The year is 2014, it’s the first proper year for the next-gen consoles and we are going to see games that will defy the laws of what is possible for. Stunning graphics, gripping and immersive gameplay, stories and online play that will keep you entertained for so long with their outstanding qualities……..Rambo: The Video Game doesn’t come close to satisfying any of these criteria.
I have seen the first 3 Rambo films and enjoyed them all in one way or another. This game invents bizarre new scenes, makes Rambo out to be a bad guy and also thinks he likes to stand out in the open to die!
The game takes you through 16 levels of differing length, sometimes woefully short, and they go in chronological order through the first 3 films. Actually I say that but the game features some new events never-before-seen. For instance, the first level sees you escaping Vietnam in a ludicrous prologue mission.
How much credibility would the first film have had if we’d had seen this before the film gets going? In the first film, Rambo accidentally kills one person and that’s it; I killed 146 people in the mind-numbing 15 minute prologue. At first, I just couldn’t find any satisfaction at all from the game. But as the levels went on, there was SOME sick pleasure to gain from mowing down lots of unfair A.I. Until you get to the levels depicting the third film, the excessive killing (of police too) is unbecoming of our Vietnam veteran.
Now I’ve recently watched Rambo and I can’t remember the part where he inhumanely slaughters the entire police department. My recollection was that he systematically created distractions all over town to evade capture whilst hunting the Sheriff? That’s right, that’s exactly what happened. Then again, it probably wouldn’t fit with the mantra of kill anything that moves in this game.
Onto the gameplay; how can you have an on-rails shooter in 2014? I can’t even begin to describe how lazy that is. No matter how bad the game is, you simply must have it play as a first-person shooter. The last big title to do this was Dead Space: Extraction and it worked; but it was for the Wii which benefits on-rail shooters. So that shocked me first of all.
But so much of this game is so below sub-par that it’s genuinely shocking. The guns all feel the same, from a tiny pistol to a hulking LMG (Light Machine Gun). They’re all weightless, sound like toy guns and aim like a drunken guy thinking he’s Rambo…..oh wait.
The cover system baffles me, truly baffles me. Do you remember how Time Crisis set the logical precedent of when you take cover you don’t get hit? Then House of the Dead followed suit by implementing the same system? Well the developer, Teyon, thought that that system is too comfortable for the player. If you go into cover, you can still be shot by some visible enemies. If you think that’s being exposed then how about this; some levels have sections that move you to an area where you have NO cover. Yes that’s right. You effectively become a human shooting gallery as you’re unmercifully battered by a barrage of bullets. Need to reload? Tough, you’re going to look like a big block of Swiss cheese by the time the enemy is done with you.
The game just never feels fair either as you’re effectively being shot before you’re even in position to start gunning down bad guys. Sometimes bullets don’t feel like they’re damaging enemies when they should and I’ll save a gem for later about the last level.
Whilst the gunplay is shocking, some of the accompanying features manage to make the experience somewhat bearable. Rambo uses the reload system featured in Gears of War where you have to time your reloads to gain the maximum ammo clip. It’s a strategic element that means you have to concentrate during your shootouts. Believe it or not, it’s fun.
Another nifty feature is Wrath Mode; during the course of play you will be eradicating enemy scum in there millions. For every enemy you kill you fill up your Wrath bar with small increments of rage. When you see fit, you can unleash said Wrath as Rambo lets out a masculine roar. It enables time to slow down and your vision becomes greatly enhanced as all enemies glow orange and become easy to spot. The length of time is dependent on how full your bar is and how many additional segments you’ve unlocked for it.
Quick-time events are a common occurrence and can be the focal point of entire levels. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to go and survey gamers and see the overwhelmingly negative response they would receive. Sneaking through a forest to evade the police leaves you to go all predator and mud up to stealthily kill yet more police officers in this fantasy world of Rambo; I despair, I really do. Timing the QTE’s is easy enough and provides more of a challenge on a harder difficulty; infiltrating the prison camp best represents QTE’s. You had the choice to go in all guns blazing or just execute everything quietly which was a nice choice.
Rarely does the formula for the levels change but the second mission, despite its ease, laziness and lack of length, is all about QTE’s. Another level has Rambo commandeering a helicopter to unleash hell from above. This variety is welcome whenever it’s offered.
Hearing the same music looping over and over and over and over through the levels is annoying and hearing all the same phrases from the enemies is just as bad. Teyon has at least managed to obtain tapes containing dialogue from the original films so that’s a definite plus point. On the other hand, the sound bytes sound like they’re being projected through a wall. They’re inaudible and of very poor quality; at least they’re in I suppose.
But having a distinct lack of lip-syncing is just stupid. Rambo essentially becomes a ventriloquist’s dream dummy as he projects audio with no way of doing so. Also, how do you get subtitles wrong? On one occasion, a police officer said: “Can’t you see he’s got a screw lose?” Ermmm I think it was supposed to say ‘loose’. Another example of this was: “You damn right i can”. It pained me to type that lowercase I and pained me even more to see it in the game.
