I’m a fan of eighties action films. Sure, they’re horrifically violent and usually don’t bother with anything so mentally jarring as a plot, but there is something soothing about switching off your brain in order to enjoy Arnie riding a tiger into battle with a gatling gun clenched between his overly muscular buttocks. What? It could happen.
The Rambo series is just about as eighties as it comes and when word originally reached me of another video game adaptation in the works, I cringed a little, but also got just a tiny bit excited. I pictured myself murdering thousands of faceless soldiers as the hot, jungle sun beat down on my rippling biceps, emphasised by the graphical capabilities of modern gaming machines. Then I went for a bit of a lie down.
Finally, the day arrived and Ben sent me a link so I could get to work on the Rambo review. We usually get a code to redeem or a disc with the game on it, so I was a bit baffled at being sent a link, but carnage beckoned! As it turns out, this game really was not what I was expecting, but I had a deadline and there wasn’t time to ask questions! Would Rambo ask questions?! Would he balls.
From the outset, Rambo: Last Blood (it seems they’ve changed the title from Rambo: The Video Game) doesn’t feel like an AAA title. The graphics are more akin to a flash title and reminiscent of fantastic indie titles such as Super Brothers: Sword & Sworcery. The fact that the entire game runs from your browser window is also a strange choice. As of yet there is no word on a console release for this title, but if it does come I don’t think it’s going to be pushing the limits of next-gen.
Last Blood uses an unusual premise which has little to do with the popular film franchise. Rather than pitching you against enemy forces in a run and gun shooter, Last Blood is a platform puzzler which sees John Rambo killed by a bus in the first moments of the game and follows his journey through the heavens as he attempts to make peace with the spirits of what appear to be ninjas. I don’t remember Rambo gunning down a horde of ninjas, but I wouldn’t rule it out as impossible. The bit with the bus is, however, a definite misuse of poetic license.
Each stage in the campaign requires you to solve a puzzle and then hug the dead ninja (not a euphemism) in order to progress, ultimately resulting in your acceptance into Valhalla. There are very few of these puzzles and the campaign is incredibly short, something which you don’t expect from a top line title such as this. All in all, I think the entire game took me around twenty minutes to complete, which included a time out to make a cup of tea and bake a victoria sponge.
Graphically, this game falls horribly short of what we were expecting. Looking at the lush jungle landscapes of Crysis 3, the incredible facial animations available in titles such as L.A Noire and even the impressive graphics of many indie and arcade titles these days, for a AAA retail title to release with graphics like this is astounding. If this were a flash title, these graphics would be charming and fit brilliantly with the quirky game style.
The same has to be said of the audio. What would be impressive for a browser-based flash title is just not going to cut it when we’re talking about a hugely anticipated, AAA, blockbuster film tie-in. I can only imagine that like the art department, the sound department also faced massive budget cuts in addition and they only had cash left for eerie soundscapes, forcing themselves to cut out all of the original movie voice-tracks of John Rambo, Col. Samuel Trautman and iconic tracks from the flicks. Licensing is a fickle mistress.
Overall, I’d be pretty miffed if I had to pay £30 for this. We hear a lot of stories about games getting content cut to be released as future DLC but this is pretty ridiculous. Apparently the first DLC pack was released on 15th May for free and allowed you to “upgrade your Rambo” to level 25 and unlocked a John Rambo difficulty level but it doesn’t seem to have been applied to this version of the game yet. We are fully expecting a next-gen re-release within six months of the initial release, with slightly more polished pixels and of course, shiny, shiny hair.
For the gamers looking forward to a new Rambo game, they’re probably going to be pretty disappointed with this final product. It basically makes what Gearbox did to Aliens fans with Colonial Marines actually look reasonable. But a free game is a free game, and twenty minutes of John Rambo ripping his shirt off to nestle ninjas in his bulging biceps isn’t all that bad.
Obviously this isn’t a review of Rambo: The Video Game but rather a flash title titled Rambo: Last Blood which was a damn lot more entertaining than the new AAA release. Mmmm. Rambo pecs.
Fun Fact: Rambo: Last Blood was developed by Peter Javidpour, a game designer for Naughty Dog who worked on The Last of Us!