Not surprisingly there’s a number of similarities between The Expendables 2 movie and The Expendables 2: Video Game. Both feature insane, ball busting, nut crunching, explosive, over the top action. Both rely on a wafer thin, nonsensical plot. Both star central characters with signature moves and weaponry, and both feature character models that are a little stiff and don’t act particularly well. In short doses The Expendables 2: Video Game is actually quite fun, even on your own, but after any lengthy period of play its inherent flaws become way too apparent.
Serving as a prequel of sorts (fleshing out and extending the opening sequence from the film) the game focuses on the team rescuing a Chinese billionaire. To this end the four playable characters of Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) must stem a never-ending tide of cannon fodder, tanks, helicopters and narrowly escape explosion after explosion. Actors return to voice their film character adding a little more weight to the experience.
The gameplay is cut from your typical twin-stick shooter mold with a few ‘on the rails’ shooting sections to mix things up. Unlike most twin-stick shooters the single player campaign actually gives you access to all four players simultaneously and even lets you switch between all four essentially giving you four lives. If you get knocked down simply switch to another and revive your fallen character or, alternately, wait for a teammate to take care of it. In this aspect the AI does quite a respectable job, if only they got with the killing as enthusiastically and herein lays one of the game’s main issues.
You will be spending a lot of time reviving, switching characters, and executing soldiers by the thousands with your cohorts doing the bare minimum to help along the way, leaving you to do most of the heavy lifting. Each has their own weapon specialisation with Barney rocking twin pistols and the signature Colt, Gunner is utilizes a sniper rifle and shotty for up close, Yin Yang uses throwing knives and a submachine gun and Caesar brings the pain with a grenade launcher and the devastating automatic shotgun.
The main problem here is spotty hit recognition, aiming difficulties to get accurate shots off with the right thumbstick (on console) and a temperamental auto-lock. Throw in some weak weaponry (with you wondering if you’re actually doing any damage at all) and many times you find melee is the best and most reliable option. After spending significant time with each character I opted for Gunner or Caesar with Caesar’s auto-shotty best for crowd control and Gunner’s laser scoped sniping the most accurate for pesky rocket launcher dudes. You just don’t feel like you’re laying the serious smack down with the other characters, even with several weapon or heath upgrades.
There were a few shining moments though and these came in the form of Signature Kills. As you massacre platoon after platoon you have a combat meter that slowly fills. Once full you can perform a Signature Kill. Here the camera zooms in as Barney pops a round off in the poor sap’s leg and ventilates his cranium, Caesar lets the buckshot fly up close, Gunner sweeps the leg and unloads a heavy caliber round to the face and Ying Yang imbeds a knife in the thigh and then slits the poor bastard’s throat. These almost make it worth the price of admission and more touches along these lines would have been spectacular, but sadly that wasn’t the case here. If you do decide to venture online and hook up on a public server, be warned. The difficulty ramps up a bit and communication is paramount. Your best bet is to grab three buddies and work together to get the job done, just prepare for a lot of reviving.
Given the nature of the problems I’ve mentioned above and the score down below, I still don’t feel it’s an accurate representation of the experience I had but it’s pretty much impossible to score The Expendables 2: Video Game any higher. Would I go through and play it again? Absolutely. Could it be a hilarious addition to a boozy Friday night gaming session with mates? You betcha. Would I want to rip my hair out in frustration more than half the time? Sure would. It is still seriously flawed and bound to infuriate a lot of gamers out there. For those who are more of a glass half full kind of guy (or gal), can let niggling flaws slide, and like minimum exposition, this will be right up your alley. Just know exactly what you’re in for.