This summer has seen its fair share of questionable video game adaptations, but nothing could have prepared us for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. With sloppy gameplay and poor production values, the Joe team does not rise to the occasion in this outing. What we’re left with is the equivalent of a nasty pork chop sandwich.
The Rise of Cobra is actually a sequel to the film, but the narrative is structured in such a way that you won’t know that unless you’ve seen the movie. That’s about all the story does right. Like most summer films, the plot is shallow and flat out absurd. What’s worse is that it actually gets in the way of the action at several points, when you’re abruptly interrupted by needless chatter from the other members of the Joe team. It doesn’t even succeed in recalling the cheesy style of the cartoons. There’s simply no redeeming value to be found here.
The Rise of Cobra allows you to take control of the G.I. Joe team across a series of missions that span the globe. Two team members head into the thick of battle together in each mission, with the second character controlled by either the AI or another player. There’s no online option, so you’re restricted to local multiplayer on the same screen. Clearing missions typically involves blowing up everything in your path, without much in the way of variety. Even the boss battles are a let down, as many of the popular villains from the series simply have their henchmen do most of the work.
The Joe team is broken down into three class types. Combat soldiers are well rounded fighters that have a balance of melee and firepower, commandos favor melee attacks, and heavy soldiers specialize in guns. The characters have unique primary weapons and special attacks, and they can also temporarily transform into lethal killing machines thanks to their accelerator suits.
Your performance on the battlefield nabs you battle points you use to unlock hidden characters like Snake Eyes and Shipwreck, and even some Cobra villains. You can also get hidden characters via the normal missions, or by defeating Storm Shadow in a few special side missions. There’s actually quite a bit of stuff to unlock, including the infamous public service announcements. If you’re grasping for a reason to play, then this could be it. But chances are it won’t be enough.
Bland levels and boring, repetitive objectives ultimately keep the experience from being very enjoyable. There’s little incentive to play with a friend, too, as the game is actually easier if you keep your AI partner. And make no mistake: Rise of Cobra can be very punishing. If you fall in battle, you’ll be sent all the way back to the beginning of the entire mission. This even goes for the final mission. Checkpoints would have been a nice gesture.
If you’re expecting to enjoy yourself as you gun through the hordes of Cobra and M.A.S.S, then you should probably sit this fight out. The Rise of Cobra is simply no fun. The game is a constant battle against poor controls and a bad camera, and it needlessly complicates combat with an awkward targeting system. The entire setup is counter-intuitive, and only those with an obsession for twisted challenges will tolerate this train wreck.
Aside from the poor camera work and malfunctioning targeting system, the weapons also seem to defy conventional hit detection. There are times when you can fire through solid objects or miss an open target entirely, and same the goes for enemies firing at you. There’s also the issue with the vehicles having atrocious handling, which makes it a chore to simply traverse the terrain. The targeting during these segments is also just as bad as the on-foot portions.
The cover and dodge systems are also hurting bad. Often, when you press the button to dodge, you end up rushing for cover instead. Many times as a result of the camera work, you’re unable to roll in the proper direction, and end up moving right into the line of fire. Given that you regenerate health while under cover, it’s inexcusable that these mechanics don’t work properly.
The list goes on. Melee attacks will often miss their targets entirely, and when they do land, their damage seems arbitrary, like when punching a robot hurts it more than shooting it. The long and short of it is that the game’s combat is a mess. Given that it doesn’t have much else going for it, this is bad news.
The Rise of Cobra has very little in the way of pleasing production values. At first glance, you might mistake it for a low-budget downloadable game. The environments look generic, comprised of repetitive stretches of terrain and hallways, the characters resemble something from the last generation, and visual glitches abound.
The soundtrack is decent, but the sound effects and voice work bog it down. The noise from your gunfire will quickly drive you insane, and there are only so many times we can laugh at Cobra Commander’s shrill battle cries. In general, there’s just too much going on audio wise, which results in a brutal cacophony. This is one game you might want to play through on mute.
This game is an abomination that has absolutely no business being sold at a price point approaching full retail. Like so many other movie adaptations before it, The Rise of Cobra feels like it was meant to capitalize on gullible fans. Lucky for you, we’re here to warn you to steer clear. So now you know... and knowing is half the battle.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.