The Cobra is rising, and G.I. Joe - the world's military elite - need to grab it behind the head and stuff it in a sack Steve Irwin-style. But with more firepower. As such, EA has capitalised on the recent release of the film and given us a game in which we can do just that. It's a shame they have missed the mark in almost every way. Yes, sorry, this is another tired movie tie-in, rushed to market and only good for a couple of hours light entertainment. It's not just a shooter, it has elements of RPG, and throughout the game you'll find yourself constantly reminded of arcade classics from a much simpler time. Wait, that actually makes it sound kind of good.
In G.I. Joe: the Rise of the Cobra, you play the missions two by two, meaning each time you go into battle you have two Joes on your team. You can switch between them (on the Wii) using the '-' button, so there's an element of strategy in using X Joe for Y task. At first, you have access to Scarlett and Duke, who each have different weapons and abilities. Anyone who has seen the movie will remember Scarlett's devastating crossbow, and she has access to this in the game. Each character has a primary weapon, as well as a special attack. Duke's, for example, is a grenade launcher. As you progress through the game and unlock new Joes to fight with, you will in turn get new abilities and gadgets. But we're sort of ahead of ourselves here...
In terms of story, there's not a lot going on. The game kinda sorta picks up where the movie left off but not really. Cobra = all that is nasty and hooded-snake-like, Joe = all that is American and camouflaged. The two don't like each other very much, and the battle they wage is pretty epic, given the masses of technology each has available. Cobra's experiments with nano-technology have the potential to rob the innocent people of the world of their Freedom Fries, and Joe ain't havin' it. With the support of a range of crew, each coming in by intercom and offering the world's most convenient solutions, it's your job to rescue captured team mates, sort out the evil M.A.R.S corporation and tell those Cobra guys, "Oi. Settle down."
You've seen the five and a half we slapped on this puppy, so before we get to exactly why this game fails, here's a few minor successes. Numero uno: the camera work almost always works really well. The game is in isometric third-person, and there is no way to adjust or manipulate the camera in game. So often with titles in this view, angles can get a bit sticky. In G.I. Joe there is almost none of that. Putting the game through its paces, meaning running the characters into corners deliberately and having them fight enemies coming at them from behind, you'll get the camera to bind up and keep you from seeing all the action in very few cases indeed. Mostly, it's a very smooth, very free operation that seems to intuit what you want from it.
Number two would be the arcade sensibility Rise of the Cobra has. Realism has really been stripped back, in keeping with the preposterous nature of the film (which isn't the worst movie ever) and it tries merely to be fun for what it is. The explosions are huge and firey, your primary weapon never runs out, power ups are lying around the landscape waiting for you to pick them up, and on the easiest setting, you get a free pass every time you die. When I found out that my gun was never going dry, I powered around every corner with my finger locked down, taking out all enemies in sight with the game's automatic targeting system. While you can prioritise using the right directional button, its far easier and meat-axe-ish to just let the AI do the work. Level layout is fairly linear and the duck-and-cover system and pick-up-that, use-it-for-that cause and effect system is so simple it's a kind of genius. I think.
The battles are a bit of fun, and absolute pandemonium to boot. When your characters get pinned down by turrets and various foot-Cobras, all hell breaks loose. You get just seconds to find cover, pick your targets (if that's how you want to play it) and return fire. Switching character might help, but it might not. Early in the game, after you rescue a Joe called Heavy Duty, you'll find yourself calling him up for every mission - his firepower is incredible, and there is some satisfaction in watching the Cobra machine burn. The sense of disharmony between the character you control and that controlled by AI is fairly acute, but who can tell if this is a clever developer's device or just a case of sloppy programming? It might just be that the second Joe on the screen just fires wildly until you take control of him or her again. It's hard to tell when Storm Shadow's protégées are trying to chop you up with katanas.
But what else is there? Sweet F A, friends. The game runs short on substance pretty quick, and I must unfortunately report that the graphics are truly awful, even for the Wii. In the thick of the fast paced action you might be able to forgive a bit of rough environment rendering, but with visuals that would be more at home on your old tank of an N64, this game is more likely to turn you off from the get-go. And the publishers don't even seem to have made much effort with the screenshots on the box! You could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a sequel to Perfect Dark.
Apart from the guy who does a decent fake Kevin Costner, the voice acting is woeful, without flow, and peppered with dad's jokes. It does little more than distract you, and when a game is as shallow as this one, that's a dangerous thing.
At the end of each mission, your performance is tagged to a number of Battle Points. Depending on whether you reach the rank of Sloppy Joe, Average Joe, Super Joe or G.I. Joe, you will be awarded points which act as currency for buying new characters and other unlockables. There's things like concept art to be had (which is actually quite a nice touch) and character bios and other intel. A lot of this stuff is also able to be picked up in game, which is a case of spotting them hiding behind that dog over there. No wait, it's a beached whale. It's beached as. On closer inspection, I think that's supposed to be a log...
Once you've had your fun with a few nifty control mechanisms, various weapons and other pieces of movieland technology, and seen enough explosions, I'm gonna hazard a guess at you looking around for something else to play. Joe's not a totally worthless purchase, and would actually be pretty good for your ten to thirteen year olds, provided you're okay with a bit of cartoon shock and awe. If you're the kind of gamer that likes to really sink your teeth into something - and let's face it, that's most of us - then steer well clear. Go see the movie instead. It has the Eiffel Tower in it.