As a kid, I loved my cartoons. Every morning I would wake up, fill my Cool Whip tub bowl with cereal, and sit down in front of the TV. The cartoons I watched would vary over time, mixing in Inspector Gadget, Smurfs, Thundercats, DuckTales, etc. One show that never went out of the daily rotation is GI Joe.
I watched every episode of GI Joe that I could. I had as many of the action figures and vehicles as I could afford. Granted, I couldn’t afford much. All the same, I surrounded myself with as much GI Joe as I could. There was just something about that show that I could not get enough of. As I got older, the details of the show started to fade, but it always remained as my fondest cartoon memory.
The day I saw that a new GI Joe game was coming out, I got very excited. Then I got very worried. The reality is that I knew I needed to keep my expectations low. Licensed games are so often subpar. This is also a budget title. What I wanted was Call of Duty in the GI Joe world, but I knew I wasn’t going to get that.
The game opened up and I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. I was greeted with classic characters like Duke, Snake Eyes, Lady Jay, Storm Shadow, and Cobra Commander, to name a few. As much as this thrilled me, I was less thrilled with how they looked. Instead of a semi-realistic look, or classic cartoon look, the characters were just really bad CGI looking versions of themselves. It was obvious who everyone was, but it wasn’t pretty at all.
One thing pumped me up before I even started the game. In the menu, it shows a video you can unlock. The catch is that you have to complete every level, every side mission, and find every collectible. These are things I normally forgo, but I became determined to see this video.
OK, time to see how the game plays. You are dropped into the training level and led through the controls. They try to work this into the story, but, as with the rest of the story, it fails to make you care. The bigger problem is that the controls suck bad. Like really bad. Like, If I wasn’t playing this for a review, I would have quit.
The controls are essentially the same as most major shooters. The left stick moves forward, backward, and side to side. The right spins you around and controls where you aim. You also have a button for weapons swapping, grenades, and a melee attack. This all sounds fine, but it’s done poorly.
Something very important for any shooter is the ability to be able to quickly move from aiming at one enemy to the next. As you might have guessed, GI Joe, Operation Blackout makes this difficult. In most shooters, it feels as though the right stick is moving the gun, therefore the crosshairs easily point where you want. In GI Joe, it felt more like the right stick was moving the crosshairs and the gun was following. It made it feel clunky and quick aiming was very inaccurate.
I am far from good at shooters like Call of Duty or Halo, but these controls made me feel like a drunk six-year-old. I made adjustments to the sensitivity, which only helped a little. Honestly, it wasn’t just trying to move between targets that was so painful. Just trying to aim at a moving target was next to impossible. I soon discovered that there was a little bit of auto aiming. If you are near an enemy, it would lock you on as soon as you held in the left trigger. It would only work for a second, so I found myself pumping the left trigger during combat.
The gameplay wasn’t much better. I wasn’t expecting an open-world game, but this was more on rails than I could have imagined. Each mission allows you to choose between one of two characters. Then, the two of you set off down a path. The paths are so on rails that you can’t turn around to look behind you. You can’t even turn very far to the right or left.
Each level does lead to more open areas. This is usually when you must fight waves of enemies and often a boss. Speaking of bosses, they are extremely difficult from the get-go. They take a lot of hits to take down and they just don’t miss. Mix this with the terrible controls and I kicked the game down to easy before the end of the first level.
To round out my complaints, I must talk about the story. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you. Mostly, that’s because I couldn’t tell you what happened. It’s not that the story was too convoluted to follow. The story was just too worthless to keep paying attention to. This might have been the most disappointing part for me. I would have been happy to slog through bad gameplay for a fun GI Joe story, but even the story felt painful.
GI Joe: Operation Blackout wasn’t 100% bad. I must give credit to the weapons. There is a wide variety of guns, and each one plays the way it should. SMGs hold a lot of bullets, fire quickly, and reload fast. Shotguns only hold a few shots, fire slowly, and reload very slow. There are also sniper rifles, large machine guns, and a strange gun that looks like it is firing electricity.
Each character has their own main weapon that is right out of the comics. They will also have a secondary weapon that can be swapped out with other guns throughout the game. It felt like the game would have guns available that fit the upcoming battle. If you are up high, and the waves of enemies are coming from afar, they would provide a sniper rifle. If it was going to be a close encounter battle, a shotgun would be laying around.
The reloading of weapons is a nice touch. As mentioned before, the reload times felt appropriate for the weapon. During reload, a line slides along under your gun. If you hit the reload button while the line is in the middle, it cuts reload time in half. This was relatively easy to do and made a world of difference in a gunfight.
There was not a lot of level variety throughout the game. It was nice when it happened, but the controls for them all were just as bad. While fighting on the USS Flagg, you could man the big guns to shoot down planes. It felt good when you knocked on out but aiming was atrocious. In a few levels, you can drive a tank. Aiming while driving was just awful. The one good thing was the special attack, which was fun to watch.
All in all, GI Joe: Operation Blackout is just not a good game. Bad controls, bad story, bad visuals. I think it hurt me even more because, even though my expectations were low, I wanted this game to be good. GI Joe is my all-time favorite cartoon and a big part of my childhood. Sadly, I have to give the game 1 star.