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No, Joe! A Review of ‘G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout’

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Developer: IguanaBee and Fair Play Labs | Publisher: Game Mill Entertainment | Genre: Third-Person Shooter | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Epic Games Store | Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

I’ve always considered myself a patient person. I’ve grinded for hundreds of hours in online MMORPGs, played expansive JRPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles, and climbed the competitive ladder in games like Overwatch. But, G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout has pushed me to a limit I’ve never expected before in a game.

I’ll cut to the chase. Even if you’re a huge fan of G.I. Joe, own every action figure, and sing the Theme Song from G.I. Joe the movie in your Serpentor pajamas, don’t buy this game. I barely made it for an hour. It is one of the least polished shooters I’ve ever played. I cannot recommend it for anyone. Even if this game is on sale for $5 in some sort of future eShop sale, do not buy it. Don’t even spend your Nintendo coins on it.

Let me explain. I asked to review this game because I really enjoy the original G.I. Joe series from the 1980s and have great memories from watching the movie as a kid on VHS via a rental from my local video store (yes, I am old.) The game’s reveal trailer looked great, and the thought of another amazing officially licensed Hasbro game after 2015’s surprisingly great Transformers Devastation made me pretty excited.

Unfortunately, my hopes proved to be illusory. 

Pyramid of…Fuzziness?

Operation Blackout’s issues begin with its technical underachievement. The game was made by a small development team, so it is understandable if it wasn’t the most well-optimized port ever. After all, the team developed this game for four platforms (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC) and it makes sense that they would put development efforts primarily towards what was going to be the most popular platform: the PlayStation 4.

Unfortunately, the game looks terrible on Switch. In handheld mode, it suffers from an incredibly low resolution (I don’t have a scientific method of measuring this, but it looks to use some sort of dynamic resolution scaling that’s between 480p and 540p) and the overall result is a muddy image, even on the Switch’s small display. In docked mode, the issue is not as apparent, since the game seems to be running at around 720p, but the result is still a muddy and washed-out image that’s especially noticeable on a 4K TV. Similar games running the Unreal Engine, including Yoshi’s Crafted World and Fortnite, seem to suffer from the same issues on Switch, so it’s not entirely unexpected, but it makes for an experience that oftentimes looks much worse than its PS4 or PC counterparts. Operation Blackout also runs at 30fps. For a shooter, this is nigh unacceptable, but given the challenges of Unreal Engine and the confinements of a small team, it’s an understandable, if regrettable, compromise. 

Lady Jaye looks terrible in ‘Operation Blackout’.

What is really unfortunate are the character designs. Some designs, such as Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander, look great, a callback to the show’s historic roots while still being new enough to please longtime fans. Others, like the design for Lady Jaye, are horrendous, firmly rooted in the uncanny valley, with as much visual appeal as a half-melted wax model. Final Fantasy X on the PlayStation 2 decades ago looked better. That’s a shame given the G.I. Joe series’ penchant for memorable character designs. 

The game’s various animations suffer as well. At one point, the player is tasked with taking down a cadre of jets as Cobra Commander using an anti-aircraft gun on board the U.S.S. Flagg. When the jets are hit by anti-aircraft fire, they simply turn into two pieces of scrap with a “burning” effect that fall for a half second before disappearing. The result is not only unconvincing, but also immersion breaking levels of bad, making what could have been a seriously impressive set piece look and feel like a cheap mobile game.

A Real American Zero-Fun

I could excuse Operation Blackout’s poor graphics if the underlying game was fun. After all, plenty of Switch games, from Xenoblade Chronicles to the aforementioned Yoshi’s Crafted World, suffer from graphical issues that make them less-than-lookers, especially from a resolution and texture standpoint. Unfortunately, Blackout’s underlying gameplay is one the most poorly constructed shooter experiences that I’ve ever played.

Your character moves at a snail’s pace, with aiming that feels even more sluggish. My experience with shooters has mostly been on PC, so my console aim isn’t good to begin with. Nevertheless, aim feels slippery, with precise shots nearly impossible to land and the best general strategy seems to be an up-and-down strafing of the target. Aim has a strange acceleration effect that makes stopping on a target accurately a chore. Guns feel unimpactful to use, without any visible recoil or visual effect that makes them feel powerful. Machine guns feel like paintball guns and others, such as a lightning cannon and laser shotgun, don’t have any impact which makes them fun to use.  

Story sequences, like this, are some of the game’s only shining moments.

The character’s ultimates are lackluster as well. In team-based games, which this game’s multiplayer is desperately trying to be, ultimates are usually fun, flashy abilities that can change the tide of a match in a near instant. Ultimates in Operation Blackout are rather lackluster. Cobra Commander’s ultimate sees him plant his serpent staff into the ground and release a cloud of poisonous gas in front of him while Duke’s ultimate sees him throw a grenade into enemies. With no tooltips to explain the effects of these ultimates or how they work, they are confusing to use and have little impact on the main game. Boss fights are mostly the same, slugouts that feel overly long. The game’s first boss, Duke, soaks up bullets, even on the game’s default difficulty. The result is long, drawn out encounters that do little to raise the stakes or do anything original. 

The game’s story is one of its few bright spots, with a typical Saturday morning cartoon vibe and voice actors that decently portray their respective roles. Cobra Commander’s VA, in particular, does a good job of channeling Chris Latta of yesteryear, resulting in a modern Cobra Commander performance that’s pretty good. But, as decent as it is, it is not nearly enough to lift the game up above its lowest elements. 

