Rambo: The Videogame is arguably based on the best Rambo movies, Studio Canals First Blood, First Blood Part II and Rambo III. Unfortunately if you have not watched the Rambo films (and why not?), with Rambo: The Videogame jumping from scene to scene with big gaps in-between, it can be a little hard to follow. But for the benefit of a recap and for those that have not watched the movies, I’ll give a quick recap of each of the three movies that feature in this game.
In First Blood Part I, John Rambo is a former member of the Elite United States Army Special Forces and was awarded with the Medal of Honor for his service in the Vietnam war. Upon searching for his friend that was a part of his unit, John Rambo discovers that his close friend had died of the dreaded cancer. His search led him to the small fictional town of Hope and with John Rambo sporting his military coat, the towns Sheriff on a power trip; Will Teasle labels John a “drifter” and attempts to escort him out of town as quick as possible.
Not being the kind of man to be pushed around, once the Sheriff had escorted John to the outskirts of the town, John decides to make a U-Turn and head back into town. This angers Sheriff Teasle and he arrests John Rambo on the spot and escorts back to the jail cell. This is a quiet town and quite clear that it is also one of little action and as a result it seems that all the cops in Hope are in need of some action and all suffer with a power trip syndrome. At the police station John refuses to cooperate and is a victim of bullying by the hands of the police officers. But they pushed John too far and after suffering a flashback of torture from his time in Vietnam, John panics and fights his way out of the police station and makes his way into the mountains. The cops send out a search team after John and this is a decision that they will surely regret.
Now that we’ve learned a little bit more of John Rambo and his state of mind, I’ll keep the recap for the next two movies much more brief. Rambo: First Blood Part II see’s John Rambo following the request of his close friend Colonel Samuel Trautman, in which involves him returning back to Vietnam to search and rescue American Prisoners of War. After enduring a very traumatic life, in Rambo III, John Rambo retreats to a peaceful life in Thailand helping monks to rebuild a temple. Once again Colonel Samuel Trautman tracks down John Rambo and enlists his help to join him on a mission to Afghanistan to help supply weapons to some Afghan freedom fighters known as the Mujahedeen, who are fighting the Soviets. But as usual the mission doesn’t go according to plan and John Rambo soon finds himself in a mini war after Trautmans squad are ambushed by the Soviets, in which Rambo must also follow his mentor and close friend.
Visually Rambo: The Videogame is a mixed bag of tricks. During the opening moments of the game in which John Rambo is making his way through the town of Hope, the cutscene looks somewhat blurry and it suffers from a poor frame rate. When John Rambo gets chased into the forest, the visuals during the gameplay moments don’t seem to look much better. The forest is very grey and bland, while still suffering from the occasional jitter. Not by any means how I would expect a retail game to look.
The facial animation is also practically none existent and mainly consists of slight head movements and a jaw that simply moves up and down. In fact if you could picture a dehydrated Team America puppet at an all night rave, then you’re almost there to the kind of facial animation that exists in Rambo: The Videogame. In pretty much any videogame that you will play, you will often come across clones from time to time, but nothing to the level that I have seen in Rambo: The Videogame. During the opening mission which is set in Vietnam, the whole mission is full of identical clones and this happens during other missions later in the game too.
Though it gets even worse, because considering that the mission is set in Vietnam, the Vietnamese enemies don’t even look Vietnamese! They look more like Steve Carell dressed up as Mortal Kombat’s Raiden that has attended the wrong fancy dress party. Then despite killing the exact same clone over and over during the same mission, Steve will then turn up in another disguise during a later mission and he is joined by fellow extras Keith, Pablo and Vladimir. Whether it is in Vietnam, Afghanistan, funerals, helicopter pilots or as a police officer, Steve and his team of extra’s will appear in locations throughout, even after multiple deaths.
It’s fair to say that during the First Blood Part I moments; it doesn’t leave you with the best first impressions and is among the lowest quality visuals that I’ve seen on the Playstation 3. But then something very odd happened, later in the game the visuals seemed to have improved, then they went back to being worse. This is an inconsistency that I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced in a videogame before.
Thinking back on the bland grey visuals that were apparent in the forest mission of First Blood Part I, a stealth mission that took place in the jungle during the First Blood Part II sections and was almost a polar opposite to what I had experienced in the first part of the game. Yes the game was still rife with clones, poor facial animation and frame rate issues, but the jungle was somewhat bright and vibrant. I really can’t get my head around why the visuals looked so poor during the early stages and then had a drastic improvement later on in the game, even the cutscenes looked ok.
