Why do some game developers insist on ruining licenses? It is 100% possible to make a good licensed game. Take a look at Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Shadows Of Mordor, The Chronicles Of Riddick, or even the fantastic Batman games. It's possible for a licensed game to be done well. So why do 99% of all licensed games absolutely suck?
The first Rambo movie came out in 1982, the last Rambo movie came out in 2008 (at the time of writing this review, a fifth movie is in the works but has yet to have any details revealed), so why did anybody think a 2014 game was a good idea? I'm all for action games. Run and gunners, first person shooters, action RPGs, these are all great ideas, ideas that you do not need a license for. So why was an on rails shooter concocted? And why did it have to be Rambo?
Upon starting this game, the first thing you'll notice are the visuals, and they are appalling. Rambo's face looks like something out of a wax museum that had a recent fire. The environments and weapons are competently done, but then a weird grainy filter was slapped over the top, giving the player the feeling of playing through a dirty window. It's supposed to make Rambo: The Video Game's muddy visuals look like they have definition but completely fails to do so.
The enemy units are rubber stamped from one to the next. There is very little variety between the enemy models, and by very little, I mean none. All the basic enemies share the same model, and the only variations you will find is when you fight differing enemy types, of which there are 4: a generic shooty guy, a grenadier, a heavy and a flamer. The only other variations is if you have a specific character from the movie you have to fight - not that they look anything like their real life counterparts anyway.
The audio is no better. The gun and explosion sounds are something to be marveled: it's almost like it was recorded through a poor quality microphone off a TV set. There is no bass and no punch to any of the effects, and this reflects in the quality of the voice acting as well - a term I use extremely loosely. The cover states Rambo: The Video Game "features actual voices of Rambo & Col. Trautman from the motion pictures", which any reasonable person would assume means Sylvester Stallone and Richard Crenna reprised their roles and did some voice work for Rambo: The Video Game, but you would be incorrect. The audio clips are ripped directly from the movie, in patented no-bass-distorto-sound.
The gameplay leaves something to be desired. It's a competent on-rails shooter, but it is uninteresting. The overuse of quick-time-events is horrifying for an action game - there is just no need for it and is supremely lazy.
The cover mechanic is also poorly implemented. Sometimes you are given no cover options, which from a tactical standpoint makes no sense, and other times you are given ineffective or awkward cover options. You could be in cover with 80% of the enemies still able to see, and shoot you. It boggles the mind why a trained soldier like Rambo would stand in the middle of a field with 10 people shooting at him and just take it, instead of ducking down a couple of extra inches and being completely covered.
The one good mechanic they, ahem, borrowed, was the Gears Of War active reload system. When you reload you can either get a normal reload, giving you a full clip, a sloppy or "jam" reload, which will take longer and only give you half ammo, and a perfect reload, which will give you a double clip, and will reload super quick.
The difficulty of this game is the biggest issue. Rambo: The Video Game has a real vibe of "Nintendo Difficulty", a game made artificially longer by being stupidly difficult for no reason other than to be stupidly difficult. The further you get into the game, the more, and harder, enemies that get thrown at you and the less cover you get given. I am fine with difficult games, but when you have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at somebody, just to stretch out your game to a measly four hours, you have done something incorrect. But to Rambo: The Video Game's credit, it does hit most points from the first three movies (apparently, two years wasn't enough to get content from the fourth).
Throughout, Rambo: The Video Game does a solid job of telling the Rambo story. Major plot points nearly mirror the movie, but the one major disappointment is that one of the pivotal moments from the films is cut out. The speech at the end of the first movie is a piece of required viewing, and I would love to link it to you but, copyright and all that. Other than that, what I would call a major omission, the story is ok. Even when you are fighting through the various environments, they all seem to match up pretty well to the films. There is also a multi-player mode in this game, but I don't hate anyone enough to put them through that.
Overall, as much as I would like to give this game a 2 or a 1, objectively, I can't. This game isn't bad per se, it's just not very good. It does the storyline well, and while it isn't fun all the way through, the first few levels can be enjoyed if you are a fan of the movies, or a fan of on-rails shooters. The problem with this game is that it is so average. Not so bad it's good where you can derive enjoyment from making fun of Rambo: The Video Game, just a very mundane experience. When this game was released, it came up against Donkey Kong Country Returns - Tropical Freeze, and Earth Defense Force 2025 on the same day and was a full priced release. Anyone with half a brain couldn't justify that purchase. Even two years later at the $20AU I paid for it, I feel a bit jibbed. At the very least, it is a game that every game developer with a license in hand should play to know how not to do a licensed game.
What do you guys think? Would you rather watch the Rambo quadrilogy than play this game? Let me know in the comments below.
This game was bought by the reviewer and reviewed on the Xbox 360.