Developer: Ubisoft / Publisher: Ubisoft / Played On: PSN / Price $14.99 / ESRB: Mature [Blood, Strong Language, Violence]
The Expendables 2 is a movie starring all of the modern world’s biggest action stars who crack witty one-liners while blowing shit up. It couldn’t be more video game-friendly if it starred a plumber that doesn’t do any plumbing and a giant monkey with an endless supply of barrels. And so we have The Expendables 2 Videogame. What could go wrong?
Everything could go wrong. Absolutely everything. You get your first ‘oh dear’ moment the second you lay eyes on the 99 Cent Store-cheap menu screens. They’re like something out of a debug demo. Not a good sign.
It doesn’t get much better from there. Basic-looking environments and janky textures go together with the bizarrely pixelated subtitle text that also doesn’t always match the actual dialogue to emphasize the shockingly substandard production values.
The gameplay is basic enough – it’s a traditional top-down shooter setup where the left analog controls movement and the right controls shot direction. The movie has a load of stars but the game (unfathomably) only features four of them – Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Jet Li – each with their own special abilities (pistol wielding, sniper, explosives, and melee respectively).
Throw in co-op capabilities, a few billion soldiers, an endless supply of bullets and some hefty explosions and you have a formula that can get pretty chaotic at times.
But it isn’t fun chaos. Repetitive levels and frustrating controls sap any potential for fun out of the game within the first few short levels (of which there are 20).
How can you mess up basic twin-analog shooter controls, you ask? A general (but important) rule of thumb with this style of shooter is the need for some form of visual reference for aim. A laser sight, for example, or a visible bullet stream. This game uses a clumsy auto-aim feature that partially locks to any enemy in your vague line of sight. But all too often the enemy it chooses isn’t the most immediate threat, so it’s a hindrance rather than a help.
You gradually build up a gauge to execute Signature Kills, for which the camera zooms in to watch you murder a dude with particular brutality, but this is no God of War – they’re hardly thrilling.
Laying waste to the seemingly endless stream of clone-like enemies gets you XP which can be used to buy upgrades for your guns, but 1) only on the hardest of the difficulty settings will you even need to bother with upgrades (run-and-gun tactics get you through just fine), and 2) the game has a dirty ‘pay-to-win’ scheme anyway – $3 extra gets you all the upgrades instantly.
The game offers a glimmer of promise the first time it scoops you up into a helicopter to blast enemies from above with a massive, noisy gun, but sadly this is a one-trick pony that loves to pull that same trick over and over. The soon-predictable pattern of ground level-to-helicopter-bit gets old fast.
The controls are clunky, the graphics are student project-basic, the plot isn’t worth discussing and the levels so repetitive you’ll have seen all it has to offer within half an hour.
This game should have you wrestling fools to the ground, stomping on faces and having an awesome time, but instead you’re wresting a crappy gameplay mechanic and stomping on your controller in frustration. It’s not worth the space on your hard drive.