Don’t be fooled. At first glance, digital-only release The Expendables 2: The Game looks like it might be a simple but fun movie tie-in with its big explosions, Sylvester Stallone-caliber action stars, and a massive bullet (and body) count, but unfortunately, it’s severely lacking in its delivery. Between the cut down roster of famous faces from the movie’s cast, frustrating control mechanics and noticeable lack of polish, the movie tie-in gives few reasons to invest your time and money in a download.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice the character roster to be lacking star power, which is overwhelmingly disappointing. Huge action stars like Chuck Norris, Jason Statham and Bruce Willis are missing. Only four of the dozen or so heroes from the movie make the line-up, which completely negates the point of a game based on a movie starring the most famous faces in the action movie genre. Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Terry Crews’ faces are immediately recognizable, but sadly, Jet Li’s likeness is absent, which left us confused and wondering who the character was until his name was mentioned in gameplay. Each character plays a different role. Stallone’s Barney Ross is a pistol wielding gunfighter, Lundgren takes the sniper role as Gunner, Terry Crews is the explosives expert Caesar, and “Not Jet Li” is the knife throwing, close-combat soldier Yang.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t cater to the class system like it should. There are some instances in which you’ll have to use the explosives expert to blow up reinforced gates, or use Yang to cut a few ropes, but those instances don’t get much more varied than that. In addition, the characters feel more or less the same. You’ll be able to get a long distance kill whether you’re using Gunner’s high caliber sniper rifle, or Barney’s revolver.
The entire game is played through an isometric perspective with all four characters in view, which has worked well for other action shooters. But one of The Expendables 2’s worst flaws comes from the aiming mechanics. You control your character’s aiming with the right control stick and movement with the left. When tilting the right stick in the direction of a group of enemies, your character will soft-lock onto the closest one. Rather than helping, the lock-on just makes the aiming clunky. You won’t be able to shift your fire to shoot an explosive barrel slightly to the right of an enemy or pick off a sniper behind the enemy line. It just becomes increasingly frustrating as you involuntarily fire at the non-threat crouching behind a sandbag.
The campaign spans 20 short levels over four locations with first-person helicopter gunner shootouts interspersed throughout, but every level is the same as the last. You (and any friends) sit behind a sandbag firing at what feels like an endless barrage of dull enemies, then move forward, then repeat. Sure, there are bullets constantly flying across the screen and explosions going off every two seconds, but they do little to make the action exciting.
The story doesn’t do much to motivate you to continue playing, either. Initially, what seems like a serious plot gets trampled by out-of-place, corny dialogue and cutscenes that make little sense. For instance, at the end of one level, a bomb is planted with a nine second countdown. In that nine-second window, Stallone is able to call for a chopper evac, the helicopter miraculously arrives immediately, all four heroes board, and they clear the explosion. Again, in nine seconds.
Aside from the boring combat and cutscenes that are funny for the wrong reasons, we encountered several polish issues during our playthrough. Voiceover dialogue didn't match up with the on-screen subtitles on several occasions, some enemies in sniper towers were impossible to shoot, and at one point, the entire level-plane completely disappeared, leaving our characters floating in nothingness.
The Expendables 2: The Game has very few redeemable qualities. The gameplay completely misses the mark, and leaves you feeling like you are battling the controls more than you are fighting the enemy. Polish issues pop-up regularly, the story makes no sense, the enemies are boring, and the list goes on. Also, only three out of a cast of a dozen action stars have likenesses that are in the game. If you’re looking for a fun, action-heavy co-op shooter, steer clear of The Expendables 2 and invest your time elsewhere. This is a game that isn’t expendable; it’s avoidable.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.