G.I. JOE – OPERATION BLACKOUT [Review]: Playing Is Half The Battle.

Travis Moody
@TravMoody

G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout is just not a good game. In fact, it’s a terrible one. It’s essentially “Fortlite” with some horrible game mechanics, early PS3 graphics, and downright bad voice acting. But it’s G.I. Joe! And, after much of the early press was promoting this as strictly PVP there’s actually a reasonably-sized 7-hour campaign with 17 Missions. You can even play it couch co-op! If you’re a diehard Joe fan like myself, you’ll forgive the brunt of its utter cheese just to handle those beloved characters on screen again…

So, yup. Ask yourself: how badly do you love G.I. Joe? Are you currently collecting the G.I. Joe: Classified line of action figures? If you are, then you likely already have heard that the character models and costumes reflect Hasbro’s most recent line of Joe/Cobra toys. Before this review we even took a most positive spin on Operation Blackout, and theorized as to which of the alternative/variant “skins” we’d likely see later in the toy line.

The character art is definitely fantastic. While the graphics leave a lot to be desired, the Borderlandsesque cell-shaded duds really pop on the screen–especially during the unanimated comic-style cutscenes. Also, do check out the digital art book before diving into the campaign; it’s arguably the only real awesome part of the game…

Shame you couldn’t ride one of these…

So where is the bad? Everything else. Even in the digital art mode, an author from IguanaBee/Fair Play Labs sorta embarrassingly admits that they didn’t have the resources (time nor money) to include everything they wanted to in the game. You can only play as a dozen essential Joes and Cobras, other than Sci-Fi, who they decided to give a push and throw more spotlight to the neat but underutilized G.I. Joe character. Vehicle-wise, you can only roll through in the famed Cobra H.I.S.S. Tank, and I’d argue that’s the second best part of the game, although destroying turrets and rolling over robots for 15-20 mins can be pretty effing mundane as well.

Oh, and those robots. Since G.I. Joe is still considered a “children’s property” (and questionably so, since Joe hasn’t been marketing correctly towards kids since the ill-received Sigma 6 animated series from 15-years ago), Hasbro didn’t want any human deaths in the game. You’ll venture through 17 missions fending off A.I. Cobra Troopers, Crimson Guard, Vipers and, on the other side, A.I. grunts and supersoldiers, on your way to the pathetic boss fights. At least the “Classified” B.A.T.S. are cool.

Oh, no! MORE Joe-Bots!

Speaking of which, if you shoot down Duke or Lady Jaye, they’ll take a knee. Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes exchange clashing steel in the cutscenes, but more or less aim gunfire at each other upon confrontation — from close-quarters combat nonetheless. It’s terrible. Sorta Star Wars: Battlefront-like, boss fights are no different than the actual gameplay except your enemies will have “special” abilities and an extended health meter. Not one character stands out from one another, cosmetics and signature artillery aside.

The environments are fairly mundane, and you’ll revisit the Cobra Facility, Arctic and U.S.S. Flag quite a few times. Other than running into the classic G.I. Joe and Cobra vehicles (but not being able to interact with them, ever so frustratingly) and finding loot everywhere (sorta like Borderlands, again), there isn’t much to do in these missions but hold down territory objectives for a set time while waves and waves of Cobra A.I./Joebots come charging at ‘cha. Auto-aiming is appreciated, yet definitely doesn’t make up for the quirky and dated cover-based 3PS gameplay.

First we had to deal with Target bots, and now…

Oh, did I mention hated the voice acting? Yeah, and it’s not just the actual voices. They do their best “Chris Latta” with Cobra Commander, and that’s appreciated, yet the rest of the vocal performances are quite pedestrian. Actually, supporting characters Mainframe and Lifeline are a breath of fresh air in the cutscenes compared to the rest. Too bad they couldn’t join me on missions because the A.I. teammates are pathetic. Snake Eyes must be blind with that visor because I swear he turned away from combat and stared at me for a good 5-minutes while we were getting shot at to kingdom come. If you have the option of playing with your roommate, little sister or ex-girlfriend, do it, because the computer teammates will only make things worse.

Look. I know Operation Blackout comes with a very low budget (I mean.. GameMill and Maximum Games are the publishers, brahs), hence the lack of star-power on the vocal front. But that’s also a shame that a billion-dollar toy empire like Hasbro couldn’t just partner up with a studio willing to invest more resources to such a beloved I.P. Imagine if a company like Treyarch (Call of Duty: Black Ops) or Sucker Punch (Infamous, Ghost of Tsushima) developed a G.I. Joe game? If Operation Blackout is for “kids”, then can we get one for adults? Sadly I think we already know the answer to that, and knowing to (stay away from this one unless you’re an absolute diehard fan) is half the battle. NO JOE! 2/5 Bibles.

Travis Moody

GameMill Entertainment/Maximum Games’ G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

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