G.I. Joe - The Rise of COBRA DS
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Fall Line Studio
Unlike most who will be playing G.I. Joe - The Rise of Cobra, I've been completely oblivious to the franchise (probably due to living in England and not being in the US). This isn't necessarily a bad thing however as it allows for a clearer look at the game in its own right without any bias for or against the series. The good news is that you don't need to be aware of the G.I. Joe franchise in order to enjoy the game. The bad news is that in order to do so, you'll need to be very forgiving of the game's various problems that all help to bog this game down firmly in the realm of mediocrity.
The game begins with the G.I. Joe special ops team in a fairly confident mood. A top COBRA lieutenant, the Baroness, is behind bars and plans are underway to eradicate a splinter group who are led by M.A.R.S. Industries, a supplier of weapons to the evil COBRA. The confident mood doesn't last long however as things go pear-shaped with the escape of the Baroness and before you know it you're having to deal with a seemingly continual onslaught of enemies.
The Rise of Cobra is a top-down action game that puts you in charge of various members of the G.I. Joe team. Before each of the game's missions you'll get to choose who you want to play as from six playable characters who each have their own attributes along with primary and secondary weapons along with a special ability. Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara for instance uses a crossbow as her primary weapon, has an explosive crossbow bolt as her secondary weapon with her special ability being Combat Focus which allows her to endure a certain amount of weapons fire. The game's various missions are linear affairs but the ability to pick from a selection of characters does help to add a certain amount of replay value.
There are problems with The Rise of Cobra. The action is very repetitive. Having to take out masses of identical enemies and being asked to destroy various defensive structures ad nauseam can become tiring after a while. Thankfully the boss fights help to break up the tedium and there's no denying that there is some enjoyment to be had here. To begin with, the storyline is tedious and does absolutely nothing for the game. In fact it's very tempting to simply keep tapping the A button to move the dialogue forward without actually reading it because you never feel as though it's adding to the experience. The game doesn't look that good and has some graphical issues (which we'll come to in a moment) that really should have been ironed out. The game has a multiplayer mode, with a few game variants, that supports up to four players but every gamer will need a copy of the game so the chances of you playing with three others is probably slim unless you happen to have three DS-owning friends who are G.I. Joe enthusiasts.
With this game being a DS game, you might expect to find that touch screen controls feature in the game. However, this is one of those unusual DS games that simply uses a conventional control scheme meaning you'll be using the directional pad to move your character and buttons to fire weapons and perform various other actions. This isn't necessarily a bad thing of course but the controls feel stiff and rather awkward at times. You can't move and shoot at the same time which definitely feels odd and definitely adds to the stiff quality that the game has.
The Rise of Cobra isn't a good looking game by any stretch of the imagination. The character portraits that accompany the dialogue are simply ugly. In fact I would have been disappointed with them had this been a GBA game let alone a DS one. In fact the main game is arguably the same standard you would expect from a GBA game. The game has various graphical glitches which add to the slightly ugly nature of the game. There are also collision detection problems and various objects seem as though they have an invisible barrier around them which can make navigating the game's various levels slightly tedious.
Thankfully the Rise of Cobra shouldn't give deaf gamers any real problems. The dialogue is text only and character portraits are displayed alongside the dialogue so you'll be aware of who is speaking. The action will mostly stop for mid-mission dialogue but on a few occasions it doesn't, making it awkward to read and keep an eye on the action. Mission briefings and objectives are shown in text and communications during a mission are also in text. Objectives markers are placed on the map, which is displayed on the touch screen so you're always aware of the direction you should be travelling in. Sometimes you'll be up against a time limit and when this is the case the countdown will be displayed so that you know exactly how much time you have remaining.
G.I. Joe - The Rise of Cobra is a game that seemingly makes a mess of as many things as it gets right. The game lacks polish, lacks a good storyline, has controls that don't feel as good as they should do and in places looks like a GBA game. The action itself isn't bad however and the boss fights are certainly decent. Fans of the franchise will no doubt get some extra mileage from the game and be more forgiving of the various problems the game has but everyone else will probably find themselves becoming tired of the experience before the single-player campaign has finished and that's unfortunate.