Ultimately, I cannot recommend this game to anyone, for any reason. Poorly designed with abhorrent performance and hideous character design, it is a fundamentally unfun game that simultaneously wastes the talents of its VAs and the license upon which it is based. Given the small team that developed this, it might be understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic for fans of the 80s True American Heroes.  

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. superVeritech

    October 19, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I bought the game full price and actually enjoy it a lot. Yeah it’s unpolished and the Switch version (I have) is missing the quality of PS4/XBone but the gameplay is still kinda tuna and there is enough nostalgia to hold me and my kids over.

  2. Eldyn Salters

    October 20, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    This game was fun. I beat it, twice, and enjoyed it. Once on PC and once on Switch (handheld). I read multiple reviews after I beat it, and it feels like they didn’t even play it. Some reviewers “reviews” felt like they just saw the trailer and trashed the game based on the trailer alone. The game is an average affair, with some flaws, for sure. But its no where near as bad as some reviewers are spewing. The game isn’t perfect. But it’s fun, and enjoyable, and gives you the G.I.Joe feel and experience. Anybody not familiar with the G.I.Joe franchise will feel like its just a generic 3rd person shooter game, that’s not perfectly executed, but decent. Fans of the franchise will definitely enjoy it more, for the nostalgia factor on top of that. But for what it is, its a fun, decent, shooter, that has flaws but is enjoyable. Plan and simple. The vehicle levels are a nice change of pace as well. However, the reviewer of this “review” clearly admitted they “barely made it for an hour”, meaning, they didn’t get far, and didn’t come close to beating the game. So why are they reviewing something they didn’t play. Awful. I bought the game brand new, unopened, for $20, after some discounts, and that was a perfectly fine price for the game. I agree that the original $40 is a little too much, but $20 is a great price for this game. If you are a gamer who ONLY cars about the highest end of graphics, or ONLY AAA titles, then no, this isn’t for you. But I’ve seen lots of players online that like this game, multiple players in real life who love this game, and I enjoyed it, for what it was. Understanding that you’re not getting a super polished Call of Duty game or something helps. If you are expecting that, you wont’ like it. But if you enjoy fun random games, you’ll have fun with this. Its not too too long of a game. Kids will enjoy it. Fans of G.I.Joe will enjoy it. And even people who like generic shooters will enjoy it. The voice acting, some characters sound similar to their 80s counterparts, while others sound completely different. That’s what happens 40 years later when the original voice actors pass away and you need new voice actors. Plus, it also happens when you modernize it for a new generation, yet, the older generation still wants everything to be exactly how it was in the past. Most bosses are really easy and go down fast, The first boss takes a little bit, but its clear and obvious this reviewer didn’t get much past the beginning of the game. Movement is perfectly fine, and everybody has a run button to run faster, and, some even have dashes that make them move yet even faster. Tho this reviewer didn’t touch on that, meaning they probably didn’t know about it, and complained about “slow” and “sluggish” characters, which again, shows they didn’t play the game. Game played perfectly great on the Switch’s handheld mode too. The complaint about the guns that don’t “feel” impactful is some super nitpicking nonsense of a complaint that I’ve ever seen. Clearly they don’t play many shooting games at all if they are complaining about that. The complaint about the ‘animation’ of shooting down planes with the AA guns is legit, but its not as “immersive breaking’ as he makes it out to be. Also, again, that’s only the first level of the game. Everything this reviewer talks about is all only in the first level of the game. I’m convinced this reviewer didn’t play past the first level. This reviewer feels like a Call of Duty player who did a quick comparison to that game, to this games first level, and then wrote a terrible review, describing the game terribly, based on his own prejudices against it because of his preference for other games. That seems way obvious, which makes this review a complete waste of time, and a terrible terrible review. I feel bad for this reviewer. Its like he’s not even trying. Just threw up some quick garbage to get ‘content’ out there. But as somebody who played the game, twice, on different systems, and beat it both times, I can say that this review, although not entirely inaccurate, is out of context and misleading. This is not the greatest game ever, lets get that straight. But its far more enjoyable than this reviewer lets on. Definitely worth about $20 or less. But its clear that this reviewer didn’t fully play the game, and some of his complaints feels like he’s just complaining for the sake of complaining. Some of it is nonsense nitpicking too. Tho, again, this game isnt perfect, and has its flaws. But its definitely a fun and enjoyable game that a lot of people are sure to love. Clearly not this reviewer, which is fine, not everybody has to like everything. That’s totally ok. But if you’re going to review a game, at least play the game first. Its clear and obvious this reviewer didn’t play the game past the first level. He mentions NOTHING in level 2 or further. Only level 1 stuff. Step up your game and do your job, reviewer. Fake bad reviews like this won’t help you, your career, or anybody who reads them. Play games before you review them, and don’t just make complaints for the sake of complaining. I haven’t read any of your other reviews, but if they are as bad of a review as this, I feel sorry for you, and bad for you.

    • Izsak Barnette

      October 20, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks for the comment. If you’re that passionate, maybe you should consider writing a review of your own at some point. We’re always looking for new writers here and we love it when people are passionate about games. Have a great day and I’m glad that the review brought you here to Goomba Stomp. Blessings!

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