
Rating: T for Teen because of “Fantasy Violence”.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is an intense, constant run-and-gun shooter. I was thankful upon booting the game up to find that the camera hovers high above you instead of behind-the-back like in Gears of War or other similar 3rd-person shooters.

The high camera almost gives the game a “top-down” shooter feel as you blast anything that comes into your sights. This is a positive thing in my opinion, as we have enough third-person shooters as it is.

The game is based on the movie, which I haven’t seen, but outside of the way the characters look (and perhaps the storyline), you won’t really notice that the game is based on the movie. It could just as well been based on the action figures or cartoon series and you probably wouldn’t know the difference.

To some extent the game is based on the actual line of G.I. Joe, and incorporates not only many elements from the 80’s cartoon series but also the toy line. This particularly comes into play in the unlockables department.

When you first boot the game up, you are presented with the title screen without much fanfare, and from there to the File Select screen (there are four save file slots available); followed by the main menu.

The main menu acts as your hub in-between levels. As you play you will earn Points from defeating enemies, collecting point boxes, creating combos and the like. At the end of each mission, if you have successfully completed it from start to finish (most missions are broken up into three individual parts), then the points you have accumlated are translated into “Battle Points”, and you use these to unlock new characters.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra videogame screenshot

From the Main Menu you have these choices: Team Roster, Options, Missions, Media and Battle Files.

Team Roster is where you will find new G.I. Joe characters that you can play as once you purchase them here. However in order for them to be added you must rescue them by completing a certain mission, or find them by discovering their Dog Tags hidden somewhere in certain stages.

Missions is where you will go to select your next mission. Although the missions you can do are somewhat linear (as you won’t unlock certain ones unless you finish the one before it), you will occasionally unlock additional missions and thus be given more than one choice as to which mission you want to pursue.

Media is where you can view various unlockables that you can get for completing missions or finding certain types of items hidden in the levels. These items include “Intel Briefcases” (unlock bonus missions, location concept art, character concept art, movie clips or mission data to open up the next mission) and File Cards (There are 75 of these hidden in the game, collecting them will unlock Bios for characters, enemies, vehicles, and locations/Play Sets on the Battle Files screen).

And finally, as stated above, the Battle Files screen is where can view information on all of the characters, enemies, vehicles, Play Sets/Locations and Intelligence that you have unlocked by finding File Cards.

The set of unlockables in the game is quite extensive and although most of it will probably only be viewed once, it is definitely a nice touch. I especially liked reading the bios on all the different characters, as it seems to be based on the toy line more than anything else.

While this is all well and good, I’m sure you are wondering how the game actually plays.

When you first start the game, you will only have two characters to choose from: Duke and Scarlett. As you finish missions though or find Dog Tags, you will have the opportunity to unlock 16 total playable characters. As you can see in our G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra characters list.

Some enemies have shields. Melee them to take them out. (GI Joe screenshot)

This includes not only good guys but four Cobra bad guys as well. Each character comes with their own shooting style as well as their own special attack. Not only that but there are also three types of characters: Combat Soldier (good at both Melee and Shooting attacks), Heavy (best firepower but slow movement. Strongest melee) and Commando (best melee attacks, fastest). While this may not seem like much, every character does end up playing unique and everyone will end up preferring one character over another. My two favorites are Heavy Duty and Snake Eyes.

The controls in the game took me a little while to get used to, but they are not complicated at all. You move with the left stick and shoot with the R Trigger. You can strife with the L Trigger (holds your shooting position). The X Button performs Melee Attacks/combos (simply press repeatedly, or hold to charge up a hit that knocks the enemy into the air, where you can shoot them before they fall for massive bonus points), the A Button performs a roll that you can use to dodge in any direction, and the Y Button activates your “Acceleration Suit”. This is a powered up move that makes your attacks stronger, your character faster, and gives you a “dash” ability with the A Button (in place of the standard roll). Your meter for this appears in the middle of the screen and fills up as you defeat enemies without taking damage (thus performing a combo). Once you are powered up, you can shoot an unlimited amount of missiles with the B Button, fire a chain gun with the R Trigger, do a melee attack with X and Dash with A. Finally, pressing the B Button performs your characters unique Special Attack.

The Special Attacks are all completely different. Duke shoots a grenade, Heavy Duty has a massive Chain Gun shot, Scarlette’s is a super wide homing shot, and Ripcord lays down an automated turret. After a bit of playing you will get used to certain characters and prefer one over the other, this makes the game a lot funner. It’s also interesting to mix and match certain characters, and makes the two-player co-op funner.

You can select two characters per mission, and in single-player you can switch between them by pressing the Right Bumper, although only during certain spots are you allowed to switch characters via a teleporter.

I must say that I was not expecting much going into G.I Joe, and that certainly was confirmed in the beginning stages of play. But as I played the game more and more, I really found that I was highly enjoying myself. While I hesitate to call this game great, the fact of the matter is that the continous shooting gameplay is very fun, much in the way that the Lego games are fun.