I can only take a guess that it was a time restraint issue, perhaps with financial and release date pressures, the developers could only devote more time to certain sections of the game and as a result, other sections of the game missed out on that added time and care. This of course is all just guess work on my part. Though it has to be said, that Rambo: The Videogame features some of the most hilarious Ragdoll footage that I have ever seen, whether or not it’s for the right reasons.
So with the at times good and bad visuals, surely the games sound effects will have a decent level of consistency? Sadly the short answer to this is no. Fans of the Rambo movies will instantly recognise the iconic theme music used in this game and much like me, you well feel genuine great moments of nostalgia. The Rambo music will always bring a smile to any fans face, sadly the great theme music gets rinsed to hell and as you progress further into the game, the theme music begins to blend into the background and gradually loses its sense of purpose and nostalgia.
While Rambo: The Videogame did not have the benefit of having the original actors in a studio to lend their voices to the game, Teyon had to make do by taking sound clips from the movies and implementing them into the game. This as a result did not bode well, this in contrast to Lego Lord of the Rings, in which TT Games did a superb job ripping the voices from the movies and utilising them into the game. Sadly the same could not be said to the audio work done by Teyon, to put it simply, at times the audio quality sounds as if it’s been ripped from a VHS tape. This may sound harsh, but sadly its true and it’s a factor that unfortunately I am not exaggerating.
The dialogue sounds tinny and distorted, let’s say for some unbeknown reason Teyon decided to rip the audio from VHS (despite Rambo being available on DVD and Blu-Ray); you may understand why the dialogue sounds so poor. But there are certain scenes in the game that does not feature in the movies (such as some odd funeral scenes), which makes them original scenes in the game. So why do these moments also sound like they’ve been ripped from VHS?
Another example of this games terrible audio takes place during a scene from First Blood Part I. It involves John Rambo being escorted out of town by Sheriff Teasle, when the Sheriff is talking you can make out what he is saying, but when it switches over to John Rambo, it sounds as if the volume has been turned right down. The audio in this particular scene is very poorly executed. While Rambo: The Videogame has its fair share of ups and downs throughout the game, it pains to say that this game features some of the worst audio that I have ever heard in a videogame to date.
Reef Entertainment recommend that if you own Playstation Move, then this should be your preferred method of play and with Rambo: The Videogame, with it being an on the rails shooter, not to dissimilar to the light gun games that you might find in an arcade. I can understand why Reef would recommend playing that way, because this game does play more like a traditional arcade shooter. But as I don’t own Playstation Move, I had to make do with the traditional control pad method. As with most FPS games, they come with an aim assist, so let me tell you now, go into options and remove the ‘automatic’ aim assist. It’s terrible and you will be constantly fighting with the axis, in most cases it will get you killed (not in real life fortunately). Once I had changed the aim assist to ‘manual’, Rambo: The Videogame became much more playable.
But with it being an on the rails shooter, you have no method of freedom to explore much like the majority of FPS games. You will have a pre-set path and it is you job to simply take out the enemy, while trying to achieve the highest score possible. There are a number of ways to earn extra points, mainly be stringing together a series of kills (basically a combo) to earn a kill multiplier. Headshots are often the best way to go and you can always rely on the trusty red barrel explosion for an instant cluster of kills. Though it is worth mentioning that during the First Blood Part I section, to acquire the best score possible, it is recommended not to kill the police officers. Instead what you must do is shoot at their firearm to disarm them for maximum points.
No matter what difficulty setting you are playing on, you will lose health quickly, but there are no health packs to aid you in this game. So instead of the traditional health packs, you must enter what is called ‘Wrath’ mode. Wrath mode can be activated when you fill up the gauge by getting kills. Then when the gauge is full, press X and you will be thrown into a slow motion screen, in which every kill that you get, will top up your health. So it’s also very important to keep a keen eye on your health and Wrath gauge at all times.
To keep yourself from harm, you will also be required to take cover, especially when reloading. Standing in plain sight spraying bullets will get you killed in no time and if you reload in the line of fire, it is a sure way to earn a quick death. You can reload by pressing the R1 button, in which to earn the best reload possible, you must press the reload button again in an attempt to land the marker in the yellow area. Doing so will earn you a much needed bullet increase bonus.
