Review – G.I. JOE Operation Blackout

G.I. JOE Operation Blackout is the newest installment in a not-so-long list of G.I. JOE titles. One of my earliest childhood memories are of my brother and I hurrying, sometimes running, back home from the bus stop. Him, to watch Transformers, and me, to watch those real American heroes. From the cartoon to the comic books to the action figures; G.I. JOE was very much a part of my childhood, not some retro appropriation of an era.


As mentioned, G.I. JOE Operation Blackout is the first G.I. JOE licensed game since the 2009 movie tie-in for the less than faithful Rise of Cobra. While it saddens and surprises me, I doubt we will see another JOE title follow this any sooner. GameMill Entertainment nailed the nostalgia and characters, but stumbled pretty hard with the gameplay.

It is obvious that the team behind Operation Blackout are true fans of the franchise and this shows in multiple ways. In an homage to the comic books, the narrative is told in a comic panel format. In an homage to the cartoon, the story is properly over-the-top and cheesy, while the gameplay and animation fit perfectly for an 80’s cartoon. The action is hectic and the bullets are flying all over the place, yet hitting no one. The voices aren’t identical but they do a great job of being believable for the roles. It very much feels G.I. JOE.

Anyone know what the other half of the battle is?

You will take turns playing as both JOE and COBRA, as Cobra Commander gets within arms reach of world domination, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It is actually a well done format, bouncing between sides as the story unfolds, playing as one of two chosen characters in single player or co-op. It also gets you used to the larger than expected roster of fan favorite characters. Characters like Destro, Zartan, Baroness, Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, Lady Jaye, Scarlet, Duke and a personal favorite of mine, Firefly, they are all here. The only one missing was Major Blood, but he never gets any love in general, so I can forgive this absence.

The actual gameplay in G.I. JOE Operation Blackout, however, does the JOE franchise no favors. The action is hectic but is missing a sort of weight to it. In action, it felt very reminiscent of Fortnite, as you run and gun across the screen, picking up power ups, weapons and health. Shooting feels two dimensional and almost without consequence. A lot of times, I just charged towards incoming bullets to finish enemies off hand-to-hand. But there too, there is almost no indication you are actually hitting anything or anyone.

Characters get a super attack after their meter builds up. Activating this results in that character’s 3D animation before unleashing their special ability. But this felt just as flimsy as the combat. Duke throws out a grenade but oftentimes, I tossed it in the wrong direction or enemies would have plenty of time to move. Storm Shadow unleashes a powerful katana attack that only hits enemies directly in front of him. Again, never really knowing if you truly hit anything.

Suck it, Duke!

G.I. JOE Operation Blackout does offer a multiplayer mode, but this just serves to give you all the bad of the game without much of the good. Yes, it offers a medal system for scoring each chapter so you can go back and replay them. Yes, it offers collectibles and unlockables as well as modifiers that you unlock after beating levels. I just don’t see why a person would want to go back even for these carrots.

As much as the team at GameMill Entertainment hit, they also missed. Overall, G.I. JOE Operation Blackout feels like a Fortnite game without any of the hook. Even with the love behind the game, there is no mistaking that this is a licensed product and plays like a licensed product. But at $40, it isn’t entirely not worth it. It just isn’t entirely worth it either.


Graphics: 6.0

Animated style cell shading does well to represent the original cartoons but does little beyond that.

Gameplay: 3.0

Their biggest obstacle. Feels very much influenced by Fortnite, but without the hooks that make that game fun.

Sound: 7.5

A surprising cast of playable characters voiced well from top to bottom. Well, maybe not Snake Eyes.

Fun Factor: 5.0

Story, presentation and characters are enough to fuel nostalgia, just not forever.

Final Verdict: 5.0

G.I. JOE: Operation Blackout is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of G.I. JOE: Operation Blackout was provided by the publisher.