G.I. Joe: The Rise of CobraESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
2-4 Player Wireless DS Multi-Card Play
Dual Screen Support
Well the time has come as we finally received a review copy of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra for the Nintendo DS. In many ways this game comes to me with a couple strikes against it. One, it is based on the new modernized version of the big screen G.I. Joe Movie currently out in theatres which is not fairing well with critics or fans. The second strike is that we have previously reviewed the Xbox 360 version and it didn’t score that well. So with all this being taken into consideration, I kept my expectations relatively low in order to keep my mind open to what was offered in this portable version of the game.
Visually, The Rise of Cobra is not as strong as I had hoped. Given the source material of the title, as well as the developer’s abilities, I expected more in the graphics department. It just seems to lack some polish that games have made over the past year or so on the DS. The Rise of Cobra is a top down affair, so there are limitations, but knowing how well top down games can look (e.g. GTA Chinatown Wars) I was a bit taken back by the overall look. On a more positive note, you can tell who is who (e.g Cobra or Joes) and you can tell that you are in different areas (e.g. Snow, Jungle, Desert) and that is a good thing, but again the textures that make up the environments are not as strong as they can be on the DS.
Given that the game does have somewhat of a story, I was surprised that the quality of the still cut-scenes that were used to move things along. It seems like someone took pictures of various stages of the movie with a kid’s digital camera and then threw then into the game. They were very low-res and seemed to lack the color and definition that is possible, even on the DS screen. It really took me away from wanting to pay attention to the happenings in the plot and I almost shed a tear for having to look at so many of these still cut-scenes. In this day when gamers demand, and deserve, quality visuals this level of quality is not acceptable.
The sound in The Rise of the Cobra is a little more engaging then I had envisioned. Although there is a distinct lack of voice work, which could have been cool, there is a lot of sound effects to portray the action that takes place on screen. From grenades or mines exploding, to guns a blazin’, there is no lack of sound effects here. As for the music, it too is pretty solid. The orchestral soundtrack manages to keep one’s attention as it adds a much needed boost to the overall atmosphere. As is the way with most DS games put on a set of headphones to give yourself an aural boost in the audio department.
The Rise of Cobra is a top down 2.5D shooter. For those who are somewhat confused by my 2.5 reference, the game is a mix of 2D and 3D graphics providing a neat perspective for the action that takes place on screen. What was evident as I played was that the game felt very familiar. Well, after realizing that Backbone Entertainment is responsible for the DS version of the game, I was aware of why it felt, or at least looked, somewhat recognizable. Backbone Entertainment is responsible for the game, and they are also currently responsible for continued development of Guantlet DS. The Rise of Cobra is basically a G.I Joe version what that game represents. Your Joes essentially take the place of the Gauntlet characters as you run through the various levels available. It makes sense that this game was developed by Backbone as they are very suited for making it.
Given that you are taking control of various G.I Joe characters (e.g. Duke, Snake-Eyes, etc) they are given their own set of abilities, weapons and even speed. For example, Duke has a long-distance grenade while Snake-Eyes has a powerful close quarter melee attack. There is no doubt that certain characters will become your favourite, but I do recommend trying all six at least once. You will find that your adventure takes you to various levels throughout, be it a jungle level, desert level, or even a snowbound level. It is very stereotypical to say the least, but at least you get to travel to different areas and it’s not all one similar looking place.
The majority of the game is spent running and gunning, but there are a few instances where you get to drive a vehicle or man a turret, which in the end can be seen as small breaks in between the rest of the action. Of course your main goal is to get through the waves of Cobra that you face. Given that this game mirrors Gauntlet in many ways, hordes of Cobra enemy will continue to respawn over and over again until you finally destroy the generators where they come from. Once you destroy said generator(s) then you can continue through the level. It is basically mindless action as you go through each level creating as much carnage as possible. Backbone Entertainment added a cover system for those that want to be a little strategic, but in the end this system was not as cohesive as it could have been and I found that I preferred just avoiding enemy fire and running in with guns-a-blazin. Hey, it worked for me so I stuck with it.
There is a character level up system that The Rise of Cobra utilizes. Basically each enemy that you dispose of is tallied as experience points, and as you move through the levels accumulating these points you will hit various totals that allows your character to ‘level-up’, becoming a bit stronger, and opening up a new uniform at each level up. I thought this was a pretty neat little inclusion given that it acted like an incentive to use specific characters in order to level each one up to the max.
Finally, another little treat, and something that should be familiar to those who have seen the movie already, is that you can find the accelerator suits that are featured in the big screen version of The Rise of Cobra. These suits allow you to become invincible while giving you the added abilities of some true ‘kick-ass’ strength. Although these are featured in the game, they are far and few between and don’t expect to use these all the time given that they are not found all over the game. Given how sparse they are it gives you a true feeling of satisfaction when you do acquire them and use their super-abilities.
So far it sounds like The Rise of the Cobra is a pretty good game. Unfortunately not everything is rosy and there are a few issues that manage to pull this game down a notch or two.
For me I was somewhat hampered by the control scheme offered in the game. Backbone did not implement any use of the DS’s touch screen for movement. You’ll find that only the d-pad and face buttons of the DS are used for the in-game action. This game could have benefited from some sort of stylus control as found in some FPS games (Call of Duty’s control comes to mind). Also noteworthy here is that I don’t know if was just me missing something, but for the love of God I could not run and fire at the same time. I wonder if this was due to the d-pad’s use to control the game or not, but whatever it was I just couldn’t get the two (fire and run) to mix. It definitely could prove frustrating on more then one occasion.
Another serious blow to the game is that the collision detection seems kind of ‘wonky’. It was almost like every object (e.g. vehicles, barriers, walls, etc) had some sort of invisible forcefield around it and as I made my way though the levels I would get hung-up on these items and I would become cannon fodder for the Cobra forces. I can’t count the number of times that I was making my way around something only to just stop in mid stride and have to adjust my strategy and location as I was getting hammered from enemy fire.
Finally, my biggest gripe with the overall gameplay has to be with the pacing of the action and how the story interjects and ruins one’s mojo. As you play through the single player experience you will be given short snippets of the story. Usually this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but given how frequent they are, they really ruin the flow of the gameplay experience. I can’t count how many times I would be starting to get into my groove only to be interrupted by a segment that is supposed to carry along the plot. Granted, there are a few times where the story does try to continue while you are playing, but these times are just as frustrating given that your focus is on the action taking place on the top screen and not the bottom screen where the story is playing out during these time periods. Overall the presentation of the story, which really doesn’t add anything to the game, hinders one’s enjoyment more then it should and it really does have a negative effect on one’s ability to enjoy the experience.
The Rise of Cobra does offer up a four player multiplayer mode which adds a bit of replay value to the game, as long as you can find up to three others with a copy. There are three separate modes to play here. Team Battle mode basicially represents a team deathmatch mode. Warhead is a capture the flag like mode where you must return a warhead to the opposing base and wait for it to blow up. Finally, Defend the Base mode has one team on offence, being as destructive as possible, while the other team plays defence, protecting everything they can. I wish I could tell you how well these modes played, but unfortunately no one else had a copy of the game, so I was left to see what the modes were and being able to explain them to you.
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