As a motion-picture franchise The Expendables lends itself to videogame adaptation more than most: enter the guise of a 1990’s action hero and blow stuff up. It’s such a simple premise that it’s hard to believe it’s taken two bug screen instalments for a publisher to decide to do it, and even then only digitally. However, they have got the ingredients right: The Expendables 2 Videogame is about taking on the form of an action hero and blowing stuff up. Brash disposable entertainment, just as it’s film counterparts are.
For such a thinly veiled excuse for action and heroics, The Expendables 2 Videogame is actually rather smart in its positioning. Padding out the story between the two motion-picture productions, The Expendables 2 Videogame avoids the route taken by so many videogame adaptations and doesn’t spoil the film. In fact, it will only serve to build anticipation in those already keen to see it, reacquainting fans with those familiar faces and stopping just before The Expendables 2 begins. This is smart delivery for a franchise that is anything but.
In-game things are less convincing, but that doesn’t mean they miss the sweet spot of price and enjoyment. Featuring four-player co-operative gameplay, The Expendables 2 Videogame bases it’s action on the top-down shooters of the 90’s in the same way the films base their on the big screen action of the time. The likes of M.E.R.C.S. and Rambo III can be seen in The Expendables 2 Videogame, and anyone who loved those original titles will relish the chance to cause chaos as a one man army (or four man team) once again.
The Expendables 2 Videogame features five levels in each of its four chapters, and right from the very start explosions destroy buildings and countless enemies fall at the pull of your trigger. All four playable characters appear on the battlefield at all times, with any not controlled by humans played out by artificial intelligence (AI) of a reasonable capability. As a team you march across the battlefields killing everything in your path, and doing little else.
An old school arcade design, The Expendables 2 Videogame adds a modern lick of paint to a well worn template. It’s a series of mechanics so deeply routed in the annals of videogaming history that anyone not deeply invested in the 16-bit era will most likely miss the point in its entirety. The potentially monotonous gameplay is broken-up by some on-rails helicopter action and the ability to switch between any of the four characters in order to complete mission objectives, such as planting bombs. It’s a very simple premise spiced up a little by a levelling-up system which it doesn’t really need. There’s nothing wrong with The Expendables 2 Videogame’s retro design other than the fact that it’s likely to alienate a younger, less patient audience.
From a technical standpoint The Expendables 2 Videogame looses some of its brownie points, with a visual style that would’ve been hard to commend back in 2005 and imitation voice acting that often steps far too close to comedy impersonation. However, it doesn’t need to be anything else: The Expendables 2 Videogame lives and dies on its action gameplay, and the level design and explosions are both of a passable standard.
While it’s not likely to break any boundaries in audience interpretation or acceptability of videogames by a mainstream audience, The Expendables 2 Videogame provides no-thought thrills for an audience of up to four players simultaneously. It’s escapism in its purest form, and given the source material you simply couldn’t ask for any more. Gamers of a certain age will welcome its throwback design and relish the ideal of simply killing thousands of enemies before they do the same to you, but modern gamers may find the adjustment to large a hurdle to overcome.