Written By Predat0r & Wrecker
Hot off the heels of the latest movie revival of the 'G.I. Joe' franchise, Electronic Arts shouts “Yo Joe!” as the stars of the 1980’s action figure line return with the release of G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra for the Wii. Although of the same name, the game is not based directly on the movie, as its storyline kicks off from where the film left off. Seeing that the cinematic version was poorly received and movie tie-in games are traditionally average at best, expectations for this title were not terribly high.
G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra allows players to select two 'G.I Joe' team members from a roster of ‘file cards’ to take on a range of third-person action/shooter based missions. Each team member has different attributes and weapons, and although many of them are ultimately very similar, different combinations provide some variety. There are three main classes of characters available to choose from – the close range 'Commandos', the somewhat weaker but more powerful 'Heavy’s' and the all-rounder 'Combat Soldiers'.
The gameplay is very straightforward with the two players battling the evil forces of Cobra through some very linear levels. The controls are fairly routine with players using the nunchuck stick for movement and the ‘B’ button to fire. There is a very basic cover system in the game allowing players to duck and hide behind various obstacles using the ‘A’ button, but dodging the enemy fire and using the ‘Z’ button to strafe is a more productive way of progressing as your cover can often be quickly destroyed. The ‘A’ button also doubles as a dodge manoeuvre and this causes confusion, as you're not sure whether your character will perform this move or actually take cover.
Killing enemies allows players to collect ranking awards which in turn amasses ‘battle points’. These points can be used to purchase locked 'G.I. Joe' team members that you've come into contact with during play. Throughout the game characters also gradually charge up an ‘accelerator suit’ that when activated, via the ‘+’ button, unleashes a temporary fast-paced invincibility mode. This is one of the few highlights in the game.
Unfortunately there a number of gripes with the gameplay of G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, including the frustrating camera implementation. The camera is fixed and follows the gameplay, but when backtracking in levels there is no ability for the perspective to be rotated meaning the players are walking blindly back towards the screen. It also seems to stop short of revealing distant enemies resulting in characters often blindly firing into the distance hoping to take someone down. Once you jump in a vehicle of any description it tends to get worse, with its unstable and erratic nature. Finally the camera often restricts players as to how far they can move on the screen leading to a lot of on-the-spot ‘moonwalking’ which really could have waited for the release of the new Michael Jackson game.
The default unlimited ammo means that players can basically hold down the ‘B’ button for the entire level. This type of autofire feature has brought us some addictive gameplay in the likes of classics such as Commando
or Chaos Engine
, but G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
combines it with an automatic targeting system that will lock on to any foe as you hold down fire, which ultimately takes out any thought during play. You can however target between enemies via the D-pad but all in all not much skill is required. The unique features of the Wiimote's motion sensing capabilities are not utilised and would have been a much better way of implementing the targeting system, but has been overlooked, probably due to the fact that the game has been ported directly across several platforms.
The game itself is not too difficult, but if you do find yourself in a spot of bother, you will have to restart the mission from the start, regardless of the fact that you have reached certain checkpoints within a level. This is quite disruptive and makes you question whether there is enough appeal to do it all again.
In single player mode if you happen to die you will take control of your computer-controlled teammate. Playing the two player co-operative mode does inject a tad more fun and value into the game, but only if you can find a friend who has a little more intelligence than the AI in the game, which shouldn’t be too hard. Picking a varied combination of 'G.I. Joe' characters provides interesting play and end of level statistics allow players to compete for ranking awards and level completion percentages, not to mention 'hogging' all of the pick-ups within the levels.
If you haven’t got a nice new flat panel TV to play your Wii on, then the first thing that will strike you about the games visuals is the resolution. The subtitles and character bio’s are impossibly hard to read on a CRT TV and will have you reaching for your migraine tablets. That aside, there is thankfully almost always a voice-over to do the reading for you. Once you have bought a new high definition TV, you will see that G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra sports a reasonably nice intro sequence and cutscenes. This being said there is still a lack of polish in this area, with the frame rate stuttering slightly and the lip synching making ‘Monkey Magic’ look impressive.
The graphics for the various environments within the game are quite reasonable with some nice effects, such as the falling snow, and it does contain some detailed texture mapping in places. The in-game characters do lack detail though, most notably their faces. At times it is difficult to distinguish what you are actually shooting at as enemies tend to blend in with their environments. Overall there is nothing that really stands out in this department.
G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra features a range of voice actors, only one of whom is from the movie, and the quality of the acting also ranges considerably - from convincing to downright wooden. Some of the actors pull this off well (such as the general who coordinates missions), while others are uninspiring with poor dialogue, such as Scarlett’s quips "lookout turrets" and "performance enhancing mind controlling nano-mites'. Regardless of the quality, the dialogue is worth mentioning because there is a lot of it and this is always welcome in Wii games.
The music is a movie-inspired orchestral piece which has an air of suspense and is well suited to an action game of this type, but it can come off as a little ‘over the top’, and tends to loop after a short period. The sound effects are also a mixed bag with nothing really packing a punch. The volume levels within this title seemed somewhat inconsistent at times, most notably when there was a lot of speech taking place.
The Final Verdict
Part of the intrigue and appeal of the 'G.I. Joe' characters of the 80’s was the eclectic mix of characters, abilities and costumes – something the 2009 re-imagining of the franchise has done away with in favour of a range of rather bland and nondescript characters. This carries forward into the game and doesn’t give the developers a lot to work with in terms of character models and abilities. The game's graphics are not all that bad but nonetheless are rather uninspiring, and the sound effects, while featuring extensive voice acting, are by and large run-of-the mill. The real sticking points lie with the repetitive nature of the levels and any really challenging gameplay. Combine these with a defective camera and it makes for some shallow and frustrating gameplay.
On the other hand the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn't really pretend to be something it isn’t. Yes, it is a ‘pulp action movie tie-in’ title, but a blaze of mindless auto-fire with a buddy is not all bad, and could be best summed up in the words of your idle 'G.I. Joe' team members – “Why am I not shooting something?”. Overall, like the end of level rankings in the game, G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra
is not necessarily a ‘Sloppy Joe’ but does still lean toward an ‘Average Joe’. If you loved the movie, or if shouting ‘Yo Joe!’ during Saturday morning cartoon ad breaks got you pumped to beg your parents for some action figures, this game is for you. Although for the true 'G.I. Joe' purist, it might be best to fire up G.I. Joe
on the old Commodore 64.