They drew first blood, not me
The original Rambo is more than just a guilty pleasure for action enthusiasts. While the latter two in the trilogy are arguably just popcorn flicks in terms of their overall impact on the industry as a whole, the first movie, appropriately titled First Blood, was a legitimately good film.
It dealt with the very real troubles of soldiers returning from war to adjust to normal life, in this case, specifically targeting the Vietnam War. Although Rambo is often regarded as a cold-blooded killer, he only actually kills one person in First Blood — by accident. Eventually, the series would get progressively more ridiculous and further removed from the original’s message, culminating in a mess of an experience called Rambo: The Video Game.
And what a mess it is.
Rambo: The Video Game (PC [reviewed], PS3, Xbox 360)
Publisher: Reef Entertainment
Released: February 21, 2014
MSRP: $39.99 (say whaaat?)
Rambo: The Video Game is an unpolished, uninspired on-rails lightgun game that’s currently being sold for $40 in 2014. If that description alone doesn’t scare you away, everything else about it will.
Following a storyline that covers the original trilogy (and not the 2008 film), most of the “Video Game” takes place from a shaky first-person perspective as the titular Rambo shoots everything in sight. Our hero has the ability to take cover like many genre staples, coupled with an active reload system similar to Gears of War (but with an extra ammo boost instead). From there, it somehow manages to take that relatively simple premise and devolve into an even worse game. It may look like Rambo is a fully-fledged first-person-shooter based on the trailers, but even as a lightgun outing, it fails.
There’s just no nuance to it, and even the act of shooting doesn’t feel impactful or fun. Everything is scripted, and every enemy will either react in the exact same way or dive out from the exact same hiding spot every time. While other lightgun games like Virtua Cop have that fun arcade-like silly feel to them, I didn’t have any of those same reactions to Rambo because it takes itself too seriously. The PS3 version has the one benefit of Move support, but PC and 360 fans will get no such luxury.
It doesn’t help that the visuals feel mostly unfinished (and not to mention buggy at times), especially when it comes to the PS2-era facial models and the generic fodder that Rambo mows through. The voicework for the original film’s stars, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Crenna, was ripped wholesale from the films, and feels jarring when juxtaposed to the new recordings for the game (which aren’t good, in case you were wondering).
There are no witty one-liners, and no chances to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. It’s not self-aware in any sense of the term, which is a complete shame as it doesn’t even have that “so bad it’s good” value to it. Worse yet, most of the nuance of First Blood is completely ignored here, in favor of adding in senseless violence and murder where it wasn’t present before.
What’s crazy about Rambo: The Video Game though is that Teyon was able to somehow faithfully recreate many of the same locations from the trilogy. It’s almost like they crafted a virtual render of Rambo just for the fun of it, then decided to cram a game into it as an afterthought. While Rambo may still be relevant to me as I grew up with the films, the poor reception to the 2008 movie should have given the studio a hint that maybe the action hero has lost some of his appeal.
In addition to the piss-poor on-rails shooting sequences there are QTE-filled action and stealth scenes, which are somehow even worse. While stealth sections could have been pretty fun with the right use of the bow and arrow, the game’s clear budgetary constraints ensure that you never have too much fun while sneaking around.
Once you’ve exhausted what little the game has to offer, you can play it again in a score attack fashion, or opt for the painful two-player local co-op mode — which doesn’t even attempt to explain the second player’s involvement. It sounds like a small complaint, but when the rest of the game is so rushed, it stacks up. Teyon really could have gone full camp with something unique, like inventing an original Rambo-like character for co-op, but they didn’t. “Perks” can be unlocked such as the ability to always pass QTEs, but they’re all basically useless considering how simplistic the story is over the course of its scant few hours of existence.
I don’t mind on-rails shooters even in the modern era, but there are certain concessions that should be made to ensure that they’re not shallow. The fact that Rambo: The Video Game is being sold for almost full retail price is insulting, not to mention the fact that it feels mostly unfinished and uninspired. If you need a Rambo fix, you’re better off just watching the original trilogy and acting like this never happened.