G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review
Ben has always been scared by anything with "The Game" in the title.
By Ben Salter
When presented with the choice of playing a DS movie game, or having a staring contest with an inanimate object I know which one I’d pick hands down. Unfortunately I’ve misplaced the latter and as such dived into the world that is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – The Game on the Nintendo DS. The movie will either be a massive hit or disastrous miss with childhood fans of Joe (although, when we G.I. Joe popular; in the 70s-80s in the US? So maybe nobody here really cares) but how does it stack up as a portable videogame?
You chose one of six Joes at the beginning of each mission to, quite simply, blow stuff up. Each mission has you running and gunning, shooting until your heart’s content. The objective of each mission is to shoot the generic bad guys on your way to destroy miscellaneous items, or X on your map and perhaps run into a boss at the finale. Each character has different abilities, which are most obvious in speed and weapons. These are split up into a primary gun, explosive and secondary weapon - often a form of melee attack. Checkpoints come by frequently and if you die at any point in a mission you can return as any of the 6 characters – useful if you’ve had a gut full of trying to aim Duke’s long-range grenade.
Backbone Entertainment has correctly identified one of the most important traits present in many of the most successful DS games, but emulating that is another story. GTA: Chinatown Wars, Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass and the Pokemon titles are all presented in a top down birds-eye view, as is G.I. Joe. Unfortunately it’s not quite as well executed as the before mentioned titles. As there is no option to use the touch screen you are forced to aim and move with the 8-pronged D-pad. Top down shooters and limited directions to move in don’t work well together. The result is clunky, frustrating, controls as you struggle to aim at enemies that continue to spawn in every direction. While most of the game is on foot, entering a vehicle doesn’t improve the situation. You’re introduced to a tank early on and will constantly get stuck in walls while under heavy fire as you struggle to shoot and figure out how you’re actually meant to move forwards. In saying that, it does have a big-ass gun, once again reiterating the fact that this game is all about blowing stuff up and nothing more.
As an action title G.I. Joe offers some simple run & gun fun in short bursts. Each mission does have a set of enjoyable set of challenges, including boss battles, and areas where fighting off hordes of never ending enemies is actually entertaining. Unfortunately the frustrating controls, and invisible barriers that seem to form between you and the enemy if you’re not in the right position often drown this out. For a top down game the cover system is actually quite good. If you approach a piece of cover the Joe will automatically duck behind it. It’s not overly useful as enemies have a knack for constantly spawning no matter what you do, but at least it works.
The visuals are utter tripe and make the game painful to look at in some sections. The 3D/2D top down hybrid really needs to be done to perfection to work, and Backbone hasn’t quite got it right. While some backgrounds look decent, others are unrecognisable. To make matters worse the in-game visuals are actually the best the game has to offer. The cinematics – or screen with text and a picture of the ‘characters’ face on it – are some of the worst I’ve seen in a DS game. I used characters in quotation marks because they are hardly recognisable as people. They look as if a primary school kid has whipped them up in Microsoft Paint before running out to recess.
The story has put me off ever seeing the movie, and that is mostly due to the way it is delivered, as well as being complete rubbish. Lets forget that cut-scenes look like a dog’s breakfast for minute and focus on how the story is actually presented. During your journey information is presented in short snippets on the bottom screen. The top screen action normally stops for the pointless explanations of things, but when they get to the part you actually need – like what you’re meant to be doing – everyone starts shooting at you again giving you no time to read it. The story in itself is fairly weak, but the disruptive way in which is it told does a great job of running moments that were actually fun.
The single player is fairly short, and will only take you a few hours to blast through, in which you may actually have some fun if mindlessly shooting never ending hordes of enemies is your thing. The game’s saving grace, however, is in its four-player multiplayer mode. Unfortunately each player needs a copy of the game to play, but if you manage to find 3 other G.I. Joe lovers there’s certainly some fun to be had here. The traditional deathmatch-style games include team battles, capture the flag and defend your base. Team battle gets stale quickly due to the clunky nature of the title’s gameplay, but the other two are worth a look.
The Final Verdict
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – The Game shows glimpses of what could have been, but in the end it’s held back by too many unforgivable flaws. The controls are too clunky and frustrating to use, while the disruptive way in which the story is delivered is almost unforgivable. If you don’t have 3 friends who also own the game then there’s no real reason to pick it for yourself. At best give it a rent as you can easily finish it within a few hours, and once you’ve done so and drained every last drop of fun it has to offer there is absolutely no reason to go back and do it all again.
It has its moments, and is far from the worst movie game of all time, but the controls and painful story are too frustrating to overlook.
Forgetting about the in-game graphics the cut-scenes are unforgivably bad.
The soundtrack does its job without being memorable.
The single player can be completed in a few hours, but the multiplayer is worth a look if you have 3 friends with the game.
Click here to read our review of the Wii version