I want to start all this off by saying that it sure is exciting to see G.I. Joe back in video game form, you guys. I still remember how excited I was about 1991’s G.I. Joe game by Taxan studio. Being an enormous fan of the franchise and being able to play as Joe’s and Cobra is tremendous. With that out of the way we can get into the finer points and not so fine points of G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout from GameMill entertainment.
Operation Blackout allows you to play as 12 of the larger names of the Joe universe in a third-person shooter experience. You can play in both a single player mode, or in a co-op mode. Both take you through the entire campaign. In addition to that – there is a multiplayer mode that allows you to play some classic competitive modes like Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and Deathmatch on a local area network.
The story is exactly the awesome heightened military ops story that you would expect from G.I. Joe. This particular story for example was inspired by plot points taken directly from the comic book series. The story take place across key spots from the Joe universe like the U.S.S Flagg and Cobra’s Base of operations. There are also more than a few Joe and Cobra vehicles thrown into the mix. Some you are even able to drive In certain levels.
The story is inspired by the comic books more than it is the G1 cartoon series. I was hoping to see some of that classic cartoon animation and to hear those memorable Joe weapon sound effects, but that isn’t what we have here.
The look of the game is placed somewhere between the Joe comics and the bright colors and world of Fortnite in a somewhat less polished approach.
In the campaign you begin each level by choosing one of two characters – the AI or your gaming buddy will play as the other respective character. Throughout the game some levels will have you playing as Cobra and some will have you playing as Joes. I was hoping that a campaign would be specific to one faction or the other. It’s odd switching from Joe trying to save the day to Cobra trying to rule the world within the same go but, it doesn’t ruin the story.
Each character you play as comes with two weapons and a throwable. In addion they come with their own standalone special ability that you can unleash once powered up. Those special abilities are a mixed bag. Some feel like they don’t have much to do with the character at all. While, some like Lady Jaye’s spear is a callback to her character from the comics and beyond. Your actual weapons don’t usually tie into your character at all. I was hoping to have memorable weapons suited to each character but this isn’t always the case. In a lot of cases playing as Duke or Lady Jaye doesn’t feel any different outside of them having different skins. That isn’t always the case. Sci-Fi comes with some abilities that are standalone to him, but the game needed more of that kinda of thing for all characters. The lack of character upgrades is another huge oversight.
Levels consist of a primary and optional objective. Hordes of enemies try to stop you and its up to you and your AI partner or second player to take them on. Levels are usually capped off by a boss battle against big names from either Cobra or Joe depending on who you are playing as.
The controls are a big problem in Operation Blackout. They feel clunky and do not feel like they incorporate the moves that are suited to deal with your enemies attacks. For example, the evade/roll move should do a heck load more than it does. Instead, when I would use it to try to get me out of gunfire it ended up being more of a hindrance than a help. What’s worse is that after you execute an evade, there is a short second afterwords where you are unable to roll again. This means that you are left standing there as your enemies fire a volley of firepower your way. Also, prepare to make auto aim your best friend. The shooting in this game is a mess. Firing without auto aim on is pretty much a waste of time. Aiming down sight is literally hit or miss and sadly its made up of mostly miss.
The enemies and boss battles leave a lot to be wanted as well. They are just not enjoyable. Both regular and boss enemies simply strafe from side to side to avoid your shots while stopping briefly to fire back. They don’t use cover, they aren’t using any specialized tactics, they just run towards you and strafe, die and repeat.
Let’s also hope that you have a buddy to jump into a co-op game with you. Playing with an AI partner is going to be an entirely frustrating experience. They tend to step right in your path mid fire fight. They also tend to do nothing that actually has an effect on the battle. I’ve tested this theory by lowering enemy’s health and then stepping back to see if my AI partner will finish them off. The results were very disappointing and uneven.
The character design is done really well. The little touches on the armor and gear for both Joes and Cobra look really great. Cobra Commander especially looks cool. His cape combined with the approach to his armor make him a standout. But, they all look great. The more you do in-game the more you unlock too. There are quite a lot of skins for each character that range from different outfits their action figures had and classic outfits from the G1 cartoon.
The cut scenes like a lot of other touches in this game are inspired by the comic book. Sadly, there is no animation in the cut scenes a all. Again, this would have been a great place to showcase some of that great Joe animation but instead we get some terribly boring moments between levels.
If you are G.I. Joe fan then you are a fan of ninja rivals Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. Well, at one of the games high points you get to play as them. This is another place where the weapons and abilities of a character is properly executed. Plus, its just cool finally being able to play as these two.
As a huge G.I. Joe fan I really wanted to love this game. But, at the end of the day without the G.I. Joe name slapped on here and the skins of Joe and Cobra you wouldn’t be able to tell this part from any other generic third-person shooter. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and the classic gaming elements that it does bring aren’t good enough to deserve the title of G.I. Joe. If you aren’t a fan of the franchise, there is absolutely nothing for you here. If you are a fan, enter with extreme caution and tuck away any expectation. The highlight at the end of my entire run of gameplay is that the character designs look really good and I wish that they had been applied to a game that was deserving of the fandom and the name G.I. Joe.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout is out now on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.