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Rambo: The Video Game PC Review

The announcement of Rambo: The Video Game came out of the blue when it was revealed back in late 2011. It seemed a bit of a strange thing to do, since the last Rambo film was in 2008 and there was no information that a new Rambo film would be materialising on the big screen, so why? Well, Reef Entertainment, the publishers who acquired the rights to release a video game based on the licence, were hoping to get the game out around the period of Stallone’s The Expendables 2 (released August 2012), but that didn’t happen. With the game finally coming out over a year later, one does wonder if there was development problems that forced the game as it is – an on-rails shooter without a light gun that isn’t good and doesn’t do the Rambo licence justice, but, in some bizarre way, the game has a sort of “it’s so dumb, it’s fun” personality about it.

There’s already been a light gun game based on the Rambo licence before. This was released around the time the film Rambo came out. Sega had released an arcade cabinet based on the films, in which, as you guessed it, played John Rambo and shot heaps of fools with a plastic Uzi in typical Sega light gun fashion. I’ve never played it, but I was told by numerous people that it was stupidly good fun and made you feel like you were a muscle-bound warrior with big balls, a large penis and a giant machine gun. That’s a statement I am not going to argue with.

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Rambo: The Video Game shifts the player through the stories of First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III, and uses their most famous scenarios as a basis for the game’s level design. That means you’ll get to shoot some Vietnamese soldiers with your AK47 as you escape from a POW prison encampment. Run around the town of Hope and cause havoc and destruction to the town’s property, ride a boat down a river blasting other boats and helicopters, and even fend off a mini-army in Afghanistan with your trusty grenade launched equipped assault rifle. The films are portrayed in in the correct order, so each of the game’s three chapters represents each of the three films and you must beat them in order to unlock them in the high score mode, offering players the chance to replay a stage to gain a better score.

Two main modes of gameplay make up Rambo: The Video Game. The majority of the game is an on-rails shooter, similar to titles like The House of the Dead, Time Crisis and Virtua Cop. A Rambo game as an on-rails shooter is not exactly what I would have envisioned. I would have liked to have seen some sort of Metal Gear Solid 3-esque title, where you played as Rambo and silently sneaked around the forest, taking down foes with your bow and combat knife. Sadly, the budget for this game obviously had an effect on what could be developed, and so we’re left with a mostly competent on-rails shooter. Having a mouse replace a light gun certainly doesn’t do the game any favours (and using the Xbox 360 controller is a worse handicap), but at least the mouse can move around the screen much faster than any of the console control systems.

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To add more to the gameplay to make up with the lack of light gun peripheral, Teyon have added mechanics to get the player more involved, which some work and some don’t. One feature is that players have to manual reload when they run out of bullets, this is due to the inclusion of a Gears of War style active reload, in which Rambo, depending on the success, will either double the gun’s ammo clip for a perfect, have standard amount for a normal or lose 50% for missing and jamming his gun. It’s a rather smart edition to the on-rails formula, which I’m surprised hasn’t been included in many other games of similar nature.

Another inspired mechanic is that in most situations, the player is given an option to hide behind cover by holding either A, S or D keys related to the direction the white arrow appears on screen. This is a spin on the Time Crisis concept of hiding behind cover until you’re ready to pop up and shoot.  While in Time Crisis, you were always safe while in hiding, in Rambo: The Video Game, you’ll often find a sneaky soldier or two will pop round to a point where the cover won’t work, and so the pest needs to be taken care of.  Earning enough kills builds a wrath metre, which once filled can be triggered to slow down time, making it much easier to get head shots on enemies. While in wrath mode, Rambo can also gain health back with every kill, and with the gun having unlimited ammo during this phase, players can go Rambo crazy and spray-and-pray.

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Some levels incorporate quick time events (QTE), with one of them appearing to be nothing more than a stage completely focused on making you press keys to perform stealth takedowns and silent kills. The QTEs are rudimentary; they pop up on screen with a timer ring that shrinks around the button, the closer to the centre the better, as more points are rewarded for perfect timing. The issue is that if a person fails, rather than just continuing the game, the player is killed and is left to use a continue (five available on normal) to start at one of few checkpoints in a stage, or on hard, will have to start the whole level game. It seems weird to me that the designers would kill a player for missing a QTE when they are rewarding accuracy with a points based system. Why not just make them miss out on the points or take points away?

