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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - first look

Want to make a movie-based game that has a good chance at not sucking? Take a note from publisher Electronic Arts and developer Double Helix Games. Presented with the G.I. Joe license and a chance to make a game tying into the upcoming summer blockbuster movie, they could have attempted to make a brutal war epic, a dark third-person shooter, their version of Gears of War. Instead, they stuck to the spirit of the toys in creating The Rise of Cobra, a co-op-focused arcade-style shooter.

The co-op in Rise of Cobra is single-screen only and the main focus from EA is accessibility. This is a franchise that's been around longer than most people have been playing games – actually, considering the 12-inch G.I. Joe line launched in 1964, it pre-dates home gaming consoles entirely – so they want to make the game as pick-up-and-play as possible. Thus, there are few tactics and a grand total of two actions for the player to juggle: running and shooting. Sure, you can also leap behind cover if necessary, but with the pulled-back camera and auto-targeting, you aren't going to be making tough strategic decisions for your Joes.

Then again, they can't let the game get too simple. The two player-controlled characters will rotate between a total cast of 12 playable soldiers, including four unlockable members of the sinister organization Cobra, and characters will be split into a number of classes that can accomplish different things. We got to witness three of the heroes in action, including Heavy Duty, clearly of the Heavy Weapons class, which makes him slower than most other Joes but with tons of firepower. Fighting alongside him was Snake-Eyes, a Commando class soldier who uses his ninja sword to focus on close-up melee fighting. In a later level, Heavy Duty was replaced by Duke, a Soldier class who comes packing a grenade launcher.

If all these names have some classic cartoon nostalgia flaring up inside of you, you'll be happy to know that the timeless "Go Joe!" battle cry returns in the form of this game’s invincibility power-up: accelerator armor. Lifted from the film, this powerful pick-up will makes the characters faster, more resilient to enemy fire, and more damaging to the bad guys for a short period of time while the classic G.I. Joe cartoon theme plays in the background. This will also be a prime time to raise your points, which are converted into battle points after every mission to access unlockables such as the classic G.I. Joe public service announcements from the '80s – which are, by any standard, freaking hilarious today.

Besides the mix of characters and play styles, The Rise of Cobra will also become a little more complicated during boss battles. In one battle against a large mech suit, one of the characters had to distract the boss from the front while the other flanked and did damage from behind. In another, Duke and Snake-Eyes took on a flying gunship that dropped in waves of henchman as its energy depleted. Players will also be able to hijack vehicles of both the Joe and Cobra variety at certain points throughout the game.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra will be the exact same game across the 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, and PSP, with only the DS and mobile versions getting their own separate game with RPG-lite elements. While the gameplay doesn't go much beyond that of Xbox Live Arcade titles like Assault Heroes, it still seems surprisingly engaging and well within the boundaries the license. We'll have to wait until the film and game's release in August to find out whether that will hold up for a full game.

Mar 31, 2009

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