Rambo: The Video Game review: let it go, Johnny

By Robert Workman, Apr 30, 2014 4:00pm PDT

Are the Rambo films overly violent? Yes. Incredibly silly? Of course. But the escapism offered by Sylvester Stallone laying waste to opposing enemy forces is undeniably potent. Dialog is comprised of bullets and, sometimes, a well-timed explosive arrow to the chest. With the films dealing in the currency of violence, it's startling that Reef Entertainment could fail so badly with Rambo: The Video Game.

Within the first few minutes of Rambo: The Video Game, you know exactly what you're in for. The game is a light-gun shooter. You casually aim at enemies while they foolishly aim at you and think about whether or not to shoot you before pulling the trigger, in spite of the fact that, hey, you're a threat. That's really about it. While this is a common conceit in games like Time Crisis and House of the Dead, Rambo manages to dumb the enemies even further, making you wonder why they're carrying a gun to begin with.

The game's AI is completely inept, to the point that the only way that they can take you down is by accident, if you leave yourself out in the open wide enough. Even then, the controls don't work as accurately as they should.

For instance, the typical assault rifle carries about 50 rounds or so? These rifles carry about 15, resulting in consistent reloading that becomes annoying way too quickly. Even House of the Dead III's shotgun offered a better feel for loading--and players had to load individual shells. Between the broken cover mechanics, which takes several seconds to even issue a response, and the time it takes to lock on an enemy for a headshot, it's an exercise in frustration.

Sadly, that's the tempo for most of the game. There's no push to make Rambo really escalate his skills, it's just shoot, shoot, shoot some more. Even some of the bigger enemies in the game don't pose a threat, as you can lay waste to them with a kind of primitive cover tactic that would be scoffed at by early arcade designers. Even when you're hiding behind something, soldiers can pop around and still hit you--which defeats the purpose of cover, no?

Worse yet, there's no genuine drive to keep going. There's nothing new to the gameplay, outside of killing everyone with very little skill behind it, and no real challenge that awaits around the next corner. There are also no heightened situations to look forward to. Shooting helicopters feels just as bland as shooting all these nameless soldiers.

The locales may be familiar to fans of the film, but you pass through them so quickly that you never really feel anything. It's an empty, lifeless shooter. And although the game covers the events from the films, none of the actors from the film have reprised their roles, making this an unsatisfactory experience even for fans.

Rambo: The Video Game just disappoints, over and over. There are no new power-ups or twists to keep you interested, no memorable boss fights, and no touches that fans of the film will go "ooh" over. The team at Reef could've done a lot more with this, something along the lines of what Sega did with its arcade Rambo game. Instead, they took the easy way out. Go watch the movies instead. All of the thrill, none of the pain, Johnny. [2]


This review is based on a downloadable PlayStation 3 code provided by the publisher. Rambo: The Video Game is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. The game is rated M.

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