Games used to be like this all the time. Stick two dudes (or dudettes) in a level, give them some big guns and throw wave after wave of even bigger enemies at them. Strap your finger to the fire button, keep moving, shoot everything that looks at you cock-eyed. Die, repeatedly. Hurl the controller at the cat’s smug face. Start the whole process again. With a sob and a sigh.
GI Joe does its best to revive the old run-and-gun dynamic from games like Contra, and recreate it in a sort-of 3D world, but it doesn’t quite work. You’ll notice the biggest flaw immediately: this is a full-priced retail title, when it should have been downloadable cheapie. There are plenty of games of this ilk on there already – not as fleshed out, admittedly, with one fewer dimension and less fancy explosions – but sharing the same unashamedly basic/dumb approach. Your first five minutes with The Rise of Cobra will likely be the same as your last: an ever-increasing hailstorm of bullets, power-ups and rampaging robo-men.
There are also vehicles. Vehicles with such awful controls it feels like you’re trying to parallel park a T-Rex. But the majority of the game is running around in an army of two, latching to cover and shooting nasty Cobra agents till they dissolve in yellow goo. Until the Dread Pirate Repetition appears about halfway through the first level it can be quite entertaining – even more so with another human by your side. It’s here where the witchcraft of that third dimension comes back to bite you on the arse. The inflexible camera is fine in tiny environments, but in bigger ones it can be a right pain, blocking off enemies and forcing you to shoot blindly at the edge of the screen. The game can also be insufferably hard even on the normal difficulty level, as characters can only be revived at mid-stage checkpoints – and if you both die you’ll be thrown back to the start.
There are so few pure arcade co-op games around it would be easy to blinker yourself to the myriad faults, but a problem halved is not a problem shared – it’s a problem multiplied by two. Although GI Joe contains mild thrills, it’s too clumsy to truly excite.
Aug 25, 2009