Experiencing G.I. Joe again after all these years, reminds us of those days when we would setup elaborate battlegrounds in our rooms, using common household items, to pit G.I. Joe action figures against Cobra Command action figures. Now, a couple of decades later, when we picked the latest game based in the G.I. Joe universe, the feeling was one of nostalgia and mirth at the ignomity of two well-equipped power hungry groups fighting for control over the world. It all reeks of unrelenting military machismo, where even a female G.I. is a Joe.
Like most war stories, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has two parties that are at each other’s throats and then there is a weapons manufacturer. The weapon’s company in this story goes by the name of M.A.R.S and it is developing warheads for the U.S. Army (G.I. Joe) and is simultaneously selling some nifty nanotechnology to a group fighting to bring a new world order (Cobra). So the stage is set — for most part of the game, you get to play one of the several operatives of G.I. Joe, which is a super secret division of the U.S. Army.
Theatre of War
The game is set across the regular gamut of tile sets of frigid, jungle and desert landscapes. Each of these locations has four to five missions, along with another locked mission. Mission objectives are quite straight forward and they can fit into three categories — rescue mission, search-and-destroy, and intelligence gathering. You start the game in a mission room to select two G.I. Joe characters for your next venture. The game has a fairly impressive roster of 12 G.I. Joe characters and four Cobra characters to choose from.
Each of these characters belong to either one of the three classes — a combat soldier, heavy infantry or commando. Soldiers are all-round fighters and are very handy in every mission. Heavy infantry class is great against vehicles and structures and the commando class specializes in melee combat. After a mission brief, you are thrown onto the mission map with the four locations mentioned earlier. Some of these locations (along with their respective missions) are initially locked and requires completion of certain other missions before they are playable. At most points in the game, there are multiple missions available at a time and they can be attempted in any order you choose.
These missions have a primary objective that you eventually reach as the level design is quite linear. The secondary objective is to gather collectibles like intelligence and contacts of other G.I. Joe members. Collecting these gives you different rewards — gathering intelligence may unlock concept art in the game’s gallery or it may unlock another side- mission. Locating contact of a G.I. Joe makes that member available to be unlocked in the team roster. In addition, all of these items also add points to your total score.
Sometimes these collectibles are behind a special door that requires a particular class of character to open. If you find yourself without the right class of character, there will most likely be a teleport device somewhere in the level. Using these machines you can swap one character for another and crack that door. There is also another queer collective object in the form of Point Clusters, another source of points. These are either dropped by the fallen enemies and structures or found behind destructible object. So, for most part your focus in going to be killing, destroying and collecting to rack up your score. Slain enemies sometimes drop a score multiplier that remains active for a few seconds, multiplying the score you earn during that period.
At every checkpoint in the game your total score is tallied and reaching a certain score rewards you with precious Battle Points. These points are used to unlock other characters in the team roster — quite essential, as this is the only thing that really keeps the game fresh.
On to the genocide
The mission levels are roughly divided into set piece arenas where it is either dodge and shoot or get behind cover and shoot. You attempt each mission with two characters playing either co-op with another person or in single player mode, switching between the two with push of a button. Even though the game seems to give a lot of emphasis on taking cover, the system is not as robust as we have come to expect after some of the other games. There are situations where things can get pretty hairy as you are taking on foot soldiers, turrets and heavy cavalry simultaneously.
The game provides a few tricks to help you get through such situations—you can sometimes call for back up in the form of vehicle drop, artillery fire or firing from space using a weapon satellite. In addition to this, each Joe has special ability that can be a life saver most of the times. This ability is available either in the form of enemy drops or by building up the ability meter by taking down targets. Each character can store up to three uses of the special ability at a time. Causing mayhem ‘efficiently’ builds up the Accelerator Suit meter. After the meter is filled up, you can unleash it to transform both the characters into super soldiers, firing bullets and rockets at godly speed and taking virtually no damage for a few seconds.
Even though the game does not have a lot of depth, it’s paced well enough to keep it interesting till the end. There is a constant trickle of new playable characters, right until towards the end of the game where you get to play as some of the Cobra characters. If you have enjoyed games like Brute Force or even Contra, there is a good chance you will find this one fun to play. The fun however, does not last long and the game can be completed in eight to ten hours—maybe that’s lengthy enough for a mindless shooter.
Despite all its flaws, this game is fun to play as it has a certain old school charm. Unlock able characters and multiple difficulty levels add a fair bit of replay value to the game. So, if you are a fan of the G.I. Joe universe or are looking for a decent co-op shooter, you might want to grab a copy now; otherwise you could wait for a price drop.
Genre: Action, Shoot ‘em Up
Platforms: PS2, PS3, PSP, X360, Wii, DS
Developer: Double Helix Games, Backbone Entertainment
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Distributor: Milestone Interactive Software (PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, DS) Redington (X360)
Price: Rs. 999 to Rs. 2,499 (depends on platform)