As a kid in the 80’s, I was infamously known for carrying an absurd amount of G.I Joes with me at all times. It didn’t matter where I was going. My pants pockets along with my backpack were always filled with Joes. Fast forward to the present day with two kids of my own and not a single one knows anything about the G.I. Joe brand. Besides a recent line of collectible figures, the toy line is virtually nonexistent. Multiple cartoon reboots have underperformed and the active G.I. Joe game prior to this release is a Free-to-play mobile title. So when I heard that G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout was a new fully loaded G.I. Joe game coming to console and PC I honestly had high hopes.
So let’s start off with the positives. G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout does a great job in its presentation. Upon boot up, you will be greeted with an instrumental version of the original G.I. Joe theme song. The game art design is reminiscent of the original cartoon series which aired in 1983. The cut scenes consist of animations and graphical still shots, however, all cut scenes contain voice acting for all Joes and Cobras. All of the characters look and sound exactly how they did in the cartoon series and all the memorable characters are present. There are a total of 12 playable characters such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlet, Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, and Destro to name a few.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout has 17 missions, all of which can be played in co-op. The majority of these missions will only offer up to 2 characters to choose from but as you progress, some of the later missions will offer up a few more in the selection. Even if you plan to play solo, you will still have another character fighting by your side. On that note, G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout is roughly a 5-hour game. There are multiple difficulty options but at its default, the campaign can be completed in one sitting. The playable characters all offer up unique features such as the weapons used, special attacks that can be triggered by pressing L1 & R1 together when the meter is full, and signature taunts. Yes, I said taunts. By pressing down on the D-Pad, your character will perform a move or say something that is distinct to that character. My favorite has to be Duke as he yells out the iconic YO! Joe! While throwing his fist up in the air.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout gameplay feels like an old third-person run & gun shooter. A similar comparison would be to think along the lines of the original Star Wars Battlefront 1 & 2. This would be fine if a little more variety was offered or maybe some strategic elements. For example, you can crouch to take cover but you can’t shoot in this position. You will have to stand up or leave cover. So you end up just running around in circles trying to kill your enemies wildly and some could argue that is exactly how the battles took place in the cartoon with both forces running blindly at each other with bullets flying all around them.
Both Joe’s and Cobra’s in G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout is built-up of robots of various types. The boss battles for each mission will present a battle with an iconic Joe or Cobra character but the gameplay remains the same so you just run around shooting or meleeing each other wildly until one is defeated. On an upside, each mission has its own unique design so it doesn’t feel like you are running around the same randomly generated level even though you will be fighting the same looking robots repeatedly. If you find yourself looking for a little more Joe action outside of the campaign, there is a PVP mode which pits 4v4, but again you will just be running and wildly shooting at each other till the end.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout delivers on its overall presentation. It looks like what a good G.I. Joe game should however the gameplay is bland, repetitive, and unimaginative. I would have liked one of the many great G.I. Joe stories from the comic series used for the campaign. I understand the reasoning for replacing both forces with generic robots but at the same time G.I. Joe is all about war and as mentioned in my opening the youth of today don’t know about this brand.
The majority of people who would even consider picking up this game are going to be those who grew up in the 80s and want that nostalgia kick. My dream G.I. Joe game would look very similar to Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy The Division. I am still surprised Hasbro has never licensed G.I. Joe to create a Call of Duty or Rainbow Six Siege type game. For now, I hope the development team behind G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout listens to the franchise fan base and implement some of our suggestions in future G.I. Joe titles.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout for PlayStation 4 provided by Fair play labs and GameMill Entertainment.