Rambo: The Video Game Review

Last Blood.

For as long as I can remember, there has always been a stigma attached to video game tie-ins. Often devoid of any real innovation and produced by small-time studios, this image still remains, albeit partly faded.

This is due to a recent change in how publishers approach big-name entertainment IP. Instead of dive bombing on popular licenses and leaving a series of tie-ins to decay on store shelves, the actual development of these games has become more of a priority.

There are plenty of examples out there with Rocksteady’s Arkham series being a particularly noteworthy example. Instead of dressing an action game up in lycra and a cowl, the studio worked on its foundation first.

rambo1

Sadly, the same can’t really be said of Rambo: The Video Game. In truth, it’s not as disastrous as other critics have made it out to be. However, Rambo has a glut of fundamental issues, some of which are simply too egregious to overlook.

Based on the original 80s trilogy, developer Teyon has hand-picked a compilation of set-pieces, sandwiching them between the odd bit of narration. Starring as the series’ titular, gun-totting protagonist, players will ransack the streets of Hope Town before returning to Vietnam and eventually winding up in the harsh Afghanistan frontier.

When paying attention, you’ll notice a decent story beginning to unfold. Despite being branded as a rogue, brutish killer, John Rambo is actually a patriot. A real, albeit misunderstood, American hero who doesn’t seem to have the best of luck, no matter where he is in the world.

How this narrative is conveyed, however, leaves much to be desired. For a start in-engine cutscenes are downright ugly and look even worse than gameplay. Though important characters from the trilogy are clearly recognisable they look like poorly-moulded bootleg action figures. The voicework doesn’t fare well either with Teyon crowbarring muddy clips of original dialogue in at just about every opportunity.

As an on-rails shooter Rambo is exactly what you’d expect, minus any semblance of progression of ingenuity. Mimicking Teyon’s previous work on the Heavy Fire series, players will simply romp through each setting, clearing entire screens of enemies before moving on.

rambo2

Small variations to the formula include a handy yet flawed cover system as well as “Wrath”. The latter is measured directly beneath the health bar, gaining a portion for each kill. Once full, players can activate Wrath Mode, effectively slowing time and highlighting all hostile targets. By slaughtering enemies in this time, you can also regain health, thereby killing two birds with one stone.

The enemies themselves are mostly cannon fodder and will happily expose themselves to Rambo. With that said the AI isn’t completely braindead with some hostiles diving into cover or trying to flank Rambo. As players move from chapter to chapter, a wider variety will also start to appear, including armoured, shotgun-wielding soldiers, buff-granting commandos, and grenadiers. They certainly help to change up the pace but occasionally feel more like unnecessarily obstacles more than anything else. The grenadiers, in particular, can be a right nuisance, lobbing insta-kills projectiles at your face like they’re going out of fashion.


DualShock 3

As with other on-rails shooter, Rambo is best when using both the PlayStation Move and Nav controllers. There is, however, an option to play with the trusty old DualShock 3.

Without trying it yourself it may sound like a complete no-no but the Sony gamepad actually handles pretty well. The control scheme resembles that of your everyday first person shooter. The only big change is that you’re moving the aiming sight with a stick and not the motion of your wrist. It’s not ideal but still suitable for those without PlayStation Move.


Surprisingly, Quick Time Events (ala God of War, Heavy Rain, Ryse) also make a succinct appearance. Entire sections of some levels are devoted to cinematic takedowns, enabled at the press of a single-button. Again, much like the annoying enemy types, they bring variety to the table but are often counterintuitive.

Upon completing a mission, players will be slapped with a score as well as one-to-three stars based on performance. As an extra little incentive, points will convert into XP, unlocking stat bonuses and perks such as an extra 15% max ammunition or health regeneration for each headshot.

What’s Good:

  • Occasional moments of fun.
  • Perks and progression system.

What’s Bad:

  • Looks poor, sounds worse.
  • Bland and often frustrating gameplay.
  • Difficulty spikes and checkpoint system.
  • Non-intuitive use of PlayStation Move.

Rambo: The Video Game lacks execution. Underpolished, repetitive, and littered with difficulty spikes, it’s a hard-sell to most gamers and even those who adore the Stallone trilogy. Not only that, it highlights just how out-dated the on-rails genre is even today. Since Time Crisis, Point Blank, and House of the Dead, there have been no real change-ups. That probably explains why most have been relegated to seafront arcades and bowling alleys.

Score: 3/10

Version reviewed: PS3

22 Comments

  1. 3/10! Must buy then! ;P

  2. Whilst in the 80’s and early 90’s the Rambo franchise was huge, it’s perhaps not going strike a chord with large sections of today’e game buying audience. So coupled with the majority of reviews slating this game (metacritic 24 for PS3), I’d say we’re on to loser here.

    • What’s strange is that Rambo became such an over-the-top action franchise after the first film, First Blood, which was actually quite a sensitive story about post-traumatic stress and how poorly Vietnam vets were treated on their return to the States.

      First Blood is a really great film, and a testament to Sly’s acting ability, something that was quickly eroded with the following entries in the series and, of course, Driven. Copland is excellent though.

      That being said, the game sounds terrible.

    • Yeah, the game either needed to be awesome on it’s own or at least cash in on a big hollywood release. This fails on both grounds.

  3. It sounds much better than i expected.

  4. Such an odd brand to create a game for, when there’s no film due out and the characters peak was in the 80’s, not to mention the execution of the game itself… You’ve provided us with a valuable service though Jim!

  5. buy it!
    keep it in its wrapper!
    mature for twenty years!
    take to antiques road show!
    cash in….
    a game so bad that I’m sure will gather a cult status among gamers..
    but i think curiosity will get the better of me and at some point i will pick this up.

  6. Nice review. Bonus points for the word “egregious”

    • I agree although minus one point for “gun-totting” rather than “gun-toting”.
      ;-)

  7. I think the internet has done a great deal to fix the movie-tie-in curse. In the ’80s kids would buy Ghostbusters on NES or Wayne’s World on MegaDrive because they loved the film. By the time they realised it sucked, it was too late. Nowadays it takes seconds to check a dozen reviews online before you buy (or even before it’s released) so they can’t get away with turds any more.

    • That’s a brilliant point to raise. I’m sure we’ve all been through that stage, as kids, when our parents fork out for a game simply because they know you love the TV show or film.

      Luckily, in my case, I was a huge fan of LOTR. Mind you that first GBA game was baloney.

      • If you watch The Angry Video Game Nerd videos, he frequently looks at the worst offenders for this. Mostly NES games produced by LJN.
        They literally slapped some barely playable shit together, coloured a few sprites and stuck the movie name on it. Most of them had almost NOTHING to do with the film.
        I had a few of those before I picked up a magazine subscription and got to learn about the good games before release.

      • LJN’s WWF Wrestlemania Challenge on the NES is probably the worst game I’ve ever played. It was such an uncontrollable, unplayable mess.

      • AVGN does some funny reviews, your right 3shirts a lot of the old movie tie ins have nothing in common with the movies at all.

  8. Thought id gone back in a time warp there. What a bizarre choice – were things more current too expensive to buy the rights for!?

  9. Checked a video on youtube, saw reloading. There’s no way I’d consider this game, that doesn’t have infinite ammo, a proper Rambo game.

    • Angry Joe does a rather good review of this beauty :D

  10. Seen, oh well, i will get it for the price based on the review, which is about 3 pounds or less! ;)

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