Wuoh, durs a game ob Dur Expendabbles 2 mooovie. Wiv Stallone an Li an Quews an Lungween. Urm gunna punch it in dur face. Ere’s wot i fink:
Here’s what I was expecting the Expendables 2 game to be: A third-person action. And shit. But sometimes things can surprise you. The Expendables 2 game is in fact a four-player co-op top-down shooter. And shit.
This is a special kind of shit, though. This isn’t just your typical dodgy old film tie-in that’s derivative and disposable. This is premium shit, from only the fartiest bottoms. It’s a mess of the most impressive order. From achingly repetitive and unresponsive shooting, to menus that look like they were put together for a 2005 YouTube video with Windows Movie Maker, it reeks of rushed uninterest. And shit.
Starring four of the movie’s eighty-seven million famous actors, you get to control either Barney Ross, Gunner Jensen, Yin Yang or Hale Caesar (Sly Stallone, Dolph Lungreen, Jet Li and Terry Crews) in some excruciatingly awful shooting sequences, again and again and again. With only Lungreen and Crews not having any better offers than a cheque for recording their voices, extras are brought in for the bigger stars. In fairness, Stallone’s voice is pretty well mimicked. Li’s… it doesn’t even sound like someone tried to do an impression of him. So that’s a promising start.
If anything, the game seems to try to hark back to those 1980s days of Ocean Software churning out ghastly games-of-the-films, with barely a similarity to the source material. (This is a prequel to the events of the film, apparently.) If its aim was to match this inspiration, then good work guys!
(In fact, on that matter, can I point you in the direction of a 1995 Amiga Power feature on the topic by Stuart Campbell, in which he rails against the people who are buying this stuff such that it keeps getting made, which so timelessly contains the line:
“Nobody’s making you, nobody’s standing there with a gun at your head, but you still flock down to the shops and fork out money for the latest dull-witted Stallone action platformer (except it doesn’t have Stallone in it, because that costs extra, and why bother when the dumb saps will buy a box of dismembered dog’s organs as long as it’s got the film poster on the box?) as soon as you see the nice pretty pictures on the nice glossy advert.”
It’s ridiculously clumsy, with a camera that appears to be determined to hide anything that’s shooting at you, madly zooming in the moment there’s some laser-guided sniper far off screen, or wandering off leaving the character you’re “controlling” (when playing single-player, you can switch between the four) somewhere off the bottom. There’s supposedly a cover system, but the only way to use it is to waddle your action hero so incredibly close to the sandbags that they exchange phone numbers, and then hold down the use cover key to stay there. In the frantic hodgepodge of dozens of AI men spinning in circles, running in random directions, and occasionally just jumping up and down on the spot (no, really), finding which character you’re currently controlling is challenging enough, let alone seeing whether he’s pressed intimately enough against the cover point for the giant prompt to appear. And that’s when something offers cover – this appears to be arbitrary.
A new level might declare that you’re rescuing a hostage – ooh, maybe something different here? No. There’s not even the visual appearance of a hostage at any point, instead just more of the same broken shooting tedium. The only time you find out that the enemies smuggled away the hostage you were apparently trying to rescue (even given the instruction not to kill him, as if he might appear at some point) is in the cutscene afterward, as otherwise that might have required the game do something slightly complicated.
Brilliantly characters can continue planting bombs on objects after they’re dead (although of course only where the game loudly informs you that you have to, rather than through your own choice of tactics). Your teammates will walk on the spot into each other, like insane mimes, during cutscenes – scenes that see you getting shot at before control is handed back. But you don’t always need to worry about enemies getting in the way, because a good deal of the time they’ll just pop out of existence in front of you. Seven of them will pour impossibly out of a car, or a doorway, and then – ping! – four of them disappear.
However, when they don’t, even on “casual” difficulty you’re often overwhelmed with far too many enemies on screen to be able to see what’s going on, and almost none of them recognising the fact that you’re shooting right at them. This isn’t helped by team AI that seems absolutely intent on dying, although bearing in mind the game they’re inside, perhaps this is just desperation. Of course, you could always fix the need for using the AI by finding three other people to play the game with you… Ha ha. Sorry, I was joking there.
Although I must be fair – there’s more to it than just the shooting. Betwixt levels you have the opportunity to spend the XP you’re apparently gathering on upgrades to both your skills and weapons. Well, that’s when it occasionally gives you enough XP to do this, to make such radical improvements as increasing the ammo capacity of your pistols. It’s so sparingly given, and the rewards so trivial, that it offers no incentive to continue. And while various levels move away from just running in a straight line (and it mostly is literally a straight line) they don’t offer anything that improves on the terrible target recognition, nor clumsy presentation, and tiresome, noisy nonsense. (That would be something though, wouldn’t it? A game that lets you improve the in-game performance and overall quality through upgrades.)
Well, you know what – they might. Later in the game it might become bloody Shakespeare for all I know, or the tale of a kitten stranded on a surfboard in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Because I’m buggered if I’m going to waste any more of my life churning through it. Not that this often presents an enormous challenge, since most sections can be more quickly completed by running past everyone, rather than shooting at them. Occasionally a giant invisible wall will demand you blow a thing up, or something, but mostly you can sprint your way through as if trying to escape.
Short of infecting your computer with a virus and emailing porn to your mum, it’s hard to see how it could be much worse. It’s so astonishingly cheap and tacky throughout, right down to an insulting PC port. Take a look at these video options!
Starting a new game offers you “Campaign”, which you’d imagine would then at least pretend to offer a single-player mode. Instead you’re presented with options you’d usually expect to see when clicking “Multiplayer”, with matchmaking to join current games, or the option to host your own. That’s how you actually start playing – host and don’t invite anyone else in. Don’t. Don’t invite anyone in. Because that’s a bit like inviting someone to come and see a poo you just did. Sure, it’s a remarkable pile of shit you’ve got there, but no one else is going to want to see it.
And so it is that The Expendables 2 Videogame has continued that great tradition of movie tie-ins being abominations, thrown together with little care in order to try to milk money out of passing enthusiasts of the film. It’s a tradition that goes right back to our Spectrum and arcade routes, and one we should continue to celebrate by ignoring and remembering there are a ton of great games being released about now.