When I first saw the trailer for GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I groaned out loud and bemoaned the state of the movie industry. How could Hollywood commit that travesty to my beloved Joes? Then I heard EA was working on a videogame adaptation of said film, and you can imagine the ulcer that began to form. It wasn’t until playing the GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra videogame, however, that I realized the true depth of my discomfort. Because frankly, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is one of the most boring games I’ve played in 2009.
The game sounds interesting in concept, as it lets players “explore the movie’s plot and beyond,” but the actual gameplay requires nothing less than a lobotomy to enjoy. It starts with the decision to use a static, uncontrollable camera, which isn’t an issue in higher-echelon games but in GI Joe manages to decimate any enjoyment. The troubles spawn from two key aspects: the camera’s habit of hiding enemies, and its apparent inability to keep up with the player’s actions. In outdoor levels it’s marginally better, mostly because you can manage to see just a little more and thus figure out loosely what the heck you’re supposed to shoot, but it’s really quite bad.
Things get worse when players actually try to exercise any level of skill — mostly because the game requires none to actually succeed. When it comes to gunplay, every tool of destruction has unlimited ammunition, and there is literally no aiming involved to hit the target. Instead, players simply hold down the fire button until an enemy dies. You can switch targets via the right thumbstick, but seldom if ever is this necessary, and doing so often becomes a tactic merely to avoid boredom. Even taking cover — which is a tactic both to dodge incoming fire and to regenerate your character’s health faster — is an exercise in futility, because these overpowered GI Joe characters can actually outrun many miniboss’ gunfire, rendering cover pointless.
And don’t think that only the “fast” Joes (Snake Eyes, etc.) can outrun the bullets; each of the 12 playable characters is essentially the same, just skinned differently and with different weapons. Gaining access to new Joes requires you to purchase them using Battle Points, which you accrue within missions based on your performance and difficulty level. But other than literally seeing Snake Eyes (for example) walking through a level and dishing out pain with his swords, there’s little reason to switch. All you need to do is select your two-character “loadout” prior to each mission, walk in the level’s linear direction and hold down the fire button. If the definition of a “game” is something that requires skill, planning and response times, this product is about as far away from a game as you can get.
Still, presuming you want to pretend you’re actually making a difference by playing as someone else, you can hot-swap between characters at any time within a mission. This is handy when you want to access locked areas that only a certain class of GI Joe (Combat, Soldier, Heavy or Commando) can unlock, because literally any time you encounter such a locked area, you’ll see a teleporter that lets you switch one soldier from the battlefield with one of the ones you’ve unlocked in the Pit. Much like the res of the game, though, it’s not exactly rocket science: switch character, unlock door, get the hidden goodie, switch back to the one you wanted in the first place, go about killing Cobra. This “crutch” actually ends up hurting the game’s replayablity, too, because if you don’t have to come back and replay a level with a new character to unlock the hidden room, then you’ll just play the level once and be done with it.
If you’re the sadistic type and want to subject a friend to the torture of this game, there’s also a cooperative element that allows players to join an in-progress game at any time. Within each level, all upgrades and points are shared, so there’s a Gauntlet-like mechanic whereby players are cooperative only to a certain degree, because while you have the common goal of beating the level, you also want as many goodies and points as possible.
But the oh-so-marginal fun this mode provides doesn’t come close to making GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra worth your while. With a bad camera, mind-numbingly easy gameplay, bland graphics, slash-your-wrists cheesy dialogue and the worst vehicle handling in the history of interactive entertainment (Pole Position controlled better than this), GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra will make you wish a cobra snake would come out of the basket and bite you right on the neck. “Go Joe”? Sure — if that means “go away.”
Do not buy G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobrafrom Amazon.
- Score: 3.5
- There’s nothing redeeming about this game other than some decent surround-sound effects and the closing credits.
— Jonas Allen