As this GI Joe: Rise of Cobra game screenshot shows, some mission objectives will have you blowing things up

Basically the game flow has you arriving at a stage, and getting briefed on what your mission is. As you play through a level various characters will continually chime in with information on what to do, what’s going on, or what you have come across in a level. The levels are linear, but some areas are more open than others. However force fields will block entry and are generally deactivated by destroying a power source nearby.

The main focus of the game is on taking out standard soldiers, robots, enemy vehicles and automated turrets, which will come at you at set points as you make your way from point A to point B. Although the game is not necessarily fast-paced, it is not slow either and you can continuously shoot an infinite amount of bullets by keeping the R Trigger pressed. Basically you will take out each enemy as they come by picking them off one by one with a stream of bullets. You can also hide behind cover by pressing the A Button. This is how you heal (though you will also heal automatically over a short period of time), and you can pop-up and shoot when behind over by pressing the R Button.

Targeting is automatic, although you can switch between targets with the right stick. Although the automated targeting generally works well, it will sometimes give you problems by targeting an enemy that you don’t intend or don’t want to shoot, and I wish there was an easier way. But generally the system works fine.

As you make your way through the stages of the game, you will come across various breakable items that you can bust open, some will contain point bonuses or Special Attack recharges. Your Special Attack, the move performed with B, can be performed up to 3 times depending on how many “charges” you have (symbolized by yellow orbs) in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

Although G.I. Joe is linear, there is still some exploring to be done within the confines of the space you are in. Tucked away in corners will be File Cards for unlocking bonuses. You will also find Point Cluster boxes scattered around the environments. These give you more points. You can either shoot them open or run into them to collect them. Although shooting takes long, some of these are “hidden” and tucked away in the environments and can only be collected by shooting them. Often times they are either tucked in a corner or hiding above you in the environment. You will find them by simply continously shooting if you are pointing in the general direction of one.

You’ll also find “Class Ability Doors”. These special areas can only be opened by a certain class (Heavy, Commando, or Combat Soldier). If you have the right class, stand in front of the door and hold the Y Button. These special Doors are the only place where you will find collectible Dog Tags to unlock hidden characters.

Because of the above items, that means that you will want to “search” each environment for hidden items. And although the game is linear and the items aren’t so much “hidden” as missable, the truth of the matter is that you will often times wander right past one if you are not paying attention or don’t seek out that elusive corner. You can check how many hidden items are in a stage on the map select screen. And you WILL have to replay levels to collect all the items, as you are bound to miss certain ones on your first play through. This gives the game some replay value for those completionists like myself.

As you are making your way through a stage and dispatching groups of foes, you will occassionally come across certain tasks that you will need to accomplish to proceed. These don’t really vary too much and they are generally what you’d expect. You will need to blow up generators to make a force-field go down, fight off a large enemy or boss (such as fights against flying Cobra vehicles, which are some fun portions), activate a number of switches around an area (remember to HOLD the Y Button for a few seconds to interact with objects. It won’t work if you just press it) and occassionally you will get the chance to ride in a vehicle or take part in a mini-game.

Vehicles in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra videogame are cumbersome

The vehicle controls are somewhat cumbersome, and often times I opted to go on foot instead of driving a vehicle. But the vehicles (from trucks to tanks) do have a lot more firepower so it is easier to take out the large machines, turrets, etc. in a vehicle than on-foot with your standard weapons (although your Special Attacks and Acceleration Suite Y Button power-up make taking out large foes quicker. And can replace a vehicle).

As far as the mini-games are concerned, they come in the form of a cool top-down “Satellite Blasting” game where enemies will appear and you must target them from a top down view and blast them with the R Button. These games are a nice break from the regular action.

Eventually you’ll also face a few boss battles with classic Cobra enemies. These fights though are nothing to write home about and come off as longer, more drawn out battles with an enemy that’s only slightly more difficult than the normal ones you fight. That is to say, I found the boss fights to be underwhelming.

At the end of a level, you may unlock various things in the Main Menu or rescue a new character (complete with a crappy, repetitive victory pose animation). You are then taking to a results screen where your points are added up and you are awarded “Battle Points” based on how many points you gained during the course of the level. Depending on what difficulty you play on, you will only be able to reach so high on the chart. With “G.I. Joe” status being the coveted “Gold Medal” rating and will award you with the most “Battle Points”, which take the form of a few emblems based on what ranking you got. Generally you will receive 3 to 5 Battle Points. You then spend them to unlock characters who cost around 6 to 10 points to unlock once you’ve found them. Your overall points score is then saved for that level. And you can play through again to beat your previous score, if you like (thankfully, this isn’t completely pointless as you can earn an Achievement for going through a level a second time and beating your old score).