In terms of visual quality there is very little to appreciate. The rendered cut-scenes look awful; they’re jagged and laggy and would barely grace the presence of a PS2 game. The in-game graphics aren’t much better however; nasty, ugly textures plague the game and pop-in is a constant. I was also highly amused by the fact that EVERY Vietcong fighter in the prologue has the same face; again, blatant laziness.
Strangely the water looks nice! Water seems to be the way to show-off your graphical dominance recently; sadly it appears to be all Rambo: The Video Game has. Even the character model for Rambo isn’t altogether convincing; double sadly, it’s the most convincing in the game.
I find it very easy to lose track of what’s happening in levels sometimes as the camera seems to be caught in an uncontrollable cyclone. One moment you’re killing these guys WOOOSH, although way over to this bit of forest WAAAAH as we’re whisked away elsewhere. There’s a distinct lack of co-ordination and direction in levels, which is understandable when you’re trying to guide a player through waves of enemies.
I’ll give credit where credit’s due; there is some depth here and incentive to carry on playing. After each level is completed, there is the annoying “Mission accomplished” quote from Rambo. I mean seriously, that quote was used at the end of Rambo 2 and it was awesome; now that I’ve had to hear it so many times it’s become irritating! Tangent aside, at the end of each level you will see a debriefing screen displaying your statistics for the level. Score, headshots etc; it’s all relevant.
These statistics will tell you how well you performed and this will be recognised in the form of a rating: 1, 2 or 3 stars. So if you want to, you can try and achieve the top rating on all levels whilst you try to reach level 20. Yep, we have a rudimentary levelling up system with each level up rewarding you with perks and abilities; you can also increase Rambo’s stats. But to be honest, most of them will not be used as most people will have to use the same few perks and abilities and upgrade the same stats to survive.
Unfortunately I had to use the words “have” and “survive” because without upgrading health and using Wrath perks and what not; the game will punish you. One of the main ways it will punish you is with the final level.
Holy hell there isn’t enough words in the Oxford English Dictionary to describe the last level. I’ve thought of two, difficulty spike. The 15 levels prior had offered a challenge, if you died then it was probably because you didn’t have enough health to cope with some of the more unfair parts that leave you exposed. But the last level is just utterly brutal. It’s the showdown for Rambo and Colonel Trautman as the rescue mission from Rambo III has one horrifically difficult hurdle remaining.
It’s just one mini-boss battle after another as you face wave after wave of armoured enemies, ‘heavy’ enemies that are packing firepower, tanks that will automatically kill you if you can’t react within the stupid 3-5 second timeframe etc. I just completely lost patience with this level as it was the final icing on the cake for this game. It took away the tiny desire I had to go back and replay the game to level up and achieve higher scores.
It’s bad enough that your lower level Rambo’s inferiority and A.I is against you, but the core mechanics hinder you also. I’d recommend you go back and replay earlier levels to level up and come back to this when you’re a higher level and armed to the teeth.
The game has few moments of variety and innovation but one mission sees Rambo take control of an AA gun to bring down 2 helicopters just like he does in Rambo III. But Teyon have absolutely no idea what handling or weighted physics are. You tap left or right on the controller and the weapon swings viciously like a kite in the wind; so difficult to control and you wonder what you’ve done to deserve this hell.
Another example of the game’s failing physics is the bow and arrow. Whenever you use the bow and arrow, if you hit an enemy with an arrow a) it won’t hit him when it should and he instantly one-hit kills you or b) it hits him in the head but it registers as a normal hit. Additionally, if you hit an enemy with an arrow, it kills him, but bounces off of him and falls on the floor because the engine can’t handle an arrow being stuck in somebody. Wow. Oh, and the arrows being fired sounds like an ACME crossbow, Elmer Fudd should invest in one to hunt Bugs Bunny.
If you can muster the willpower to soldier on after the last mission then you can unlock some extra weapons by completing various challenges in mission e.g getting x amount of headshots in the prologue. But with only 16 missions and some ending within 5 minutes, you’ll only have about 3-5 hours of content to play.
+ Killing lots of enemies has a twisted enjoyability to it
+ Wrath Mode and Reloading add tactical edge to gameplay
– Terribly outdated graphics
– Outdated and broken game mechanics
– Lack of proper cover system
– Unfair levels and areas
– Doesn’t stay completely true to Rambo franchise
– Paltry offering for a proper retail release
The year is 2014; this game does not belong in this year or even the last 10 years. The graphics have obviously been overlooked; a lack of mechanics in a poorly chosen on-rails environment will disappoint Rambo fans greatly. There is definitely some fun to be had here as it was worthy of earning some marks out of 10. Killing bad guys is cool, especially when you’re John Rambo; but this is supposed to be based on the events of Rambo I-III, but this game just focuses on the third incarnation of Rambo as you kill through all three films. The strategic elements add a little bit of depth to the gameplay but it’s nowhere near enough to save this poor attempt at a game. For the little content you get, it should have been an £8 downloadable title on the Playstation Network and Xbox Live; let alone £20+.
“I’ve seen worse” – John Rambo
“I’ve not played worse” – Andrew Highton