There are lots of questions we'd like to ask the developers of Rambo: The Video Game. One: what were you thinking? Two: do you know the meaning of entertainment? The one question that we think is the most difficult one to answer is: what did we just play?
We get most of it, naturally. Rambo: The Video Game aims to sum up the whole tragic story of John Rambo in one cohessive narrative, more or less chronologically and with no apparent appreciation for the often underappreciated source material. It would appear the developers felt the best way to do this was to mix equal parts cutscenes, quick time events and on rails shooting. And while on rails shooting, popular back in the arcades in the 80s, isn't necessarily a bad thing, it still feels antiquated. It's fine to revisit old mechanics, but you can't simply recycle old, boring ideas without any trace of quality or entertainment value. After an hour we're fed up. We only persist another five in order to write this review and spare you the pain.
At first we laughed at it, thinking it was a conscious parody, but awful sound quality, the laughable cutscenes and the ridiculous amount of horrible quick time events were just the perfect recipe for the game of our nightmares. Hot Shots: Rambo! A horrible flash based game meant to poke fun at the many military shooters of the day. We laughed at the stiff opening cinematics, chuckled at the sound design, quietly mused at the poor attempts at imitating the movies. "It's an entertaining parody of all that's wrong with licensed games and today's gaming industry", we thought to ourselves.
What a great way to point out the stagnation of the industry by recycling the worst parts of shooters from the 90s and sarcastically placed thousands of soldiers in a village that logicially could only host a couple dozen.
How clever to criticise the lack of fresh ideas by adding a pointless layer of RPG elements on top of a lacklustre combat system and thus implying it's all about the core mechanics. And look here. They are poking fun at quick time events by dedicating two whole levels to them. Twenty minutes worth of timed button presses where every mistake results in instant death and restarting at the most recent checkpoint. Touché!
But alas. We're forced to realise how naive we were. These developers must be devoid of any thread of creativity, humour, self distance or ambition. Slowly but surely it dawns on us that someone has been spending time on developing this atrocity we're playing. A strange revelation. Some people have spent two years making what we can only describe as the worst piece of software we've ever experienced. Sure we've lived a protected gaming life. We've stayed clear of most games people have discarded, but this is just beyond abysmal.
Unlike most other poor games, there is no sense of ambition, soul or even tendency to want to entertain and captivate in Rambo: The Video Game. The sound design is as aged as the game mechanics. A large portion of the dialogue is sourced directly from the movies, but if we had to guess we'd wager the developers have streamed the movies and recorded the lines of the TV speakers. A perfect fit with the PlayStation 2 aesthetics elsewhere.
Imagine 3-4 minutes of horrible cutscenes, followed by 5 minutes of quick time events and 10 minutes of uninspired on-rails shooter. Then imagine the worst possible version of all three, and you've got an idea of what Rambo: The Video Game offers. At the end of the day it was probably a good idea to include "The Video Game" as part of the title, just in case the audience accidentally confuse it with some sort of instrument of torture.