The G.I. Joe crew return for a brand new third-person shooter adventure. Play on both sides of the battle solo or co-op with a friend, or take on up to three more buddies across four local multiplayer PvP modes. G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout is available now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout Details
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Developer: IguanaBee, Play Fair Labs
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Genre: Third-person shooter
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
A classic G.I. Joe story
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout bases itself in the classic 80’s cartoon rather than the recent cinematic universe. The solo/co-op campaign lets players take on the role of 12 favourite Joes and Cobras. You’ll play for both sides over the course of 17 campaign missions adding up to around 6-8 hours of gameplay.
The narrative feels like something straight out of the show, or perhaps the recent IDW comic books. A bit campy, a bit over the top, but well within the bounds of a solid G.I. Joe-style adventure. It definitely feels a lot like something my friends and I might have cooked up one summer Saturday afternoon in the backyard with our massive collection of figures, vehicles, and artillery.
The intervening cutscenes play out in a motion-comic style—primarily still frames with small actions and movements that spice up the action. I do quite like the art style here, and it gives the overall narrative a nice bit of comic book flair. Clearly full animation wasn’t in the budget here, but this alternative works well and suits the “toybox” atmosphere.
No high-definition Joe
It’s a good thing that the cutscenes in G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout have a pleasing aesthetic. Unfortunately when it comes to the gameplay itself, we aren’t so lucky. The in-game animation is pretty rough around the edges.
I imagine the fact that I am playing on the Nintendo Switch compounds this issue. Nowhere is it more obvious than on the big screen when the Switch console is on the dock. Here I can see waffle patterns in the textures everywhere, including most intrusively on the back of my character’s head.
The waffling textures go away in handheld mode and the game looks much better here. However, there’s a distinct trade-off as the background environments become a bit fuzzier and more low-resolution. Still, it’s worth it to at least have consistent textures.
I can’t speak to whether or not graphical performance improves on PC or more powerful consoles. I can only assume it must. However, when it comes to Nintendo Switch, I recommend sticking to handheld mode for a (slightly) better aesthetic.
A mash-up of features
The G.I. Joe universe features a hodge-podge of unique characters and personalities. To an extent G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout exhibits the same trait in the realm of video games. It seems to borrow a bit of everything to create its overarching style of play.
On the surface its a pretty standard third-person shooter, but as you play you’ll clearly see the influence of a number of popular games. For example, reloading your weapon involves a timing challenge to ensure a quick and clean effort. This mechanic appears straight out of the Gears of War franchise.
Level difficulty modifiers invoke thoughts of Halo, naturally. Furthermore, more powerful super abilities unique to each character will of course ring familiar for Overwatch players. In essence G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout sticks them all together like a kid staging a multi-franchise backyard brawl with figures from every IP imaginable.
Everything fits together nicely for a fairly confluent experience. Still, the action itself is lacking polish and combat isn’t up to the level of the games it imitates. At the end of the day this feels like a budget game with a solid foundation, but lacking the resources necessary to put it on par with similar titles in the shooter genre.
Local PvP for up to four
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout repurposes a few of its maps for “Team Battle” local split screen multiplayer. Depending on which map you choose the options available include variants of arena deathmatch, assault, capture the flag, and king of the hill.
There is no online component to the multiplayer portion of the game however. This means you’ll have to invite your friends over to participate in the action. Nor is there an option to have AI fill out the ranks, so bots aren’t on the table either. You’ll need at least two people to launch anything in Team Battle mode.
The lack of an online server may seem disappointing on the outside. However, at the end of the day it’s probably for the best. With the current glut of competitive multiplayer options already on the market, I can’t really see a sustainable online community for matchmaking here.
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout builds a solid foundation but lacks the polish to compete
G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout appears to fall victim to the fate that robs so many licensed franchises of the opportunity to shine. All too often licensing fees simply eat up more than their fair share of the budget, leaving passionate developers stretching to deliver something that approaches their true vision.
That’s definitely what I see with G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout. There’s an excellent shooter here lying just under the surface, incorporating mechanics and features players love into a universe full of childhood nostalgia and cartoonishly hyperbolic patriotism. That said, everything from the graphical performance to the combat mechanics a just a bit too rough around the edges to hold their own against similar titles.
Of course the motion comic-style cutscenes are still enjoyable, and the spirit of a classic G.I. Joe fantasy is there. For a roughly 6-hour campaign it’s definitely worth it for fans who are curious to see how the adventure plays out. That said, G.I. Joe: Operation Blackout will likely leave most wondering just how amazing this one could have been with the broader resources for a bit more polish and shine.
+ 12 playable classic Joes and Cobras across 17 solo/co-op missions
+ Motion comic-style cutscenes
– Poor graphics, particularly apparent with Nintendo Switch in docked mode
– No online multiplayer or AI bots
– Lacks the polish and refinement of similar games in the genre
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF G.I. JOE: OPERATION BLACKOUT
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5