- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s hard to believe that it’s taken this long for someone to make another “G.I. Joe” game. After all, the classic 1980s animated series lends itself perfectly to the world of video games, and the industry’s biggest demographic – males aged 18 to 35 – no doubt grew up watching the show and playing with the action figures as kids. Unfortunately, the only reason we’re even getting a new “G.I. Joe” game is to coincide with the release of the Stephen Sommers-directed movie of the same name. And like most other Hollywood tie-ins, “The Rise of Cobra” is yet another disappointing display of just how to drain a unique property like "G.I. Joe" of almost everything that made it so special to begin with.
Designed like a beat-‘em-up game with guns (think “Contra,” but with the option to engage in hand-to-hand combat), “The Rise of Cobra” puts players in control of the eponymous special ops unit as they’re dispatched across the globe to complete a series of generic missions. The general idea is that you’re trying to stop the terrorist organization known as COBRA from achieving world domination, but it’s all handled so casually that it doesn’t really matter if you’re paying attention. All you need to know is that there are a bunch of COBRA soldiers running amok, and you’re the only one who can defeat them. In order to do so, you select two G.I. Joes from the team roster at the beginning of each mission. They all fall into one of three classifications (Commandos are short-range specialists, Heavys are long-range specialists and Combat Soldiers are a balance of the two), but each one has a unique weapon and a special combat action that is earned over time. Additionally, they can be controlled by two players locally (sorry, no online co-op) or by a single player who can switch back and forth between them with the press of a button.
One of the main draws of “G.I. Joe” is the large variety of characters. It’s why the cartoon and toys were so popular, and it’s one of the only reasons to play “The Rise of Cobra” as well. Though you’re only given Duke and Scarlett to start out with, there are 16 playable characters in all, four of which are unlockable COBRAs. All of the movie characters appear, including Snake Eyes, Heavy Duty and Ripcord, as well as longtime favorites like Gung Ho and Shipwreck. While most people will want to try each character at least once, everyone will have a favorite, and because there’s no strategy as to who you use in the missions, you’ll likely just stick to the same Joe for most of the game.
As is to be expected from most titles that fall into the beat-'em-up genre, “The Rise of Cobra” becomes extremely repetitive in a matter of hours. There are only so many soldiers, ninjas and robots that you can destroy before it starts to feel like a chore, and the only reason it even lasts that long is because of the nostalgia factor. The graphics are also pretty sloppy for a next-gen game, and the controls aren’t any better. Targeting with the right analog stick fails more often than it should, while the vehicle controls are so ass-backwards (up moves you forward no matter which direction the vehicle is pointed), that most of the time, you’ll probably just hop out and hoof it on foot instead.
What’s perhaps most upsetting is that with the exception of the title and the likeness of the actors, “The Rise of Cobra” has virtually nothing to do with the movie version. The story, if you can even call it that, supposedly takes place after the events of the film, while characters that didn’t even make the jump to the big screen play a role in the game. The developers clearly have some affection for the cartoon (the theme song plays when you activate your power-boosting Accelerator Suit), so why didn’t Hasbro just license a game based on the “G.I. Joe” we already know and love? It would have been a much easier sell to fans of the series, and if the movie turns out to be as terrible as it looks, at least the game wouldn’t serve as a constant reminder of its total suckage.