Rambo: the name alone is a word that conjures up images of violence, Sylvester Stallone, and big hair. The films starring the character of John Rambo, a veteran of the Vietnam War with a seriously itchy trigger finger, have gone down in movie history as something that’s only good as a popcorn film to be watched with a couple of mates, and nothing more.
The game has been coming for the last couple of years now, but there’s never really been a time when anyone has been overly excited about it. Now it seems that that lack of enthusiasm from the gaming public has been warranted.
What we have here is an on-rails first-person-shooter, which is the first glaringly obvious thing that makes the game feel even more dated than its subject matter. Playing as Rambo should feel like an adventure – a feeling of freedom and the ability to do whatever needs doing in order to get to the end of a mission. Rambo: The Video Game does everything in the exact opposite way. Instead of being able to explore, you’re confined to a set path. Instead of being able to choose your own methods to complete the mission, you’re given only the option to kill everyone on screen until the game decides that it’s time for you to move on.
There are some moments of interesting gameplay mechanics, such as the active reload system which was so beloved in Gears of War. Here, a quick click of the right mouse button will cause a timer of sorts to appear in the centre of the screen, click the right mouse button again in the correct area and you have the chance to reload with double the amount of ammo. Hit the mouse button in the incorrect area, though, and you could end up with the weapon jamming, meaning you have to spend much more time than you intended to trying to get the magazine in. Not good when you’re staring down multiple barrels.
The amount of points that you earn in a given mission is the most important thing in the world to you. Any score that you’re able to achieve is modified by the difficulty you had the game set at while you were playing, as well as how many perfect reloads you were able to combo together, and a multitude of other factors. If you’ve seen the films then you’ll know that Rambo has to fight against a slew of police officers at various different times. One way to accrue a vast amount of points is to avoid killing the law men, shooting them in the leg or the arm in order to incapacitate them instead.
Quicktime Events – the bane of almost every single gamer – make a return in Rambo. Whether you love them or hate, you’re forced to use them in order to complete entire sections of levels; and sometimes whole levels. If you’re fighting against police officers, then hitting the QTEs perfectly will allow you to incapacitate them (netting you those increased number of points). However, hit the buttons too early or too late and you will slaughter the enemy with reckless abandon. You’ll still get points, but not nearly as many as you would have otherwise.
When it all comes down to it, Rambo: The Video Game is repetitive but a little bit fun when you play it on your own. You probably won’t be able to get through more than a couple of levels before you’ll start to feel yourself want to turn it off for a while – it’s a score-attack game, after all. Like most games that aren’t great solo, they redeem themselves a small amount when played in co-op. It’s easy enough to play the console version in co-op – just get a mate around, bring a controller – but having reviewed the PC version, it’s a little bit more difficult if you don’t have a wired controller or similar. There’s no online multiplayer, only local co-op, so if you’ve only got one keyboard and no extra controllers, then you’re stuck with playing on your own, as unfortunate as that may be for your enjoyment of the game on the whole.
Another benefit to getting Rambo on console (specifically the PS3) is the ability to play the entire game as a light gun game using PlayStation Move. There are options which allow you to disable the rendering of both the weapon and the reticle to enable you to experience the entire game a s a light gun game. Which, if you have can, you should absolutely give the game a play like this – even more so if you intend playing it in co-op.
VERDICT: If you’re in the market for an on-rails shooter and love the Rambo franchise, then you may want to pick up Rambo: The Video Game. There are bugs that can hopefully be fixed with upcoming patches (indeed, we are informed a patch is on the way), but thankfully I never came across anything that caused me to stop playing (other than general frustration). There’s no getting around the fact that on-rails shooters just feel restrictive, and Rambo is a score-attack game that’s gotten a bit lost in time. Get it on PS3 and invite a friend round to play with you.
POOR. Games tagged 4/10 will be playable, perhaps even enjoyable, but will be let down by a slew of negative elements that undermine their quality and value. Best avoided by any but hardcore genre fans.
Review code provided by publisher.