The Rambo series of films are an interesting timepiece. The first film, aptly titled First Blood, features Sylvester Stallone as Vietnam war veteran John Rambo being chased from some irate cops in a small Washington town, and is more of an action-driven thriller. However, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III are definitely action movies in the simplest sense, something that could really only be made in the Reagan-dominated 1980s.
They’re cheesy as all hell, and a little bit unsettling these days – especially the more recent entries, John Rambo and Rambo: Last Blood – but I can appreciate their relevance in pop culture all the same.
Over the years there’s been a handful of Rambo video games, mostly of average quality. One of the more well-known ones was Pack-in-Video’s Rambo game on the NES that was a knockoff of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, and many of Sega’s games throughout the ’80s. After Rambo III, there weren’t any games featuring that M60-wielding muscle man, unlike similar action films like Robocop that got games years after the films were relevant. Cut to 2014, several years after the fourth film, and at a time when the franchise couldn’t be any less relevant, and somehow we got… this.
Rambo: The Video Game is the most recent attempt to make the action movie series into a video game. With so many years between the last major Rambo game, you’d think we get a really solid adaptation of the film series, right? Wrong. Developer Teyon and publisher Reef Entertainment brought this out to critically negative reviews, from gamers and fans of the films alike.
So, what’s the genre they opted to go for? First-person shooter, right? Perhaps a third-person cover shooter? The answer to that is neither: It’s a light gun game. Considering Teyon’s pedigree – they made a majority of the Heavy Fire series of light gun games – it seems fitting, but also very limiting.
So how does the game piece the story together? Well, our game begins with a cutscene of a military colonel talking about John Rambo at his funeral, retelling his stories of war, while satisfied the man’s dead.
This is amazingly inaccurate it hurts. Not only does Rambo live after the events of these films, it just comes off as incredibly comical and not at all powerful or emotional. I honestly thought this was a reference to a small scene in one of the films, but nope, this was made specifically for the game. I don’t know why they opted to tell the story this way, but it’s really really dumb.
After that, we’re thrown into a cutscene that takes place before the events of First Blood, featuring Rambo (with digital Stallone sporting a mustache just as ugly as he did in that movie) escaping from a camp. Then the game begins, in all its light gun glory.
The game’s mechanics are fairly straightforward. Rambo automatically moves from place to place until he’s killed enough bad guys. You have three weapons, split between light type (pistols, AK47s, stuff like that), heavy type (machine guns and grenade launchers), and special weapons like the iconic torque bow. Left mouse button fires, right mouse button (or R) reloads. It has the active reload system from Gears of War, meaning a perfect reload gives you double the ammunition in the mag. Middle mouse button throws grenades, and using the WASD controls are used to take cover when given the opportunity, something incredibly helpful when enemy machine gun emplacements start firing at you. Get enough kills to activate a Wrath ability where enemies are highlighted and every kill gets back health.
In First Blood, Rambo wasn’t really a stone-cold killer. There was only a handful of kills under his watch, one of them by accident. So for these levels the game encourages the player to opt for disarming the cops by shooting them in the arms or legs, as killing them normally causes you to lose points. By the time you move to the levels depicting First Blood Part II, this rule no long applies, so Rambo can kill to his heart’s content since they’re not red-blooded Americans.