Rambo: The Video Game will make you sweat blood and s**t bullets probably. VG247's Dave Cook speaks with developer Teyon to get the skinny on its violent adaptation of Stallone's hip-shooting trilogy
The Rambo series of movies may have p**sed all over David Morrell's 1972 novel First Blood with increasing pressure by each instalment but there's no denying it's had a massive impact on action culture.
Picture the red bandana, the dirty black vest, the mullet, the fact that the sod scarcely aims his guns or reloads them; these elements have been parodied and worked into many cheesy action movies over the years, so it's little wonder there's an appetite for Teyon's game adaptation.
No look, I'm being serious here; every time we so much as whisper about Rambo: The Video Game on this site our reader numbers fly up like mad. Many of you out there want to know more about this largely shrouded project, so we went straight to the source in search of answers.
Is it an on-rails game? Does it follow the movies closely? How does it handle? What tech lies under the hood? I've seen many of you asking these very questions on our comment threads before, so I posed them directly to Teyon's team and general manager at publisher Reef Entertainment Will Curley.
To set the scene quickly; Rambo: The Video Game hurls players into the sweaty fatigue-trousers of John Rambo as he slaughters his way through the plots of First Blood: Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and Rambo 3. Teyon confirmed that the game is a rail-shooter hybrid with an emphasis on score-attack, so it's obviously not a light gun game, but Rambo is automatically funnelled through each stage.
"We felt that controlling the player’s journey through the levels and maximising the visual and set-piece variety we could offer was the best way for us to go," Curley explained. "We want players to have the feeling of the game being complete-able but also that when they get to the end they have the sense that they have seen, experienced and achieved a lot of things.
"It’s similar to a classic arcade game feel, even something like Outrun that speeds you through five stages quickly so in a small chunk of time you’ve seen a lot of content. We’re fans of that type of gaming. So we appointed our developer Teyon and our initial plans were to make a straight ‘rail’ shooter that moved the player through the set-pieces and environment of the three films.
"We looked around at rail shooters both classic and current to find what people enjoyed and also think of ways to make them feel fresh again. There were a few issues that came to light once we started project planning. First, a pure rail-shooter tends to be about single shot accuracy and very clinical play. If you go down the other route and do more of a ‘spray’ rail-shooter you lose the every-bullet-counts feel and re-load management somewhat."
Rambo progresses on rails until the players reach a specific point, which then latches him to cover. From there it's possible to pop in and out of terrain FPS-style while slotting targets, managing reloads and more. It's sort of like mixing up the Time Crisis cover system with Call of Duty, but with a badass factor of ten. Cover can be shredded by gunfire in seconds however, so moving between points is the key to survival.
It's not all shooting though, as Rambo will also put his stealth skills to use when the opportunity arises, or when particularly nails enemies appear. Curley explained that the game's theme is that feeling of going from hunted to hunter, with Rambo facing impossible odds against scores of enemies initially and to then lay down some immense hurt as the tables turn.
Curley added that test players approaching Rambo as a straight up shooter found they couldn't get past the first mission. It really is about choosing when to switch cover wisely, and spunking all your bullets up the wall in a matter of seconds is certainly not to be advised. Grenade-chucking foes will also flush players out of cover if they 'turtle' behind it for a long period of time, encouraging constant movement.
You already knew this as soon as you read the word 'Rambo' in the game's title, but yes this is a gun-heavy experience and with it, there's an emphasis on chain-killing and leaderboard dominance.
"In terms of weapons we have a good variety of guns and equipment from the movies, Curley continued. "Players can take a load-out of two guns, bow and various arrows, as well as grenades into the battle. The player can also equip various skills as well as upgrading core attributes. In testing we have seen a variety of different approaches to play.
"You can make a build with fast health-regen and super-bar charging which allows you to survive for longer periods out of cover and chain kill, or you can make a very fast build where you speed up movement, reloads, clip-size and put score multipliers into hits on dead bodies for examples, so a more skilful player would be able to yield the highest scores.
"In terms of scoring, we see leader-boards as a really important part of the game as we want to make it something that players will enjoy completing multiple times. Obviously harder difficulties will yield better multipliers, but we also have plans for stackable clip-combos, timer based multipliers, chain combos and more. You will also be rewarded for Rambo-like play whether that be aggressively or taking a non-lethal route through the First Blood portions of the game."
All of this wanton destruction and fragging may send the heads of action fans out there spinning, but I'm sure we're all aware that the first Rambo film didn't have a massive death toll unlike Rambo 3's 132-strong body count, so just how can a game largely about shooting claim to be authentic to the source material? I wanted to know, so I asked and was told that the team follows the films almost "religiously".
"Where we could we went for authenticity first and foremost," Curley added. "For example we initially had Rambo shooting his way out of the police-station as we had well developed shoot-out mechanics and it was fun to destroy the police-station from inside. However we replaced it with a 3rd person QTE fight sequence that is more true to the films.
"The sequence is shorter but it definitely adds to the experience of the game. One thing fans wanted was more third-person scenes which is obviously difficult today without building a whole new animation and control system for the game, so QTE and mo-cap works great as a substitute, and as you can imagine mo-cap also gives us the best opportunity for accuracy to the films."
He added, "For First Blood we give player’s the choice; play like Rambo, who minimised fatalities or if you want you can go all guns blazing and shoot or knife to kill. In the First Blood section stealth hunts with correct timing would give stun take-downs for example, or players can shoot weapons from cops hands to disarm them or other non-lethal areas such as arms and legs to incapacitate them.
"There’s still a lot to be said for the fun of destroying the lights in the town and shooting up the police station as Rambo does himself in the film, or blowing up the police cars as well. It doesn’t always have to be bloody kills that are satisfying, though playing that way is also possible and in testing most people play that way. If you want to go for high-scores though it’s obviously better to play these levels like Rambo did in the films."
Curley explained that the QTE fights are comparable to Shenmue's scripted battles in that they aren't over-used, and he added that some actions - such as Rambo knocking over a table in one cinematic - can see it used as cover once gameplay resumes. The prompts are also used during the game's mo-capped boss battles, and during gunplay to create twitch tactical options.
I also asked Curley just how violent the game gets when the action reaches its peak and he replied that the level of bloodshed rests somewhere between the third and fourth films, so it's dripping in blood, basically and it sounds like it could just serve as a fitting tribute to the films that have inspired a generation of action movie fanatics.
Now all we need is for someone to give Arnold Scharzenegger's 'Commando' the same treatment and I can die a happy man.
Rambo: The Video Game launches on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 at some point this year.