I was a little shocked when I found out that the G.I. Joe franchise started in 1963 as an action figure. I wasn’t aware of this as I only watched the TV series as a kid. Twenty years later I still remember that every episode ended with a character saying: knowing is half the battle. Something that applies to so many things in real-life. For our review content too, doing your research on a game helps with spending your money wisely. Is that the case for this nostalgic G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout? I have to be honest and tell you that this is one of the hardest reviews I had to do this year, as the game manages to show the best of G.I. Joe’s world but with a severe lack of a proper game budget. Published by Maximum Games in Europe and GameMill in North America. This should ring an alarm bell as Maximum Games doesn’t really have the greatest reputation when it comes to good games… However! The two developers behind Operation Blackout, IguanaBee and Fair Play Labs did a more than excellent job with the available resources, especially for people like me who fondly remember the action-packed TV series. Knowing is half the battle though, don’t expect to be blown away as you might expect from a legendary franchise.
What we liked!
- Love for the iconic characters: Making an estimated guess here, I think most of the LifeisXbox readers will only know G.I. Joe characters from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation movie from 2013. This blockbuster movie with Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson reintroduced the world to Team G.I. Joe and Team Cobra. In Operation Blackout you play as both sides, allowing you to play as 12 different characters. All of them have unique abilities and a special starting weapon. The thing here is that my favorite has always been Snake Eyes but in Operation Blackout I loved to play as Lady Jaye. She has this insane powerful one-shot sniper and just looks badass too! I didn’t really like her in the aforementioned movie as actress Adrianne Palicki didn’t do her justice. This is the most fun thing about the game though, you can take the melee approach with Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow, fry enemies up close with Roadblock’s Electroshock weapon or take everyone out from a distance. Love for the classic characters is evident in the story cutscenes and dialogues too, they really managed to get everyone’s personality in it. Considering the large cast of playable and non-playable characters that’s an impressive accomplishment.
- Great over-the-top story with love for the nostalgic Yo-Joe’s feel! During the 17 missions the story is told with some motion comics. It is extremely overblown, just as the TV series from the ’80s. I absolutely adored it as a fan of the franchise (read: nostalgia). It is a nice change from animated cutscenes and likely this was a decision based on available resources but it truly fits the universe of Joe’s. Is it in any way a believable story? No. What they deliver is a pure homage for the old shows with a modern twist. Seeing the story unfold by the two sides is perhaps the most original thing that Operation Blackout has to offer.
- A sweet spot with visuals: Can this game run on Xbox 360? I would think that chance is likely but the cel-shading graphics really make for some impressive moments. G.I. Joe’s roots and the great use of colors and military environments simply work wonders. It shows that with a good enough artstyle you don’t need world-class visual work to give players an immersive atmosphere. I do have to note that explosions and in general special effects look good, a great deal of time and effort has been done here.
- Some nice touches that show the love for the franchise – and buyers: Collectibles that unlock new character and weapon skins, a detailed menu with character biographies, and more. Achievements bring in extra challenging tasks too. It is a nice touch that the developer linked them with the Achievement system. For example, completing a mission in ten minutes or defeating ninjas with only melee-attacks.
- Fun multiplayer mode but no online option makes it a missed opportunity: They set-up a vast multiplayer option but I honestly wonder how many people will actually play all of this as it is only for local play. Looking at the Achievements stats the easiest multiplayer achievement has a 0,80% unlock percentage, proving my point. They should have used the additional resources for making the single-player better or took measures to bring everything online. You have a few options with Assault, Team, Capture the flag and King of the hill as PVP and playing the campaign in local co-op is an option too. I can live with the campaign being local co-op only but everything else is a big missed opportunity.
- Dated but fun gameplay: As Duke would say drive it like you stole it! Absolutely nothing is really unique about Operation Blackout’s gameplay. This doesn’t make this third-person action game less fun but it is plagued by many been there, done that moments. As some might expect this isn’t a cover to cover-based shooter, enemies run straight at you in a Serious Sam fashion and you blast out bullets as ribs in an all you can eat restaurant. It is a constant wave of collect bullets from shot down robots and move on to the next. On higher difficulties a bit more caution is required, I always play my games on the hardest setting, here it is named Real American Hero and this has some challenging moments that require you to run away from danger so your shields can recharge. After a few phew phew missions you get to control a Cobra H.I.S.S-tank and Joe Persuader too, driving and shooting your way in a set course. It helps with keeping that repetitive feeling away. That pesky feeling might come rather fast as many missions have too many generic tasks. Surviving waves for multiple minutes, destroy X and Y, defend the object Z, you get my point by now. It is a bit of a shame that they didn’t make things a bit more exciting here… I guess the most important part is that it remains fun thanks to the multiple playable characters.
- Enemy A.I. is more stupid than Cobra’s world domination plans: Most of the time I was playing as Lady Jaye and enemies just stood there waiting to be sniped from a distance. Maybe they thought I was a stormtrooper? It isn’t that much of a big deal for the basic enemies as the game doesn’t really require that but I was hoping for a bit more from boss fights. One of the more memorable moments was my fight against Destro but sadly his character got stuck in the environment making that part really easy. This is supposed to be a difficult fight as he constantly rushes you at high speeds, killing you in mere seconds.
What we disliked
- Terrible controls: It has been a while since I have played such an unresponsive shooter, clearly designed around PC’s keyboard and mouse control. Which is funny as the PC version isn’t available at the moment. I tried changing the sensitivity from my Xbox Elite controller but I never found that comfortable point of moving around the crosshair. Luckily the game has this snappy auto-aim but whenever the enemy decides to move it is a real annoying struggle to get your aim on them. This is the only and only issue with G.I. Joe Operation Blackout but sadly a very big one too.
This licensed game managed to overcome my low expectations. It is a blast to the past for gamers with a passion for Hasbro’s G.I. Joe! Notably a game made for fans, as it might be a little harder to recommend for people new to the franchise. Fun but a bit dated gameplay gives players a nice option to play as both sides, Joe’s or Cobra.