|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Double Helix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 4, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Half the Battle
by Andrew Groen
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is this summer's latest foray into the all too often explored genre of "eighties-cartoon-revived-for-a-movie-adaptation-then-turned-into-a-videogame... then-ported-to-a-portable-console." Beyond that exceedingly confusing lineage, gamers then have to figure out exactly which game they are buying. Because expecting to get the same game simply because all versions have the same name and box-art will get you burned. So let's straighten this out right now: the 360 and PS3 versions are based on the same code, while the DS is an entirely different game unto itself, and the Wii, PS2, and PSP version are also based on relatively similar code.
Got that? Yeah I know; it's very confusing. However, it's about to get even more confusing, because even though the PSP version is ported (albeit a bit stripped down) from the Wii and PS2 version, it's also a much better game. This isn't because somehow the porting process fixed a bunch of the terrible bugs, but rather because this game is much more at home on the PSP, and it is much easier to enjoy in the bite-sized chunks that a portable gaming system provides.
This may seem like a bit of a backhanded compliment, and it is. The game it's based on is not good at all, and we gave it some pretty poor scores when reviewed on Wii and PS2. Not to mention that anytime a reviewer says about a game, "it's alright as long as you don't play it too much," then you should probably stay away in the first place, and in this case it's the truth. If you're planning to play this game in short bursts during a commute, or on the school bus, then it's a decent title overall despite its contemptible flaws.
To start with, the difficulty in this game gets it completely wrong. The default difficulty (the lowest) is ridiculously easy. I make no exaggerations when I say, "forward+right trigger=win." There's almost no challenge whatsoever. And yet, just one difficulty level up, and the game becomes too tough. By the time the middle levels rolled around, I was dying three to four times before I could get past the first hallway. It takes a while to understand this type of punishment, but once you do, it gets a bit better.
Yeah, and that's another thing. Everything in this game is a hallway. Even if you're in a desert, or a lush jungle, you're actually in a hallway. Only the wallpaper has been changed. That's a problem that is replicated throughout other areas of the game too. There are only a few variations of enemies, and each one bears hundreds of perfect carbon-copies of itself. New enemies are introduced in each level, and you know right away that this is the black-suit soldier level, or the spider machine level. This is particularly a problem late in the level when things get hectic and there are nine soldiers in black suits that look exactly like you and your partner, making it very hard to distinguish who is who at times.
Despite the game's heavy use of auto-targeting, these scenarios aren't made any easier. The way it's supposed to work is you start firing and it locks onto an enemy. It would be simple enough, but for the fact that it's impossible to choose the first target. This alone isn't a terrible flaw, but the grainy graphics of a portable system make the aforementioned hectic scenarios a huge mess. When everything is going off, you may find yourself firing straight at an explosive barrel right next to you and not even notice, or a useless bonus point target all the way across the level when five enemies are in point blank range. Or even worse, you may be fully aware of the bad target, and find yourself with nothing you can do about it since trying to retarget only supplies you with more useless targets.