The Expendables 2 movie hit cinemas around the world last week, and along with it came http://www.trueachievements.com/The-Expendables-2-Video....htm, the movie tie-in that aims to bring the high-octane action to XBLA. Does it deliver as well as a Chuck Norris round house kick or is it well, expendable?
The Expendables 2 Videogame casts you in the roles made famous by Sly Stallone, Jet Li, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren and has a lot in common with the testosterone fueled film franchise. There is a wafer thin plot line which in this instance see the team hired to rescue a kidnapped Chinese billionaire, cheesy one liner dialogue, a ton of explosions and a whole host of bad guys to shoot at.
Developed by ZooFly and published by Ubisoft, the game is a top down, twin stick shooter that offers jump in and jump out co-op gameplay over both Xbox LIVE and locally. I tried playing both alone and with a friend over LIVE, and whilst your AI allies do their job quite well, with the introduction of a friend the game becomes easier, but most importantly a lot more fun to play.
You begin by choosing one of the game’s four characters, each of which offers a different weapon load out, varying from a quick firing pistol to the slower but harder hitting shotgun. Upon meeting your first set of enemies you will quickly notice that aiming isn’t one of the game’s strong points. In a battle that can involve a screen full of enemies, it’s hard to tell where you and your allies are at times, even harder to tell which of the enemies you are actually shooting and indeed if the shots are hitting their mark or not.
There are four chapters to make your way through, and although each chapter offers a different background setting, each one provides essentially the same gameplay. Fight your way from point A to point B, at point B kill a group of enemy soldiers and blow up a tank/helicopter, move to next point and repeat.
Depending on how many AI controlled team mates you have, you can use the d-pad to change characters at any point which is definitely one of the game’s plus points. If you find you are being picked off from distance, one click on the d-pad and you can switch to Gunner Jenson and use his sniper rifle to dispose of them quickly, or if you find you are running low on health, you can quickly switch to a different character and carry on the fight.
There is also a useful cover system, hold the left trigger near a sand bag and your character will duck out of harm’s way, this is especially useful when you attempt to play through the game's Hardcore difficulty.
The game encourages you to melee your enemies or use each characters grab skill by pressing or holding B near an enemy. The grab function gives a different result depending on which character you are playing with, from using them as a human shield to raising them above your head, similar to a WWE wrestler, and throwing them at a group of opponents.
As you gain more kills or pick up the odd collectible lying on the ground, you have a meter that charges up. At ¼, ½ and ¾ full you can spend the charge to earn an extra grenade, but the best option comes when the meter is full. Once full pressing X near an enemy will pull off your characters signature move, where the camera will zoom in and show your character impressively slitting an enemy’s throat or blowing holes in them from close range.
The game does to try to break up the monotony of mowing down countless waves of similarly dressed enemies by throwing in Call of Duty-esque, on the rails, vehicle missions where you take to helicopters, boats or cars to ultimately blow more stuff up.
A small aiming recticle is shown on the screen and you have the ability to switch from a machine gun to a rocket launcher, but it’s not implemented well at all. Aiming once again lets the game down to the point where it becomes useless, and matters are made even worse when playing with local co-op partners, trying to keep track of your recticle amongst three others quickly becomes annoying.
Like most shooters, the game comes with an unlock system. After each mission you will be rewarded XP which can be used to upgrade your character. Upgrades range from improved speed to improved signature moves. It may take a while to level up all characters, but if you want to fly through the game, you can buy upgrades with your MSP from the marketplace.
Once a character is upgraded, the game becomes a doddle even on Hardcore. I was able to stroll around melee killing my way through each collection of enemies, to the extent that my co-op partner was becoming frustrated at not being able to kill anyone because I was that quick.
One of the game’s definite plus points (but not in the way the developer intended) is the onscreen dialogue. Whilst Crews and Lundren lend their voice talent to the game, their actual speaking roles are minimal. The main narrative is told by a Sylvester Stallone impersonator, and although he is close, he’s not quite there. Even less effort was taken with Jet Li’s character, using stereotypical, Chinese pigeon English throughout, it’s so bad that at times that it actually becomes embarrassing to listen to.
Most people will be able to 100% the game within 10 hours or so. There are two achievements for completing the game on Normal and Hardcore difficulties which are non-stackable, meaning you will have to play through the campaign twice. Fully levelling up all the characters might prove to be a bit of a grind, but the for those who don’t mind buying the two achievements you will earn for doing so, you will save quite a bit of time.
The hardest achievement for most will probably be for playing through a full chapter in four player co-op as the game’s online community isn’t very large.
I’m sure everyone has been in the situation where you have seen a friend fall over or get hit in the face, and even though you know you shouldn’t laugh, you can’t help it? Well The Expendables 2 Videogame is a lot like that, the shooting mechanics aren’t great, the missions are repetitive and the story is barely existent, but I couldn’t help but enjoy myself whilst playing it.
The game offers non-stop action from start to finish, and providing you enjoy blowing lots of things up, there is definitely fun to be had, especially if you can find a co-op partner willing to look past the game’s shortcomings.
There is very little, if any replay value to be had past playing the campaign on both difficulties meaning that the 1200 MSP asking price might be a little too hard to stomach for most.
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