Rambo: The Video Game Review
An iconic movie franchise that helped propel Sylvester Stallone to stardom seems like prime material to adapt into an action video game, but few good titles have been released based on Rambo. With a moderately successful film in 2008 reigniting the franchise, developers Teyon have decided to create the ultimate interactive experience for the fans. However, Rambo: The Video Game falls well short of those ambitions.
Released in 2014, long after the last film, Rambo The Video game hopes to cover a lot of ground. Putting the players into the boots of John Rambo himself, the plot spans across the content of three films – First Blood, First Blood Part II, and Rambo III. That’s not to say you’ll be experiencing all the action and see most of the locales from the films. Instead, this is more akin to the Greatest Hits collection of scenes from the films, not unlike 007 Legends from a couple of years ago. Such approach didn’t work out very well for Bond then, and it doesn’t fare any better for Rambo. While there’s some joy to see the shootouts recreated in the game, many of the filler action scenes don’t exist in the movies and certainly don’t last so long. There’s no coherent storyline for those unfamiliar with the films, or those who have forgotten them after so many years.
There are viable attempts to make the experience more authentic. Many of the notable characters also make appearances, though it matters little. The game offers decidedly low-budget visuals, with poor resolution and horrid animations. Characters look lifeless and enemies all look identical. The environments are surprisingly uneven – offering some good lighting effects and attention to detail in some scenes, while producing nothing but muddy and inert textures in others. Framerate problems are present even on high end machines. The audio is basic and the sound of gunfire is looped to an aggravating extent. The game actually features dialog and soundtrack clips taken directly from the films – but the audio mix is done very poorly, making the content feel out of place and low volume compared to the rest of the effects.
The gameplay is equally unsatisfying. For the most part, this title is an on-rails shooter, much the same that you would play at an arcade machine with a plastic toy gun. Your point of view moves around the environment, occasionally pausing as enemies begin to emerge. Having eliminated everyone, the view moves on. It’s a bit disorienting playing a game such as this with a controller, unable to move anything other than your crosshairs. Well, that’s not entirely true – players will need to hold down a button in order to take cover and avoid incoming fire. There’s also a reloading minigame that’s identical to Gears of War, asking the player to tap the key again at the right moment to reload quicker. In the spirit of old school shooters (and abovementioned arcades), health doesn’t regenerate. To recover, you must fill a Wrath meter by killing foes. Upon unleashing the Wrath, time slows and enemies that are killed during this time recover your health.
With about 3 hours’ worth of gameplay for the campaign, Rambo is a short experience. But it certainly makes you work for it, with an uneven difficulty. Playing on the medium of three available levels, the game goes through significant difficulty spikes. Enemies will tag you even when in cover, and mercilessly fire without reloading for what seems like forever. The awkward health system and annoying reload minigame doesn’t make the action any more enjoyable.
When you’re not endlessly and mindlessly mowing down pixels on the screen, the game attempts to change up the pace with sections that involve stealth. In some areas, your task is to simply sneak through without being spotted by using cover and moving at the right time by pressing the corresponding directional key. These areas are frustrating because you get caught far too often in what is obviously an AI issue. Other sections see Rambo engage in melee combat, which translates to a series of standard QTE events. Finally, using the bow players must take out foes as quickly as possible, a gameplay scenario that also often suffers from being spotted far too quickly. There are vehicle sections too, but in a game that’s already on rails, they don’t exactly stand out.
To extend the experience, each level is scored on a variety of factors and a score-attack mode hopes to keep players coming back, if they are crazy enough. The game also offers a progression system for Rambo. Players can unlock perks to improve survivability and damage, as well as unlock a variety of weaponry to use; you can also increase your health and Wrath bars. Given that the action is so repetitive, down to the enemies appearing at the same time from the same direction, these features shouldn’t really entice anyone to play through the levels again just to earn more points.
Should you still want to keep playing, there is a local coop mode. A friend can join and a second reticule appears on screen. That’s about the extent of multiplayer design offered here. It’s something that works fine in arcades, with light guns, but not so much for a home platform release.
If you don’t have a movie theater or an arcade bar near you, Rambo The Video Game can certainly scratch the itch of playing an on-rails shooter with occasional QTE interludes. Incidentally it offers about the same amount of content and poor presentation that those arcade light gun games do too. But then you realize this game costs $40 USD, and it’s probably one of the worst ways you could spend your money. Moving on, then.