There are also some secret rooms and limited multi-pathing in the game, with different character types allowing you to unlock different doors (ala LEGO Star Wars). Thankfully, there are areas in each map where you can swap out the character you're controlling - if only to bring in a new one you've just unlocked. EA is talking about a small strategic element of choosing the right characters for each level, and you'll have to hope so, because if that doesn't happen, everyone's just going to pick the ever-popular mute ninja Snake Eyes.
Rather than merely recapitulate the plot of the forthcoming film, which is basically the origin of the multinational, multicultural, probably LGBT-friendly GI Joe anti-terrorist organisation (kind of a Rainbow Alliance Six), the game is primarily set after it, with the organisation in place and in action. Each of the game's zones forms its own plot, complete with its own characters, and the twenty missions take you from desert, to arctic, indoors and outdoors and through doors. Also, into the doors of vehicles.
"One of the great things about being more than the movie, not only will you see vehicles in the game which are straight out of the movie, but we're able to bring in vehicles which are only in the toy line," says Pavlich. "In fact, we have some vehicles which are from the 'classic' toy line which aren't being revisited in the new toyline. We're really weaving all that together. The classic Cobra vehicle is the Hiss tank - it isn't going to be in the film at all. If we were the traditional movie game, it'd be such a missed opportunity not to have that, because fans would be, 'But that's the classic thing!' We really wanted to cover all the different bases." So no Hissy fits, yes? There's also the Accelerator Suit, which is a major device in the film, allowing you to perform superhuman acts of soldiering. As the developer tongue-in-cheekly puts it, it's basically the game's equivalent of a Mario power-up, but Mario doesn't get wrist-rockets. More's the pity.
Not having had a chance to play it, my main reservation from seeing GI Joe in action is the camera, which looks a bit confused when it gets up-close behind the players, although it appears to work fine when you're advancing on the enemies - even adding a sense of epic scale to the proceedings. One reason LEGO Star Wars' shared camera worked was because characters are primarily based on close-combat weapons, like lightsabers. When it's primarily guns instead, you suspect aiming off-camera will be somewhat tricky. So while clearly designed for two people sitting on a sofa and talking nonsense at one another, it does make you wonder whether they're considering any form of online-co-op.
And they are. Well, considering it, anyway. "A lot of movie games, the development cycle is 6-8 months," says Pavlich. "By the time this comes out, it'll be nearer 18 months of development. We wanted to make sure the same-screen co-op with a buddy was perfected. If it wasn't working well, everything else fails. We still have time in the schedule to evaluate what we could do with online, to see if it's something that we could get done for some of the platforms. It's something we're looking at."
I leave GI Joe behind with mixed impressions. I do admire what EA's trying to do, and working on this preview brought to mind Smash TV, LEGO Star Wars and even the divine idiot that is Earth Defence Force 2017. It makes me feel more excited than I actually am. The thing that links those games together is that I'd only ever truly rave about them after I've played them. In these things, it almost doesn't matter if the theory is strong or not; you can only even slightly tell when you play the thing. So until we get a chance to take GI Joe out of its plastic wrapper, crouch on the Eurogamer carpet and play with Duke, Scarlet and all the rest, I'm going to avoid anything like predictions. Good luck, EA, and soldier on.
GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobra is due out for Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS and mobiles around the same time as the film, which debuts on 7th August.