A points system is in play to reward players who are good at getting headshots. If you manage to keep killing people within a timely fashion, then the multiplier will continue to go up until capping out at 15 times. The longer you go without a kill, the faster the multiplier begins to drop, so there is a case of planning and urgency if you want to go for the best scores on the global leaderboard. I hope the developers keep an eye on the leaderboards, because already they are some dubious scores at the top that can no chance in hell be genuine, and this ruins the experience for anyone who likes the game enough to replay stages to say “they are the best Rambo.

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The second chapter tries to spice up the gameplay by letting the player use Rambo’s compound bow. The game scrolls along on its rails, while people pop in waiting for the player to charge their bow string and let loose an arrow to the head. Occasionally a red exclamation point will hover above a person to let you know that he will soon discover you if you do not take him down, but the rest of the soldiers just politely get on with their business until Rambo shoots a piece of metal into their skull. It’s part of the game that’s not particularly fun, and since the AI is basically playing the role of an extra to die on command, it doesn’t portray the sense of being discovered in such a dangerous and life-threatening situation.

Even though they don’t all work out for the better, the variety in the game’s stages is something nice to see in an on-rails shooter. During the telling of First Blood, players are asked to disarm cops by shooting their guns/arms, rewarding in more points. Hitting anywhere else will pop up the text “Cop Killer” and a negative amount of points will be reduced for the kill. You could easily make your way through the stage not giving a crap about the law upholders, since you can’t fail a level for killing too many cops, you’ll just get a less than ideal score.  Score does account to gaining experience points, as there is a very limited level up system that will reward with a skill point for every level you gain. Skill points can be put into one of four categories that offer an increase, for example, in health or damage. At defined levels, a skill will unlock that can be equipped. These are usually targeted at improving wrath metre gain or offering more health recovery from headshots, which does enough to help on the harder difficult. There’s nothing here out of the ordinary and it certainly isn’t doing anything new, and what it is doing already, it’s doing to a passable degree.

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Making my way through the normal difficulty gave me around 2 and half hours of gameplay. It’s known that light gun games are often short, as they are more about replayability and the sheer fun of participating in using plastic guns and blasting enemies. There are the Colonel Trautman challenges that will unlock extra weapons to use if you manage to accomplish them, but there was nothing compelling me to come back to this one. I felt one completion of Rambo: The Video Game was enough to see its hilarity and stupidity and was doing nothing more to draw me back in.

The presentation is something that has stood out for all the wrong reasons when this game was first shown off. For starters, none of the actors came in to record their lines, so the voice overs are taken from the movie, which means sometimes the dialogue isn’t as clear or as high quality as one would like. Visual effects are on the low, looking like a game from 10 years ago, rather than a 2014 PC title. Models are bland and lack detail, similar to phone games that, to some people, are impressive looking, but in reality are missing a lot of the fancy effects on top of the polygons. Rambo himself has a sort of strange face that doesn’t capture the true brilliance of Stallone’s manly face, but looks like a mutation from wax modelling. I don’t have anything wrong with low quality visuals, Deadly Premonition isn’t exactly a stunning game to look at, but it makes up the rest of its enjoyment through other qualities. Rambo: The Video Game sadly does not.

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From its first reveal, Rambo: The Video Game was against all odds. The hardcore took to taking the mickey out of the game, but in all honestly, Rambo: The Video Game isn’t as bad as it was looking to be. It’s not one to recommend, especially at the price they are asking (near full retail price of around the £25 to £30 mark). But reduce the asking price to represent the budget game that this is, and the title might be worth looking into for a bit of stupid fun later in the year.  It’s a dumb and silly game, and sure, it’s not what you would call a good video game, but deep down there is some sort of hidden charm that makes me have a guilty pleasure when the game’s doing its best. The rest of the time – prepared to be frustrated and bored. But it’s Rambo, so ignore it at your own discretion.

4 out of 10