I think we’re far enough along in our relationship that I can be perfectly honest with you, so I just have to say it: movie tie-in games tend to stink. And when I say stink, I mean reek. Badly. Some are just generic, uninspired titles, while others are actually technically unplayable, and feature incredibly poor design quality. For you older gamers, (or those of us who are younger, but well-versed in video game history), I only need to write two letters to make my point: E.T.
Now, not all tie-in games are bad. When the right developer gets their hands on a license, and is given enough time, the finished product can actually be quite good. Ubisoft’s The Expendables 2 Videogame, unfortunately, doesn’t really fall into this category. While the design choice is fitting for a game based on a movie like this, the game in its entirety is ultimately nothing more than an uninspired, mediocre time-waste.
Based on the description of the game, The Expendables 2 Videogame actually takes place between the two movies, making the title somewhat misleading. Honestly, though, there isn’t much story there. Throughout the four chapters, you’re taken through the Balkans, Somalia, Kowloon and Burma, and the mission descriptions in each chapter are really the only hint you have as to what’s going on. Yes, there are little bits of story at the beginning/end of most of the missions, but they’re fairly uninformative. They really just serve to outline your current objective, rather than to assemble any sort of coherent, overhanging plot.
But really, that in itself isn’t a huge deal. The Expendables movies are more about the explosive action sequences, and choosing to make the videogame tie-in a top-down, twin-stick, arcade shooter actually recreates this pretty well. Fans of games like Dead Nation will be pretty much right at home, here. After choosing to play either as Barney Ross (the role portrayed by Sly Stallone in the movie, lest we’ve forgotten), Gunner Ross, (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang, (Jet Li), or Hale Caeser (Terry Crews), you’re thrown into a mission that always boils down to ‘run toward the end of the level shooting everything that moves.’
There’s nothing particularly fantastic about the level designs, but they do serve their purpose: they’re nothing more than a backdrop to make sure you’re not looking at the same thing over and over again while killing the same bad guy over and over again. But, like I said, this game is all about explosions. Choosing to make this a top-down arcade shooter, rather than a Gears of War clone actually makes a lot of sense. In pretty much every firefight, there are barrels or vehicles to shoot at that will then explode, and a veritable army of baddies to shoot at, something which would have taken up a lot of power to render in any other style of game. The trade-off is that the graphics are nothing to look at: the actors’ likenesses are barely likenesses, the enemies, as I mentioned, all look pretty much the same, and the environments aren’t going to blow anybody away. This would all be excusable, if the game really was centred around the explosions.
Unfortunately, it isn’t. For whatever reason, the developers decided to include a cover mechanic into the game, in what has to be one of the strangest design choices I’ve ever come across. Taking cover in an arcade shooter like this just doesn’t make sense. What’s more, it doesn’t make sense in the context of the source materials. These are badass action stars, and the movies are all about them taking on entire compounds of bad guys without breaking a sweat. These guys blow stuff up; they don’t hide behind (presumably) chest-high walls and peek out every now and then to squeeze off a few rounds.
This is made even worse by the fact that aiming in the game is nigh-on nonexistent, and the hit detection is bugged to high heaven. There aren’t any aiming lines or laser sights to hint at where you’re aiming, so you just point whatever character you happen to be at the nearest cluster, and hope that you hit them. Even if you’re standing at point-blank range, it isn’t necessarily a guarantee. Even with a close-quarters weapon like the shotgun, hitting an enemy in close proximity isn’t a given. And that’s when the enemies you’re shooting at are at the same level as you. Sometimes, they’re standing on guard towers, or otherwise out of your reach, and then it’s a crapshoot as to whether you’ll ever manage to hit them.
Running around blowing stuff up with your friends is fun, (although joining a random online game is less so), but the shoehorned cover system and poor aiming make it so that it’s more difficult than it should be to do that. There’s just no incentive to play it for more than a few minutes. The likenesses aren’t good, the voice acting is awful – the Stallone impersonation is easily the worst I’ve ever heard, and Lundgren and Crews, who provide the voices for their characters, completely phone it in. Even the levelling system is rudimentary and unfulfilling. It’s supposed to make the game easier to play as you go along, but if anyone sticks around long enough to level their characters, I’ll be surprised. On top of that, I’m pretty sure you can pay a little extra money to max out your character levels before you even play, so that’s out the door as well.
The bones of a passable arcade shooter are in here: the design style befits the source material, and, when you’re blowing stuff up with your friends, it’s an all right time. But the technical problems get in the way of this, and the cover system, which is pretty much mandatory at higher difficulty levels, don’t help this at all. If you’re an absolute diehard fan of action movies, you’ll probably have fun with the game for a little while, but for anyone else, it’s just not worth the time, even as a cheaper, downloadable title.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Scientifically proven to help boost your testosterone levels. (Should you be female, you may want to watch out for this).
+ Co-op Expendable-ing with friends is fairly enjoyable.
+ There are enough things to shoot and explode to keep you satisfied…
- …if you can overcome the poor aiming and hit detection and actually manage to shoot and explode them, that is.
- Voice acting is pretty awful.
- Overall, there just isn’t much incentive to play it for very long.
1 (RIP) to 4 are varying degrees of a bad game. A 1 (RIP) being a game you would actually pay money to not play, and a 4 is something that just barely fails to be mediocre.
The Expendables 2 Videogame was developed and published by Ubisoft. It is available for download on the PC, PlayStation 3 (reviewed) and Xbox 360 for $14.99. A copy was provided to RipTen for the purposes of review.