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Rambo III (Genesis) artwork

Rambo III (Genesis) review


It's really not much of a secret that video games based on movies during the 1980s and 1990s are embarrassments to both mediums. Most usually play horribly, often look bizarre in their attempt to mimic styles and characters from the films, and more times than not, deviate from the source material to a ridiculous degree. It's rare to find one that's not terrible, and when you do, it's average at best. At a glance, Rambo III appears to fall into the "generic, yet playable" category, as it's simply offering an ordinary, top-down shooter experience. However, play a couple stages into John Rambo's burly, romantic tale about lost love, and you just might feel offended.

Rambo III is such a "mediocre" product in so many areas, that it goes beyond the realm of logic, and eventually lands into the refuge of laziness. The first stage, for instance, has trucks with soldiers hopping out, bullets raining from watch towers, a foe or two tossing grenades from cover, and at the end, a giant wall spraying projectile fire. Sounds intense. Except you can bypass all this by casually walking to the right for ten seconds, then move north, and face the wall obstacle. I'm not exaggerating when I say the stage layout is literally shaped in the letter L lying on its back, emphasizing the laziness that went into creating this level. Afterwards, you're treated to a third-person "boss" fight with Rambo taking on a Hind D. Again, sounds thrilling, but just hide behind objects when the enemy fires, then pop out and destroy the helicopter in two hits...

Stage two displays a promising tone shift, presenting a prison where you must free an agent. It's bigger than the first stage, sure, but there's only three areas with three prisoners, and you just travel through corridors fighting the same generic soldiers from before. That's not the bad part. The bad part is this: no matter what order you free the prisoners in, the agent you're looking for is always the last. The blatant insincerity in which it pretends to give you "freedom" is insulting. Stage three is where new enemy types are finally introduced... and they border on being parodies. One type has soldiers hiding in bushes with extravagant animations, making them easy to spot. Sometimes they attack. Sometimes. Another type are jeeps only able to move in one direction horizontally... during a vertical segment. Because jeeps don't have steering wheels, I guess.

I need to stress why the jeep "AI" is horrid, because right now it just sounds like I'm poking fun at a small incident. Yes, the jeep is clearly programmed to move in one direction. Yes, enemies moving in one direction is a common pattern featured in certain action games. Frogger's entire structure is based around hazards moving in one direction! What's astounding is that these jeeps come to a complete stop when you move in the opposite direction they're driving in, heavily implying the dev team knew players would try this action. So what happens if you continue moving upward in this path? Does the jeep reverse in an attempt to run Rambo over? No. Does the jeep perform a desperation assault? No. Instead, these jeeps... resume motion and continue driving off screen. The devs couldn't even be bothered completing a counterattack.

The remaining three stages aren't even worth going into detail, since they repeat previous "concepts." You just mundanely find stuff, avoid vehicles moving in one direction, and navigate more tedious corridors. The only difference is that they're longer stages, which isn't a great thing to hear considering the bland and uninspired design of previous locations.

You know what really kills me? The movie is chock full of action-packed scenarios that could have passed as video game stages; the opening stick fight, the extravagant prison segment where Rambo literally blows up everything while escaping, the stealthy slaughtering in the cave, and the outlandish finale, to name a few. Yet, this game is a very vague, loose interpretation of the film, almost as if the developers never saw the movie. At first, I thought it was because the game came out around the theatrical release, and they were given very little material to work with from the film's company, if any. However, this game was released a year and a half after the Japanese cinematic release. Not only did they have plenty of time to watch the film, but also the home video release!

Another thing that really irks me is how this wasn't made by some inexperienced studio. This was released by Sega, and more specifically, this was released by Sega during the late 1980s. By this point, they've amassed a huge library of games beaming with imagination, creative level designs, and odd gimmicks. Even their average-to-bad titles got the basics right, such as variety in enemies, stage layouts, and ideas. So the fact that this very same enterprise felt it was fine to plop out something this impotent, especially for their then-brand new 16-bit system, is unbelievable. For a console that went on to have a very action-oriented catalog, Rambo III, in comparison, ultimately feels like someone accidentally released an alpha build to the public.


pickhut's avatar
Featured community review by pickhut (May 17, 2018)

Do I wish there was a sequel to Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe? Sure. But not if nothing new or drastic was added. We don't need another Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move mess on our hands.

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Follow_Freeman posted May 18, 2018:

I have actually seen more professional-looking unfinished games from the time period than this. What do you think, Rambo?
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pickhut posted May 18, 2018:

Still need to get around to playing that. It's in my "So obviously bad, but I still want to experience the pain" to-do list.
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Follow_Freeman posted May 18, 2018:

It'll leave you weeping like Rambo at the end of First Blood! You'd be better off with that razor to the chest!

I erred in not actually commenting on the quality of your review; this is the kind of review I should take notes on for its dexterity at expounding on the subject of a rather shallow game. Also finds power in providing context, specifically that Sega had little excuse considering their superior contemporary efforts. Good job!
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pickhut posted May 19, 2018:

Thanks for the comments! After playing some "lengthy" games to review (which I haven't submitted yet), I wanted to slide back into something shorter, so I chose Rambo III. Big mistake. Seeing the game crumble with each passing stage was a rough experience...

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