Since debuting in the 1960s as "America's Movable Fighting Man," G.I. Joe has been a mainstay in popular culture. When the toy line relaunched as "A Real American Hero" in the 1980s, its popularity soared, and G.I. Joe branched out into comics, an animated series and several video games that appeared everywhere from the Atari 2600 to the arcades.
On August 7, the franchise will finally make the jump to live-action film, when "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" arrives in theaters. That same week, Electronic Arts will be bringing the Joes back to game consoles, as the video game of the same name will be releasing in stores.
The video game "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" serves as a follow-up to the movie, and will incorporate elements from the film as well as the rest of G.I. Joe's storied past. EA's Matt Marsala is the Senior Producer of the game, and he recently talked with CBR News about how the project should appeal to both new and longtime fans of G.I. Joe.
CBR: The game "Rise of Cobra" is set as somewhat of a sequel to the upcoming movie. What can you tell us about the story?
MATT MARSALA: While we're not revealing too many details of the story at this point (to prevent movie spoilers), I can tell you that we maintain some of the main threads you'll see in the film, and incorporate them into a new story thread that takes place after the film ends. G.I. Joe is on a non-stop quest to fight for freedom wherever there's trouble, and in this case trouble once again comes in the form of the elusive Cobra organization, taking the player on a journey across four continents tracking Cobra's effort to create a weapon of mass destruction.
Will you be pulling from the cartoons and comics for story elements and set pieces?
Absolutely! The story is actually heavily influenced by an early '80s cartoon miniseries, and the world is full of elements found in the comics and toy line as well. It was really important to us to include as much as we could from the last 45 years of G.I. Joe history in the game.
What are the factors that you think have to be in a G.I. Joe game to make it stand apart from every other military-themed action shooter out there?
When people think of G.I. Joe, the first image that usually comes to mind is their childhood memories of playing with the action figures. We had an enormous number of characters to choose from for the game, and we settled on what we consider to be 16 of the coolest, most unique characters that fit well with the overall game design. Most other games don't have the luxury of an established brand to work from, so we were quite fortunate in this regard. In addition, it was important for us to include as much content from the history of the franchise as possible in the game.
Do you have any diehard G.I. Joe fans on the development team? If so, what were some of the things they lobbied to have included in the game?
Yep, many of our developers were huge fans of G.I. Joe when they were kids, but none as much as our very own Lead Designer, Dax Berg. He was the one that pushed hard to include as many different characters in the game as possible, along with the 75 file cards that ultimately made it into the game, among other things.
From what we've seen so far, the game seems to be a combination of a shooter and a brawler. How would you describe the general gameplay of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra?"
In terms of comparisons, the game has third-person shooter elements but it is clearly not a third-person shooter. It has '90s / modern day "Shoot 'em Up" elements as well but I wouldn't call it "Ikaruga" either. The best way to describe it (albeit it's a tad oxymoronic) would be calling it a "Modernized - Classic Arcade Shooter." Bits of love from classics like "Metal Slug" or modern SHMUPS like "The Red Star" with a very next gen style, look and feel.
In terms of presentation, are you going for a more realistic feel like the movie, or more arcade-style?
We're definitely trying to match the overall modern look and feel of the movie, but wanted to create gameplay that hearkened back to the classic arcade shooters of the '80s. Games like "Contra," "Ikaruga" and "Ikari Warriors" were all used as inspiration for the game design, although it's not exactly like any one of them.
So far you've announced Duke, Heavy Duty, Gung Ho, Snake Eyes, Shipwreck and Scarlett as playable Joes. Can you give us any hints on who else will be available?
There are a total of 16 playable characters in the game, four of which are Cobra bosses that you can unlock after you defeat them. I won't give you the full list, but some of the other playable characters include Storm Shadow, Baroness, Kamakura, Beach Head, Backblast and Sgt. Flash. In addition, there are numerous support characters that will help the player keep up with the story and gain more information about the enemy during combat. This includes characters like Wild Bill, Breaker, Stalker, Tunnel Rat, Lift Ticket, Recondo, Dusty and a bunch more.
How will the class system work in the game? Will there be the ability to customize or upgrade characters?
Everyone has ranged attacks, some more focused on ranged and other more on melee, while others are more balance between the two and have quicker refillable "Combat Special Action" abilities. Duke falls in the "balanced" Combat Soldier class and can both do decent ranged damage as well as hold his own in melee but neither of those is his specialty. From the classic series, Duke always seems to have a grenade at the ready, and unlike other classes he can recharge the ability to use it very quickly. This gives him a handy "smart bomb" that he can toss at enemies to clear things out when the fighting gets a bit heavy. Snake Eyes has his own unique Combat Special Action ability as well. Due to his Commando Class, his Special Action ability is melee specific, but due to the overwhelming power of this attack, it will take much more time to recharge.
Choosing which type of class combination you move in with as well as which individual character (remember - each character has their own unique Combat Special Action) is a game strategy. Playing a mission deep underground in tight corridors and tunnels is great for selecting characters like Scarlett and Snake Eyes, while attacks outdoors from Flight Pods are best suited by selecting guys like Sgt. Flash and Heavy Duty.
Co-op seems to be a major part of the experience. Will players have an A.I. counterpart if they're playing through solo?
The game was built from the ground up for co-op play, but in single-player you'll have an A.I. buddy to accompany you along the way to help fight enemy forces. The great thing about this is that you can instantly swap between both characters in single player with a simple button press. Choosing characters of different classes gives you more options when approaching an encounter. Two Commandos, for example, might be a great strategy for an interior section where you're doing a lot of close-quarters fighting. Exteriors, however, may be better suited with a Heavy and a Combat Soldier. Both provide longer range and more firepower, but are a bit more lacking when it comes to close combat. A good, balanced approach may be to choose a Commando and a Heavy, so you can pick the enemy apart from near and far at the same time. And, if you happen to choose a couple of characters that don't really work for your particular style, we'll give the player multiple opportunities to swap their character out mid-mission.
We've heard about being able to unlock the old Public Service Announcements from the G.I. Joe '80s cartoon. How will that work, and what other unlockables can we look forward to?
There are four main bosses that you have to defeat in the game. Upon defeating each one, the player will unlock one of the classic PSAs as a reward. In addition, the player will be able to unlock each of these bosses as playable characters after defeating them.
Once players finish the main storyline, will there be an incentive to play through again?
Yes! The way you go about unlocking playable characters in the game depends on how well you score on a per mission basis. Higher scores will result in more Battle Points being awarded to the player, and the faster you can earn those Battle Points, the faster you'll unlock characters. I suspect that most players that play on Casual difficulty will likely have to go back and replay some missions with newly unlocked characters in order to bank all of the necessary Battle Points, and once the Cobra characters are unlocked, they can bring these more powerful characters into early missions and really amp up their high scores. In addition, completionist players will have plenty to do with completing optional side missions and collecting the 75 filecards, and achievement/trophy hounds will also likely want to go back and pick up any rewards they missed their first time through.
Can we expect to see a demo of the game before it releases?
Nope. You'll have to wait for the game to release to get your hands on it...
Our thanks to Matt Marsala for giving us the inside scoop on "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra." The game will be available on August 4th for the DS, PS2, PSP, PS3, Wii and Xbox 360. To find out more about the game, head over to the official website at www.gijoe.ea.com. For more details on the upcoming movie, check out www.gijoemovie.com.