Big dumb explodey summertime movie blockbusters mean big dumb explodey summertime games based on the aforementioned movie blockbusters. It's just smart business in this era of synergy and marketing. After spending some time with the Sony PlayStation 3 version of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra from Double Helix Games and Electronic Arts that recently landed on my doorstep (also available for the Microsoft Xbox 360 in this comparable format), I do believe that I'm ready to move on to the games of fall and winter that tend not to be as much of a quickly produced cash-grab. After slogging through similar disappointing adventures based on Terminator Salvation and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that exist merely to make some easy money based on brand recognition ahead of lasting gameplay elements, I'm ready for something more creative and engaging.
The Rise of Cobra unfolds about as you'd expect. Players choose two Joes from the roster of heroes and guide them through slightly top-down perspective missions while blasting anything that gets in the way. Hold down the R2 trigger to endlessly fire, mowing down enemy grunt after enemy grunt. Some enemies can be dispatched with a close-up melee attack, although personally I enjoyed the ability to knock a foe into the air and shoot him dead before he or she hits the ground (there's even a Trophy for doing this move enough times in the PS3 version). There's even a little vehicle combat thrown in for good measure, although controlling some of them can be cumbersome. Destroy enough enemies and the film's notable Accelerator Suits become available for a brief while (complete with the bombastic and triumphant G.I. Joe theme). Simply press the button to become an invincible powerhouse with a mighty blaster for several seconds.
Checkpoints break the mission into navigable chunks (although they're more of a loading screen than a save point), and each checkpoint tallies up special points to be spent on concept art, additional Joes, and other such unlockables based on performance. Differing difficulty levels change some of the formula (casual mode offers unlimited lives, but a cap on overall high scores), but on the whole it all plays about the same in a very generic way. The Joes themselves fall into different categories of skill and expertise (commandos, heavy weapon experts, etc.), and some Joes can, say, open certain doors that other Joes cannot, but I found the characters in their specific classes to be mostly interchangeable for actual combat gameplay.
While I played in the single-player mode, there is a co-op offline multiplayer mode available in which each player takes control of a Joe to work together at gunning down enemies. The second player can jump in and out at will from what I understand (the CPU takes over when a second human player is not around), which means that I can see this game being very popular with children who enjoy simple shooter games that can be played with a room full of rowdy friends on a sugar high. From my older, more solitary perspective, however, there was nothing that struck me as outstanding during my time with the game. Nothing particular stood out, nor do I feel the need to replay any of the missions or advance any further. Just as with Transformers and Terminator, there was a tremendous opportunity to create something especially memorable and fun here, but The Rise of Cobra falls short of the mark, and while I could go on about the muddy visuals or flat vocal performances, somehow I think you've already figured those elements out for yourself by now. Unless you're a child with a room full of eager friends, let this one go and move on. Now you know, and knowing is... ah, you remember the rest.