The original Expendables film was one of those movies that are often called “sleeper hits.” It crept up under the radar and pleasantly surprised those that watched it. This was mainly due to its old school approach to making an action film, harking back to the late 80’s/early 90’s action flicks that were the bread and butter for Sly, Bruce and Arnold. So, it was no surprise that a sequel would make an appearance. But unlike the first film, The Expendables 2 has brought with it a tie-in game that is now downloadable from the Playstation Store.
Once an almost certain thing, the film tie-in game has since become something that is normally only attached to the bustiest of blockbusters. The Amazing Spiderman, Transformers and Captain America have all had the digital makeover recently. But with the quality of those sorts of games declining (normally due to an unusually short development cycle), it isn’t a surprise that most publishers leave the genre well alone. But could being a downloadable title benefit The Expendables 2 game? In short, no. It’s a downloadable title, which means a likely lesser budget to spend on making the game which can sometimes lead to a product feeling rushed, and cheap.
The Expendables 2 is a typical twin stick shooter, adding nothing to a genre that has already started to become a little stale. The real sad thing though, is that not only does it add nothing new, but it manages to mess up the things that, in this day and age, should be a piece of piss to implement. I mean, how hard could it be to just point and shoot? The control you have over the directional shooting is poor, with the game opting to take over that part for you with some half-arsed auto aim mechanic. And because there are hundreds of bullets firing in every direction, all of the time, you have no real way of telling if you are actually shooting at the right spot.
The only way to avoid this is by playing as Gunnar (Dolph Lungdren – The only actor to actually lend his voice to the game), because his main weapon is a sniper rifle, which luckily comes with a red line of sight. The game also suffers from what I have decided to call the “Magic Red Hat” syndrome. Basically, there are two types of enemy: those that don’t wear red hats and those that do. By some magical force, those wearing the red hats soak up about three times as many bullets as those that don’t. I know it is the type of gameplay mechanic in almost every shooting game out there, but they could have least tried to give them something better than a fez to wear; I dunno, say some armour or something.
There is also the matter of the story- or lack thereof. I kind of tuned out after a few levels. It has something to do with tracking someone who has been taken hostage and is being carted through the most bland types of environments ever. Occasionally, the game will break in to some kind of on-rails shooter, which does break up the action a bit; but even those levels are poor and offer little in the way of entertainment.
The game does at least have 4-player co-op (both online and off), which can be good for a laugh. However, the screen gets incredible busy at times and trying to work out which person is controlling which character can be a bit of an issue. If you don’t have four mates, don’t worry, the game’s AI will take control of the other three guys, giving you the ability to swap between them at will.
Each of the characters have different abilities and different weapons, with the game requiring you to take control of each one of them at certain points in order to proceed. But once again, the game fails to deliver in that area, with the AI being dumb at best. They are fine when one of the team needs to be healed (which you can also do by pressing the square button), but when it comes to taking out the bad guys, they all seem to have a death wish; often running out into the open areas, hoping to increase their daily lead intake. It can make for several very frustrating moments, especially seeing as the game’s idea of increasing the difficulty is to throw almost endless enemies at you, instead of using gameplay to make the game more challenging.
The game also isn’t a looker, suffering from incredible pop-in and sub-par graphics. Levels that feature sand storms look terrible and I encountered several bugs that caused the screen to change color tone! Also, the digital version of Sly and company look hideous, but that could just be because they haven’t aged all that well.
As a fan of competent twin stick shooters, I found nothing at all in The Expendables 2 that would warrant me to recommend this game in any way. Boring gameplay, drab levels and poorly produced content are the headliners here; avoid at all costs, even if you are a fan of the movies. There are better games in this vein to spend your money on and one of them, Tomb Raider: Guardian of Light, is even free at the moment if you have a Playstation Plus subscription.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.