Published on August 28th, 2009 | by Deejay Knight, Editor/Founder
G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra Review
Release Date: August 4, 2009
Developer: Double Helix Games
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3 and Wii
Forgive me my outburst, but just talking about G.I. Joe brings a smile to my face and good memories to mind. Who doesn’t remember the campy old-school show that used to come on Saturday mornings? Great times they were. The question at hand though, is this: Do those nostalgic moments carry over to the recent Double-Helix Developed, EA Published title G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra?
Well, you gotta read on to find out.
While not bringing back everything regarding the good ‘ol days of ‘Yo JOE!”, Rise of the Cobra was a decent experience that did what it could to mix in the old with the new. A handful of details just so happened to sully the experience.
If you’re looking for a title that you can show off your console to friends and family how powerful your game console is, this isn’t the game for you. Graphically, this game feels a bit in between generations. I say that because while it’s definitely not the worst game you can find on the Xbox 360, there’s not too much here in between cutscenes that jumps out at you. The explosions are decent and there’s generally a decent amount of enemies on screen, so the fact that it’s not a powerhouse helps it a bit here. Once the cutscenes begin, you can see that some models were given a little bit more polish than others, which takes away from the experience a bit.
You can play with a single player that selects two separate JOEs for the mission, with the ability to hot-swap between the two with a touch of the RB/R1 button, or you can team up with a buddy and play together against the computer. There are three levels of play: Casual, Advanced, & Hardcore. Casual players don’t have to worry about dying at all, because instead of dying, they just kneel for a minute to catch their breath, then get up again fully healthy and ready for more chaos. Advanced players go “Man Down” when they die and are revived at the next checkpoint, while Hardcore players are done for the mission when they go “Man Down”. More details on that in a bit.
With a game of this type, the controls have to be one of the most important features, so it’s of no surprise that they borrowed a bit from Gears of War for their cover system. That’s right, you can take cover, and by the time you get halfway through the game it’s extremely important that you use it! When you’re down in health, taking cover helps to regenerate your health much faster than you would walking around. A lot of the cover can be destroyed though, so being ready to move is key. The cover system isn’t the only feature that’s being taken from Gears – the “walk around and get mission info while holding your ear” bit is here as well, and it’s not as much for the loading, so you can press start to skip it at any time.
There are multiple classes of character in the game. Duke and Ripcord are Combat specialists, Scarlett & Snake Eyes are Commandos, Backblast and Heavy Duty are Heavy Weapons specialists. Each character has a different special move. Ripcord has sentry turrets, Duke has Grenades, Snake Eyes has a sick melee combo, etc. While taking down enemies (which melt away and don’t bleed, helping the family gamers), you constantly charge up the ability to use the accelerator suits you’ve seen in the movie. Powering up the suits is accompanied by a hearty “YoooOO JOE!” and an updated rendition of the classic GI Joe theme music – not to mention the invincibility and powered up weaponry! Just like the movies, the accelerator suits are a good time in the game.
This is where the game started going downhill for me. One of my biggest gripes about this game is the camera and the fact that you can’t move it. That’s right, while Rise of the Cobra is a 3rd person game, you have zero control of the camera. By the time you get a couple missions in you’ll likely forget about it because flicking the right stick selects the enemy to auto-target, but there will be times that you have to walk toward the camera while getting shot at by groups of people that you can’t see. That’s never good for fun.
You get air-dropped vehicles from time to time, and while they help tons in keeping you alive and taking down more enemies, the controls are very sluggish and cumbersome. You can change the control scheme to camera relative instead of vehicle relative, and that may help you as much as it did me, but be ready for the disappointing controls.
The absolute, most soul-crushingly disappointing features of this game is also the most confusing: The checkpoint system. And I say soul-crushingly disappointingly with the highest level of seriousness I can gather. I say that because every level has one to three checkpoints that tally up your score between the two JOEs in what seems like an awkwardly long time. It’s that long because the game is loading the next part of the level. This normally wouldn’t be that much of a bad thing, but these checkpoints have magically forgotten the reason checkpoints were invented because that’s all they do. There’s no saving at a checkpoint, even on Casual difficulty. If both players happen to die at a boss battle (which get cheaper by the dozen in the second half of the game), you’ll be treated to the beginning of the mission.While being a throwback to older gameplay styles, this is definitely a feature that should’ve seen an update.
I honestly don’t know why the checkpoints were used this way, as it seems very unfair and is counter-intuitive to everything gamers think of checkpoints. Rest assured though, that playing on Hardcore is very likely to be exactly that.
I mentioned that the boss fights are cheap because there are multiple fights that simply go on too long because the boss takes 1/10 health bar damage, then hides while dropping in waves of some of the harder enemies in the game. That, fellow gamers, does not a boss fight make.
Moving on, there are some saving graces to G.I. Joe: RotC (coincidence that it spells ROTC? I think not). There are bunches of unlocks that you can find while playing the game, with doors that specific combat specialties can open. Unlockable JOEs & Cobra alike await those that go through for multiple playthroughs. There are also a bunch of character profiles and even the PSAs that showed at the end of each episode. (Tip: To unlock Storm Shadow, you have to beat him in three separate battles spaced around the game.)
- Lots of unlockable characters that are more reminiscent of their old-school selves.
- Old school action from start to end.
- Using the Accelerator Suit starts up the old theme. Nostalgia FTW!
- Two-Player split screen is sorely missed this generation, so the fact that it’s included here is great.
- Not having any online multiplayer kills replay value for XBL / PSN gamers.
- Useless checkpoint system.
- Game gets repetitive unless you switch up characters.
- Cheap boss battles can be greatly frustrating on higher difficulty levels.
G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra is big on old-school action, but there seems to be a lot of old-school concepts that should’ve been updated for this generation but haven’t. If you’re a G.I. Joe fan, chances are you haven’t wasted any time and you already have this one. If you’re not that big a G.I. Joe fan though, I can’t recommend it outside of a rent. Rise of the Cobra feels more like it should’ve been a $20-30 title than a full-priced $60, and had it been, I wouldn’t be so hesitant about recommending it.
If you like old-school games, you’ll like G.I. Joe. Otherwise, there are better options in this price range.