Not all sections in Rambo: The Videogame is about the kill count, there are also missions that purely rely on QTE scenes, as well as stealth. During First Blood Part I, when you escape the police station, this mission is purely QTE based. As you run your way through the station, police officers will be attempting to stop you and it is here that you must press the on-screen prompt as perfectly timed as possible.
This can go one of three ways, a fail, good or perfect. Fail will result in death and a checkpoint restart, whether you score ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ on the QTE, will depend on the score bonus that you will acquire. This particular mission is very short and sweet, but there will be other missions later in the game that will mix up gun fire, stealth and QTE’s. I haven’t got a problem with QTE’s, as long as there used in moderate proportion, but unfortunately in Rambo: The Videogame in my opinion, it is a little QTE heavy and suffers from a little overkill. So if you’re not a fan of QTE’s, then you may want to avoid this title.
With my personal preference, while the pure shooting missions can be fun, I’m not a fan of the QTE based missions. Especially during First Blood Part I that involves John Rambo being pursued by police officers in the forest. The QTE’s are one thing, but I felt a little uncomfortable with the gruesome cop kills when you don’t achieve a ‘perfect’ QTE. If you score anything less than perfect, you will either die or Rambo will stab the hell out of the unfortunate cop. I know the aim here is to achieve the perfect QTE, but instead of knifing the cop to death, I would have preferred to earn a lower score, rather than a brutal kill, as it goes against the storyline in First Blood Part I.
Another issue that I have with this game is that it’s frozen on me a fair few times. You might think that it could be my console, but this has not happened with my other games and a friend of mine that also owns Rambo has experienced the same problem. As annoying as this may be, the irritation is only increased by the at times poor checkpoint system, which can result in a mission restart. This is certainly a patience tester, especially when it’s a problem out of your control.
The pure stealth missions that you experience from First Blood Part II, were easily the most enjoyable in my opinion. It was great fun sneaking my way through the jungle or military camp with the legendary bow & arrow in hand, taking out the enemy with the oh so satisfactory headshot. Rambo: The Videogame also has its own XP system, the more efficient your kills, the more XP you will earn. The XP you earn will rank up your level and as a result you will then earn skills and perks to help turn the tide of the battle. You can have a maximum of three perks, which can consist of no QTE fails, earn more health while in Wrath mode, and deal more damage and much more. The skills are chosen via a skill-tree like system, which are broken into five categories Toughness, Light Weapons, Heavy Weapons, Special Equipment and Wrath.
Essentially Rambo: The Videogame is a high score incentive kind of game, giving you the urge to top your previous score and with your scores being uploaded to the online leaderboards, it adds a certain level of addictiveness. For that reason alone some may find good reason to return to the game long after it’s finished, especially with the promise of future DLC. On top of that you have the Trautman challenges, which are a series of in-game challenges that could involve killing a certain number of enemies with a certain weapon, achieve a certain number of headshots and more. By completing the Trautman challenges you will then unlock extra weapons to be used during the missions. The campaign may be very short and can be finished at around 4 hours, but the online leaderboards do add an incentive to the competitive gamer.
Rambo: The Videogame is a tough one; on one side it has poorly executed visuals, poor frame rate and at times woeful audio. Then on the other hand you get to play out some iconic Rambo moments with an addictive scoring system. But and this is a big but, the negatives far outweigh the positives and being a fan of the movies, it would be blind and deluded of me to ignore them. It’s a game rife with problems, most of which we shouldn’t be seeing in this day and age, especially from a game that commanded an RRP of £29.99 for the console version. Essentially this is a game for the fans and I would highly doubt this game would appeal to none fans of the Rambo movies, but that’s not to say that it’s guaranteed to appeal to all Rambo fans either, because it might not.
At the end of the day it all comes down to personal preference and how lenient that gamer might be to look past its many problems. If you enjoy this game, then I am genuinely happy for you, but for me, I’m going to restore my fond memories of one of my beloved movie franchises and I’ll stick to watching Rambo on my Blu-ray boxset instead. I just hope that when Reefs next project Terminators: The Videogame comes round, they learn from mistakes made during Rambo: The Videogames development and listen to fan feedback, whether or not their journey continues on with the development team Teyon. Because just like the Rambo franchise, Terminator and its fans deserve a quality videogame title, you just might not find it here.
+You get to relive some iconic Rambo Scenes
+Scoring system adds a level of addictiveness
+Makes almost every other game in contrast seem better
-Visuals during cutscenes are blurry & at times do not look HD
-Suffers from a poor frame rate
-Sound quality at times sounds like it’s been ripped from VHS
-QTE’s can feel excessive