It was pretty much impossible to grow up in the last quarter of the 21st century without having some exposure to the G.I. Joe series.
Originally created to entertain boys who might have shown just a little too much interest in their siblings Barbie dolls, the generically-named G.I. Joe action figurines were launched in 1964 and soon achieved epic success. Through the years they've changed and evolved to suit the times, even appearing on television, and on the silver screen.
2009 will see a new movie release for the franchise. Titled G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, not only can we expect the Real American Hero to battle the evil forces of the shadowy organisation, but we'll get a new game out of it as well. Thanks to Electronic Arts NZ, we've received the following Q&A session from Matt Marsala, Senior Producer at Electronic Arts, and Dax Berg, Lead Designer at Double Helix. If anyone can give us the inside information, these guys can!
Will the game tie into the film’s release?
Matt: Yes, the game will launch on all platforms around the film release.
What is the G.I. Joe game going to be like - FPS, action adventure?
Matt: G.I. Joe is a 3rd person modernized version of a classic arcade/action shooter. There are heavy arcade influences from the past in this game, along with some touches from more of the core “gamer” games that have come out over the last couple of years. If you like having fun, you’ll like this game.
Is the game a straight retailing of the film or can gamers expect a different story?
Matt: Our G.I. Joe game will feature an exclusive storyline and picks up where the film leaves off so we’re definitely not creating a “play the movie” game here. The game takes place after the film ends, so we’ll be drawing inspiration from certain elements that were introduced in the film. We’ve also pulled inspiration from the classic G.I. Joe cartoon series, and have blended the two together to create what I believe is a pretty compelling story.
Dax: The game takes place after the film and takes those origins one step further. You get an even bigger sense of how the G.I. Joe enemies are becoming a bigger and bigger threat. Our storyline will be retellings of a G.I. Joe classic story arc (with a modern day spin) that will be well known to the core fans.
For what platforms will G.I. Joe be released and what are the differences among them?
Matt: Pick your poison: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP and Nintendo DS; all of the platforms except for the DS have the same basic game design with differences in fidelity the higher you go up. The PS3 and 360 are both chock-full-o’ Achievements and Trophies; the Wii features motion control for some of the combat and vehicle systems, the PS2 runs smooth and looks great, and the PSP feels quite natural with one analogue stick. As for the DS, it’s built from the ground up and has a completely separate gameplay design that takes advantage of what the platform has to offer, but it shares the same story as the other platforms.
What key characters from the G.I. Joe universe can we expect to find in the game?
Matt: We’ve included pretty much every major character from the film into the game, plus a whole lot more. One of the great things about the G.I. Joe universe is how rich and diverse the character roster is – there were actually too many to choose from; it was hard to pare it down to the number we finally ended up with in the game. We have over a dozen playable characters, each featuring a unique weapon and special action move specific to that character’s history.
Each character is separated into one of three distinct classes – Heavy, Combat, and Commando. Each class has unique abilities and melee styles, so experimenting with different characters to determine which best suits your play style is going to be key. In addition, we also have dozens of supporting characters to fill out the G.I. Joe and Cobra rosters – many of whom will be quite memorable if you’ve ever seen the cartoons or read the comic books.
What age group are you aiming at with this game and, if it is a young audience, have you had to adjust the gameplay to suit?
Matt: The G.I. Joe brand has such broad appeal to people of all ages – we’re shooting for a teen rating for the console versions and PSP and E10+ for the Nintendo DS, but I fully suspect that older generations that grew up watching the cartoons, playing with the action figures, and reading the comic books will be quite interested in playing as well. Given the wide age range of gamers we’re hoping to satisfy, we’ve developed a controller scheme that will allow entry level players with no knowledge of the brand and little gaming experience to have a good time playing alongside a seasoned gamer that grew up on G.I. Joe.
We’re still working on gameplay tuning, so I can’t really say what we’ll have to change, if anything, to accommodate younger players. Let’s just say that we’ve got time set aside for tuning and polishing the game and there are plenty of dials at our disposal to turn.
What one feature or gameplay mechanic would you like to highlight from the game (on any platform)?
Matt: Character selection in this game is key – in Single Player, you’re required to choose two G.I. Joe characters to go into combat with, and you can instantly swap between them 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.
Will there be a mobile version of the game like with other Hasbro titles?
Dax: Yes, there is a version of G.I. Joe currently in development for mobile phones from EA Mobile.
How would you sum up the game in just one sentence?
Matt: G.I. Joe – an accessible, fast paced, 3rd person arcade action shooter inspired by the film, but informed by over 40 years of rich G.I. Joe history.
Our thanks to Electronic Arts NZ! We'll bring you more G.I. Joe information as soon as it becomes available.