Rambo: The Video Game review
Rarely has such preconceived apathy been so heavily ranged against a game as it has with Rambo. Perhaps it was to be expected given that we have here a game based on a trilogy of movies that in spite of being seminal in terms of their influence on early shooters, are about as necessary a focus for videogame revival as those based around the films of Stallone’s Eighties arch-rivals. Worse still we have an on-rails first-person shooter that drearily leads players through the three first movies (but not the fourth), breaking cover only to indulge in multiple serial QTE abuses. Little wonder, like poor little misunderstood Johnny in First Blood, the game came under assault before it had a chance to explain itself.
The trouble is, having now played Rambo: The Video Game, it’s still hard to muster any enthusiasm for it beyond the fact it’s a rare breed and in that context does a decent job of representing the narrative of the movies. Almost every set has been rebuilt and every scene you can probably remember – plus a fair few you can’t – are given a run through, either as a brief cut-scene, pitched battle or quick-time sequence. Unfortunately none of them are particularly interesting save for the fact they slavishly copy the source, meaning the most memorable will be those you enjoyed watching on VHS rather than replaying here.
Aside from a prologue set in ‘Nam that lets you loose off a few rounds, almost the entirely of First Blood is a quick-time sequence that barely seems to last 10 minutes before you’ve taken revenge on Sheriff Teasle (who looks more like Danny Trejo than Brian Dennehy). In contract the second movie is a relative epic, as wave upon wave of identikit Viet Cong run into view in order to be mowed down. It’s only when the game reaches Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, by far the weakest of the movies, that the game boasts moments of genuine enjoyment, as the arsenal of weapons expands, previously-earned perks kick in and the variety of enemies opens up to offer a more distinct set of challenges.
Because the entire game is scripted, requiring only reaction button presses in response to on-screen cues, it’s easy to conclude that the game’s many issues stem from genre choice, but in truth it’s the game’s presentation that lets it down more. The cut and paste character models, with their misshapen limbs and dead eyes, together with the inconsistently sampled audio, combine to provide a experience that frequently feels cheap and in places is just downright nasty – a VHS knock off when, in this day and age, you would at least have expected a DVD remaster. Had this been a lesser tie-in, say Missing In Action or Delta Force, the shoddiness could have passed for reverential self-mocking. For the Eighties most iconic action mullet, a little more bluster is required.