G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review - September 21st 2009

EA's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is unashamedly a movie tie-in, and as such, one must put away any preconceptions (both of the film and the clichéd reaction to such games as this) before playing.

I was actually quite looking forward to playing The Rise of Cobra. It's been a long summer, and there haven't exactly been many PS3 or Xbox 360 games floating around waiting to be played. This is also one of the few games still coming out on PS2 (as well as Wii and PSP, with a different version on DS). Despite this, the G.I. Joe franchise isn't exactly massive in the UK, so it was going to take some open mindedness to appreciate a children's franchise that I myself had barely even heard of when just a little tyke playing with my Micro Machines and Nintendo games.

Actually, just after writing this and considering that perhaps I had actually better check the age rating on the game before I start recommending it to every Jimmy and Timmy out there, I have seen that it is in fact 16+ PEGI. That's recommendation, not law, but nonetheless, it has to be chalked up as the game's audience. With that in mind, it becomes increasingly hard to see who would buy G.I. Joe. Still, hopefully all this will be explained by the nature of the gameplay, rather than supposition about its character.

As it's co-operative, there is at least some fun to be had here with G.I. Joe

It plays very simply, almost in a retro-style. The arenas are very linear, with only a few side paths (required to deactivate force-fields for example). Enemies drop in from the sky and usually appear ahead of you. As the player you have absolutely no control over the camera. It's adequate, but it isn't a nice feeling to be shunted around by an invisible force. With this in mind, Rise of Cobra feels more like an Xbox Live Arcade game than anything else. Destroy the waves of enemies to move on, further up the screen. You hold down the right trigger to fire, and can dodge and roll around to avoid gunfire - important when facing the tougher enemies. Each character in the game has a special ability, such as a grenade launcher, and these can be deployed after collecting a certain amount of points from destroying enemies; one-hit-killing most foes, these add a minority of strategy to the gameplay.

The game is designed for co-op, and as such if you are playing on your own you are accompanied by an AI team-mate – a character of your choosing (more are unlocked for you and the AI to play as after progressing). You can switch between them, with the AI then taking over the unoccupied character. With the unique abilities, it is necessary for a single player to be able to multi-task with these characters and make best use of them. It is also essential to keep at least one alive. When one character dies, the human player obviously automatically resumes control of the other, and the AI can then resume its participation once the next checkpoint is reached. If both die however, the level must be restarted. They're not overly-long, but considering the general casual-feel to the play, such a hardcore feature is perhaps misplaced.

The graphics don't stand up in motion.

Presentation in Rise of Cobra is pretty substandard. Clearly, this is a multi-format game designed for the PS2 – something we've certainly not seen for a while now. The graphics are, similarly to the gameplay, more akin to a next-gen downloadable title than something at retail (though it should be noted here that Cobra is a budget game, and is available for around £25). Characters look decent, which is just as well, because the voice acting isn't. Fans of the series and film will know what's going on and may even appreciate the presentation, but for anyone else it will just look like shoddy production values. Some of it can at least be funny, but it's entirely unintentional.

The game also features the franchise's Accelerator Suit to try and alleviate the monotony. It does achieve this through a rousing score in the background and (based on what you see in the rest of the game) visually impressive effects. Justifying of all the pomp, these suits make you unstoppable, super-fast, and allow you to destroy any enemies in the area. You are then left with about 20 seconds of Acceleration left as you just stand there in the middle of the game's dull arenas. It's this sense of give and take, where one feature that is initially impressive, is poorly executed, that is the chief impression you get from playing this game.

A tacked-on cover system is there, should you need it.

There is some good in Rise of Cobra. The cooperative mode is an absolute must. Without that, this game would be absolutely worthless, and perhaps even a new number would have to be etched into the score charts to accommodate it. With co-op play however, it becomes something where you can in effect make your own fun. Drop-in, drop-out splitscreen play is well implemented. The Halo series wouldn't be what it is today without its continued focus on co-op, and the epitome of co-op, EA's Army of Two would have been impossible to recommend with no dual-play.

The game features a few extras aimed at fans of the film, but generally it's a hard factor to recommend the game on. Simply put, G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra is too repetitive, has too low production values, and is saved a hideous score purely on the merit of its co-operative mode. When many co-operative games only work online, it is refreshing to see one that supports offline play (though ironically no Live/PSN mode), and the general ease of combat (forgetting the checkpoint issue – which only comes into play on harder difficulties) makes this ideal for casual gamers with a penchant for G.I. JOE. Anyone else will struggle to make it past the first couple of hours.

Fans of G.I. Joe will enjoy the setting and co-op.
Non-existent camera system.
Graphics are from the PS2 version.
Linear and uninspired gameplay.
No online co-op.


Double Helix