The Expendables is all about elite mercenaries, intense action sequences and a lot of meat-headedness. Seems like it could be the perfect fit for a trigger-happy group of friends to virtually tear through an onslaught of enemies, no? The shooting would be rampant and fun. The characters would be amiable, muscular soldier types with a penchant for appropriately cheesy dialogue. Right?
Well, that's the intention anyway. The execution, however, is another story entirely.
The Expendables 2 seems to incorporate all the right things. There are four characters -- Barney Ross, Gunner Jensen, Hale Caesar and Yin Yang -- to choose from, mirroring the film, each with unique, upgradeable skills. Whether you're a sniper, knifer, or straight shotgun blaster, there's a skillset for you.
The sniper is absolutely useless. It takes way too long to aim for what is too frequently an imprecise shot. The goal here is to be killing enemies as rapidly as possible, not to have your teammates rack up kills while you're down on one knee still lining up the shot. Throwing knives were surprisingly awesome, considering that they're a one-hit kill within close range.
But I picked my favourite weapon combination -- a shotgun in one hand and a grenade launcher in the other -- and embarked on a public game to go serve some baddies their well-deserved bullets. I wasn't expecting the storyline to pull me in. I guessed the characters' interactions would be chuckle-worthy at best. But I was expecting the shooting to be fun. Ubisoft has been boasting how "over the top" the game would be, just like the movies. Instead of the third-person, top down shooter I was expecting, The Expendables 2 felt more like a less chaotic twin stick shooter.
In The Expendables 2, you move your character with the left joystick and aim with your right joystick. There's no directional guide to where you're shooting. Your only indication is a trial and error whereby you wait to see if your enemies are leaping back dramatically to their deaths when you pull the trigger. You can switch between weapons, pick up heavier fire dropped by enemies on the battlefield, and collect boosters to deal extra damage. Or you can punch a dude in the face, and even finish him off with your character's special, cinematically-emphasised finishing move.
Sometimes the twin stick experience will zoom out for targeting practice on helicopters, ships and trains, while you're seated higher up in a chopper or driving fast in a car. Think the arcade experience of Time Crisis, but without the charm of being in an actual arcade. This is all theoretically fun. You have an assortment of weapons and landscapes. Granted, they're all fairly tightly wound and rarely diverge from the "move right, move forward" directive. But all the basic components for a great, chaotic group shooter seem to be present. So what went wrong?
The Expendables 2
Platforms: PlayStation 3 (Played), Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: July 31 (PS3), August 17 (360, PC)
Type of game: Third-person, top down shooter.
What I played: Completed the campaign's four chapters in around four hours.
My Two Favourite Things
- Playing co-operatively with friends.
- Watching my character pull off finishing kills.
My Two Least-Favourite Things
- A boring campaign that gets very repetitive, very quickly.
- Terrible voice acting that complements the game's terrible dialogue.
Made-to-Order Back-of-Box Quotes
- "I think I want to watch the movie more now just to redeem the franchise." -- Tina Amini, Kotaku.com
- "Who accidentally unmuted the TV? Dammit, cat." -- Tina Amini, Kotaku.com