The points system in G.I. Joe is part of what makes the game so fun. You can earn more points for example by charging a melee attack to knock an enemy in the air, and then shooting them while they are airborn. But if you are hit your attack will be halted. You can also gain more points by comboing enemies. This is done by killing several enemies in a row without taking damage and within a certain time limit. When you’ve performed a Score Multiplayer will fly out of an enemy. If you want to keep the combo going and add the points to your total, you will need to collect it. This can present a problem though because the Score Multiplayer item literally flies out of the enemy, and can sometimes land in a spot where it is uncollectible. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often, but it can. And it’s very annoying when it does.

GI Joe game screenshot. Fights against vehicle bosses are fun

My biggest complaint with G.I. Joe is the fact that the camera can be a huge pain. The camera is generally fixed and will pan as you move. But since the camera is fixed, that also means it isn’t controllable, and often times your view is hindered. Sometimes you’ll be heading a direction and won’t be able to see where you are going at all. Thankfully these moments are generally brief, because as soon as enemies are around the camera will give you a good view of them. But I did find myself wishing I could use the camera to look around or at least move it where I wish or pan it manually. This also means that you can use the camera to see behind crates or in corners. So if you want to find everything you’ll physically have to run around the perimeter of areas to make sure you find everything.

You also will want to be careful about proceeding ahead in a certain direction, as sometimes progression in the story of a level will not allow you to go back. So if you proceed to a certain point you may miss something and will have to go back to collect it on another play-through of the level. So always make sure you destroy every crate, search every corner, destroy every enemy and keep an eye out on Class Doors or other things unrelated to your main goal. Often times there are a few areas to the left or right that are optional and will contain File Cards or Briefcases that you will miss if you proceed forward.

So what are G.I. Joe’s positives? The game, quite simply, is fun! I found me thoroughly enjoying myself and liking the game more and more the further I got. Once you have a stable of unlockable Joe’s, and understand how the combo system works and know what the unique aspects of each character are, the game becomes a lot funner. Is G.I. Joe the deepest game? Certainly not. But the game is by far not the worst movie game I’ve ever played. In fact I enjoyed it leagues more than I did Teminator Salvation. And I think the key as to why is due to the “instense-continous fire” nature of GI Joe. In this way, the game plays much like the 2D action games of yesteryear. Like Contra, where you simply moved left or right, jumped up and down and kept you finger pressed on the button from beginning to end. There is more technique to GI Joe, and you are constantly rolling out of the way of enemy fire as you either keep the button pressed to steam your fire on an enemy or press it manually, depending on your own style and the weapon of the Joe.

Honestly, this game surpised me a lot. As I said in the beginning, I hestitate to call the game great . . . but you know what? The game IS a great classic-style run and gun shooter. In fact I intend to play through it again on higher difficulty levels to get all the Achievements, and I had no issue returning to levels to play through them again in order to find items I had missed.

I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the game is. And was a bit shocked when I looked at other reviews of the game and found them to be so low. Jeff of GiantBomb in fact gave the game 1 Star out of 5. Apparently he didn’t play the same game I did.

And while the game definitely has low points and is not perfect in all of it’s parts (the CG intro is HORRIBLE, the voice acting can be pretty lame, etc.), it also isn’t horrible in all it’s parts either. In other words, some of it is good, some of it isn’t. But you take the game for what it is. It’s a 3D Contra-style run-and-gun shooter where you shoot first and ask questions later. IN some ways, it is like a beat-em up. Some people swear by them. Others swear at them. Still others think you must be stupid to like something so shallow. Yet to some gamers, beat’ em ups were “where it’s at”. And they still hold that view. For people like that, I say give G.I. Joe a shot. Don’t let the negative press cloud your view. If you take the game for what it is, you will find yourself replaying that level just to find what you missed or to gain that Achievement like I did.

In other words, you will have fun. And that’s all that matters. Just like with Lego Indiana Jones.

G.I. Joe is a constant-shooting run-and-gun shooter that reminds me of games like Contra but in 3D with a bit more depth. The melee attacks and the point system make the game funner than it would be without. There are a host of unlockables to earn, including a few clips from the 80s TV show and a mini-documentary on the game’s orchestral soundtrack. There are also bios on all of the game’s characters, which will make fans of the classic toy-line and 80’s cartoon smile. The game is not perfect. But it’s not supposed to be. It’s Lego. Be a kid and have fun. If you can take your hardcore gamer classes off, then you’ll definitely enjoy the game. And get a friend to join if you can. It’ll make a great rental as well.

Graphics: 6.0
G.I. Joe definitely isn’t a looker. But it’s not horrible either.

Music and Sound: 7.0
The music is good but it takes such a backseat to the constant firing action that you will hardly even notice it is there. It’s forgettable in that sense.

Ingenuity: 7.0
This game doesn’t necessarily do anything new. But hey, at least it’s not another 3rd-person behind-the-shoulder Gears of War shooter. That’s gotta count for something.

Replay Value: 7.5
There is quite a lot stuff to collect in G.I. Joe, especially if you add Achievements to the list. It’s enough to make you play through the game multiple times and through the levels more than once. This game should’ve supported online co-op though and not just local.