Grab your steroids and testosterone and bring it with you to the Expendables 2 because this game sure isn’t going to have it for you. The video game based on the movie, but not following the same story, is a top down four player dual joystick shooter that tries so hard to play on the big explosive action movie formula and while it has plenty of explosions (one would argue too many) it just fails to capture the same kind of fun. This is the first game in the lineup of Playstation’s summer gaming event known as Playstation Play and honestly it makes for a weak introduction. While there are worse dual joystick shooters this game really strives to fall in the middle.
Expendables 2 features four characters from the film and only two you care about however only two of the films actors voice their characters, Dolph Lundgren and Terry Crews. The absence of the Jet Li and Jason Statham characters is almost a crime. The game has a simple set of having four chapters that each have five missions so there is actually a little length to this game but that is probably the worst aspect as you probably won’t want to play that much of it. Each missions basically boils down to the Expendables chasing after hostages and gunning down terrorist but there is very little story telling devices so it’s basically just shoot dudes until the screen is clear and then move on.
The game is played with both joysticks with the left being used for movement and the right being used for aiming. The R2 button is your fire button and everyone has a different type of grenade though only Sylvester Stallone’s grenades are worth using. Almost every level is set up the same. You run through and shoot everyone until all of the enemies are dead and then the missions end. The game has a type of online drop in drop out co-op and you can play through the entire game with four human players online. While there are the many shooting missions there are also (sigh) turret sequences.
Each set of five missions for each chapter has at least one turret sequence that seems almost impossible to lose which brings up another point. The whole game itself is too easy. I barely ever died as I played through the game and while the game is super easy the enemies just take way too long to kill. Each character has two weapons to choose from but there is only one character with a machine gun and two that have shotguns. There is no one character that is a great balance of gameplay as the developers all too well tried to capture the signature weapon load outs of the films characters.
There is an upgrade mechanic in the game that allows you to increase your health and weapon damage though even with weapons fully upgraded it still takes too long to kill anyone. The game has downloadable content that allows you to fully upgrade one or all of your characters and I bought a couple of them just so I could try to make the game more fun but failed to do so. In a game like this enemies should be going down quick so you aren’t spending so much time on simple foot soldiers.
The game is pretty simple and the formula has been proven to work I just can’t help but wonder what went wrong with combining dual joystick shooting with such an explosive movie premise. With all of that said the game’s biggest flaw is the camera. The camera is pulled so far back that you can barely see anything at all. The characters were so small that I couldn’t tell which one I was playing as which can be a problem when your character goes down and you have to switch to another to revive him.
The game doesn’t look terrible and actually manages to have decent looking explosions and character models. There is almost a GI Joe feel to the games appearance and really makes me wish this was a better GI Joe game instead. The character models are well designed and look good during the cutscenes and manage to look like their live action self. The game has some well designed levels and there is always a lot going on onscreen and the frame rate never drops.
With that being said, there is actually too much going on all the time. With the games far back camera and enemies constantly pouring onto the screen and causing explosions I could never see what I was doing. I often found myself just firing blindly and hoping that I was killing everything. It’s sad when I get the most fun out of the turret sequences just because I can see what’s going on. I know the game wants to evoke the testosterone levels of an out of control action movie but the developers really didn’t know when to pull back and their game suffers because of it.
When I started playing the game I was having a little fun with it but as it went on it started to just feel like work as I was forcing myself to make it through the levels. While the shooting and a well timed grenade can be satisfying at times the resiliency of enemies and lack of variety wears a little thin quickly. The turret sequences are bland and the whole game just manages to feel generic. The most fun I had was listening to the Sylvester Stallone voice impersonator who sometimes was surprisingly accurate and other times just sounded downright silly. Since only one character comes with any kind of automatic weapon most of the other characters just feel a little dull and when playing with friends it could be frustrating to be stuck with the sniper if you don’t like using him. Luckily you can pick up weapons from dead soldiers but they don’t last very long. I always found myself drawn to the same two characters and it was the only way I was having any fun.
The Expendables is a great Hollywood concept that could easily make a great video game but sadly this isn’t it. I can only hope the movie does well enough to give us a threequel and another chance at a bigger budget game that can show more potential. There are plenty of great dual joystick shooters on the market and while they are fun to play around with I suggest you avoid this one if you can. It makes me question Sony’s tactics when they choose this as their debut title for this year’s Playstation Play promotion.