As an '80s kid, I'm a big fan of action heroes and the genre of action movies centred around the muscle-bound kung fu-kicking/machinegun-wielding badasses. The better side of the millennium was also characterised by its love for offline co-op games, right from the 8-bit NES ones to the early PC titles that let you slaughter baddies with your best bud by your side. Needless to say, I was pretty chuffed about the video game adaptation of The Expendables 2 film imaginatively titled The Expendables 2 Videogame, despite all warning signs.
For starters, it's a video game adaptation, and those almost invariably tend to be horrid. Secondly, considering its roots, this game should have rightfully been developed by a dream ensemble brimming with badass old-school developers such as John Romero, John Carmack, Tim Schafer, Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Cliff Bleszinski, Michel Ancel and Suda51. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Ubisoft has left this crucial task upon Slovenian developer ZootFly, which — as I realised to my horror — is also responsible for Prison Break: The Conspiracy. Let's just say that I'd rather pick up the soap than play that game.
Bad voice acting isn't noticeable when you're slurring along for Sly
I see potential...
There's little cause for worry because this game is the very distillation of all that was awesome from the '90s. The Expendable 2 Videogame (TE2) has hilarious one-liners interwoven into elaborate set pieces and adrenaline-soaked action sequences. The actors come alive with amazingly lifelike 3D meshes, which are further enhanced with excellent voice acting. What you have here is brutally cathartic co-op action, with great design and gameplay depth that effortlessly captures what made these action heroes and their brand of gratuitous violence so iconic.
Okay, I can't lie anymore. This train-wreck of a game has none of that. All these happen to be lies the damn trailer had conned me into believing what the final game would be like. Then again, this is not a bad game because it's a bad concept. On the contrary, an isometric co-op shooter in the vein of the brilliant Renegade Ops, with over-the-top action-hero antics, is a perfect recipe for fun. It's just that the developer either seems to be thoroughly incompetent, or was downright bullied into completing the game in a ridiculously short time. Heck, going by the state it is in, we might as well be looking at a terrible combination of these two factors.
If only it were half as good as the trailers
...that is utterly wasted
TE2 is essentially an online as well as offline co-op arcade shooter that lets your friends seamlessly drop in and out of action. You can shuffle between four characters from the Expendables' movie ensemble through four chapters of mindless shooting and cookie-cutter storyline. The low budget and the lack of any interest are clearly evident in the star cast. Forget Arnie, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Jason Statham, or Chuck Norris—you get to play as Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren, while the minorities quota is fulfilled by a black and Chinese duo I can't be arsed into looking up. The plot here is as relevant as a prostitute's character, and you go from one mission to another doing the same shit ad nauseum ad infinitum.
Not that I look for these things in a top-down co-op shooter, as long as basic gameplay and controls are top-notch. But boy, how they have screwed over the gameplay mechanics! TE2 drops you bang in the middle of action and lets you to cycle through the four characters with the D-pad—much like Commandos, the awesome isometric strategy game from the '90s. Unlike that kickass stealth/action game, The Expendables 2 Videogame is an arcade shooter that makes a right mess of its, well, arcade-shooter mechanics.
Good luck hitting anything with those controls!
Less fun than a bottle of Old Monk
How bad is it, you ask? Where do I even begin?! Aiming with the analogue stick is just as accurate as pissing into a bottle of Old Monk, after having gulped down the same. I indeed have tried this once and I can report that it is much more fun than playing this game. Yes, a bottle of cheap liquor provides more gameplay depth and entertainment than this video game adaptation. The truth is that cirrhosis seems to be a better proposition compared to this tripe.
Being an isometric game, everything tends to be tiny in TE2. Good game developers get around this by over-emphasising bullet trails, so that you know if you're hitting anything. Common sense, however, is a virtue lost upon the good people at ZootFly. Need another example? Well, TE2 includes a perfunctory cover system, but strangely, only certain shiny concrete walls can be used as cover. This retarded move seems to defy all logic, but then I had an epiphany—you see, due to the low budget, only a few concrete walls could be fortified enough to stop bullets. At least, that theory is more plausible than the excuse that goes for a storyline here.
At any rate, this certainly isn't the kind of realism that will draw in simulation fans. However, bitching about that would be akin to nitpicking in the face of its many problems and gameplay/design lacunae. The most irritating of which would be a rather criminal abuse of helicopter-mounted on-rails shooter sequences. These are generally cool—we get it—but only in moderation and when the controls are good enough. This game has terrible controls, and doing the same annoying shit for the 100th time makes me want go out on the street and punch random strangers in the face.
The repetitive helicopter sequences will make you want to hurt yourself/others
A complete and utter trainwreck
The developer takes a stab at making things interesting by shoving in an experience points system to upgrade your gear, but it's rendered useless because all the weapons tend to have an upgrade hierarchy reflecting varying levels of suckage and mediocrity. There is a rage bar that can be filled in three steps by chaining kills together. This lets you either chuck a grenade per step, or use up the entire bar for killing an enemy with a cinematic signature move. Let's see: (a) either take out a shit-tonne of enemies with three grenades, or (b) use up the whole bar to kill just one with the same recycled signature move? Well, that sure is a tough one!
TE2 tends to be filled with such half-assed gameplay elements, fudged-up design decisions, and painfully obvious signs of laziness and rushed development. Even the dialogues (and I expected a fair deal of good one-liners from this game) are cringe-inducing, with random cutscenes tacked in so haphazardly that you wonder if either the development team or the publisher bothered to play through it. I mean, the level of incompetence on display here is criminal considering the fact that Ubisoft expects gamers to pay 1200 Microsoft Points for this game. That's exactly why you shouldn't for this download-only title.