First of all, I have a confession to make – I really don’t mind all the remakes and remasters that are being released for Xbox One. Dragon’s Dogma? I loved that on the 360, so if I’m given the chance to play it again with better graphics, I’m going to jump at that. This game, Rogue Trooper Redux, first saw the light of day way back in 2006, and on its first release passed me by completely, mainly because I didn’t buy an Xbox 360 until 2009. But in the time honoured fashion, I now need to find out whether the years have been kind to Rogue Trooper or if it should have stayed in the memory banks.
Second of all, I feel I can’t pass up the opportunity to give some background about the source material that the game is based on. Rogue is a Genetic Infantryman, or GI – a genetically manipulated, blue skinned super soldier, bred to be immune to all poisons and therefore be able to survive on the surface of the irradiated Nu-Earth, where everyone else would be killed by the air in moments. The big plot device is that when a GI dies, his personality is downloaded onto a biochip, which allows the same soldier to be created in a new body. The only way to keep the chip “alive” until a new body can be found is to insert it into a piece of equipment that the GIs carry, which will maintain them over time. When a GI is created, he isn’t issued with a name, only a number, but he is given a nickname when his talents become obvious and their training progresses. Rogue’s friends/squadmates are Gunnar, as he showed aptitude in marksmanship, but that doesn’t really explain the other two members of the squad – Bagman and Helm. Maybe Bagman was good at packing?
As the game progresses, the three members of the squad die in various unpleasant ways, and luckily each time Rogue is there to retrieve the biochips. Gunnar gets placed into the main weapon of Rogue, gaining a couple of cool new abilities, including being able to be deployed as a sentry gun so he can attack enemies at his own discretion. Helpfully, he also gains infinite ammo when going solo, so it’s a worthwhile tactic. He can also be fitted with a silencer, normally provoking some grumbling about how Rogue “wants him to shut up”.
Bagman ends up in Rogue’s backpack, and helpfully can turn scrap looted from dead enemies into new bullets, grenades and medpacks, as well as giving Rogue new weapons at various stages in the story. My personal favourite is the mortar gun, which shoots a shell that splits into three explosives before it hits the ground. This is obviously very useful for taking out enemy heavy armour.
And last but not least, Helm. Anyone care to hazard a guess at where his biochip ends up? That’s right, in Rogue’s helmet. Helm can hack locks and open doors, but it normally takes him just long enough for Rogue to defeat all nearby enemies. Just like Ghost in Destiny, come to think of it! In fact, Helm can pretty much use any machine, it seems, showing these skills in one memorable sequence where he flies a helicopter, and Rogue is on the door cannon, taking down all comers. In an interesting move, when Rogue takes his hat off, he loses his mini map, so the missions where Helm is unavailable are quite tense, as you can no longer rely on the map to show you where the enemies have holed up.
The story is a strong one, and, from research, seems to mirror the main Rogue Trooper storyline in 2000AD. The GIs are sent on a mission against the Norts, the main baddies in the story arc. However, one of the Southern Generals betrays what they are about to do, and as a result the GIs are wiped out to a man – except of course for our hero and his three biochip buddies. This sets the scene for a good old fashioned revenge story, where Rogue must hunt down the Traitor General and bring him to book. Along the way, he has to fight a whole host of Norts, from ordinary grunts, to Sergeants who are a whole lot tougher, to Pillboxes to Mechs to Heavy Mechs to Hoppas to… you get the idea. The voice acting in this is top notch, and the chips chatter away to each other and to Rogue throughout the game, fleshing out each character’s back story with anecdotes that relate. It’s also useful information, as Bagman will tell you when he puts the last magazine into Gunnar, for instance.
Rogue Trooper Redux is presented in a third person perspective, looking over Rogue’s shoulder as he runs, only changing to first person when he aims down the sniper scope. The visuals have had a shiny HD lick of paint and look good, the world having a suitably ruined look and the enemies being bundled up in survival suits. However, it seems that 2006’s animation is also present and correct, with the characters having some very peculiar gaits indeed. In one sequence, a lady officer is torturing Helm, and in the walk to the torture chamber, the sway of her hips is so over exaggerated I was just waiting for her to fall over. The enemy soldiers seem to run like they have a broom handle inserted into them, but the weirdest animation has been reserved for Rogue himself. When you change weapon, from Gunnar to the pistol, say, Rogue hangs his old weapon up before taking out the new one. Never mind that this takes so long that, when under fire, reloading or changing weapon will see you dead. This is actually an issue with the game, as swapping weapons is such a long winded process you have to run away, hide, change weapons, and then carry on the fight. It does kill the flow in a lot of places, sadly. Anyway, back to the animation. I was crouched, trying to move and change gun at the same time. As a result, Rogue looked for all the world like he was taking part in a limbo contest, trying to hang the gun on his bag when it wasn’t at the height the game thought it was.
Things are not much better in the actual gameplay levels themselves. Each level seems to see Rogue at one end of a map, when he needs to be at the other. It’s very much a case of shoot bad guys, blow up fuel tanks and hack doors, before rinsing and repeating. The best level – the Hoppa Chase – sees Rogue doing all these things from the door cannon of a Hoppa. It put me in mind of the old arcade games like Operation Wolf, where you have a fixed gun but can aim up, down and to the sides in order to shoot enemies as they appear. You can even use the massive door gun to shoot down incoming missiles for goodness sake. I haven’t seen that since T2 the arcade game!
Add to this the fact it’s easier to kill enemies with the basic pistol than with Gunnar, who seems to fire only hopes and dreams. Meanwhile, the sniper rifle is powerful but the stabilisation button seems to do nothing, the mortar’s ammo is so expensive you’d have to murder a battalion of Nords to get enough scrap, and the shotgun does nothing unless you are standing on the enemies bunions… Basically, what we have here is a game that is the product of the times that it was originally written in, and these days we demand more. If I was to recommend a third person adventure to you, it would be Gears 4, or Rise of the Tomb Raider, and sadly, despite its engaging story, Rogue Trooper Redux can’t hold a candle to these games.
The controls are not the best I’ve ever played with either. As a default, the left stick click causes Rogue to crouch, unlike every other game in the entire world that sees you run. So as I try to run from an encounter I’m losing, he crouches and his speed falls to that of an arthritic tortoise. The cover mechanic is broken as well, as sometimes Rogue will press up against a surface and allow you to fire over, whilst other times he will press up and refuse to fire or even throw a grenade. And then, just to mix things up, sometimes he will press up against a surface and only give you the option to blind fire, which is just a colossal waste of ammo. Grenade throwing seems to be a matter of guess work, or again getting so close that you can smell the enemy’s breath to make sure you hit them. The mini mines that you can drop seem to be ineffectual against anything bigger than a regular grunt, and so on.
The enemy AI is also worthy of a mention, as there are seemingly two flavours: thick as two short planks, or psychic. The big, heavy soldiers can be defeated by circling them while crouched until you get into position for a kill move. Thankfully, Rogue’s duck walk while crouched is faster than the mechs can revolve, so this makes it easy. And yet the enemy snipers are all clairvoyant, and know exactly when you’re going to stroll into their scopes and won’t hesitate to make their presence felt with a slug or two.
What we have here then with Rogue Trooper Redux is a blast from the past that should probably have stayed there. The story is a gem, and it’s worth playing through just to see what happens to Rogue and co, but the desire to replay any levels on a harder setting is just not there. Quirky controls (at the risk of being kind) and guns which lack both a decent feel or noise rob the game of a lot of impact. Sadly, Rogue Trooper Redux feels its age.