RoboCop – a name anyone who experienced the late ‘80s or early ‘90s will be hugely familiar with. The half-man, half-machine, all-cop action hero was absolutely huge back then. In fact, along with famous franchises like The Terminator, Predator, Alien and Rambo, Robocop is legendary.
Robocop: Rogue City from Teyon hopes to revitalise Detroit’s best keeper of the peace for a new era. However, when I heard Robocop was being put together by the team that made Rambo The Videogame for the Xbox 360 and Terminator Resistance for the Xbox One, I couldn’t help but be apprehensive and intrigued at the same time.
Terminator Resistance had a warmer reception than Rambo, but still received mixed thoughts from the gaming community. So, with Teyon now taking on RoboCop, how would things turn out? Well, RoboCop: Rogue City still has me thinking about my experience, days after I rolled credits.
Rogue City is based on the movie canon set in the first two films; this is no bad thing, as after re-watching the original trilogy (and the live-action TV series, the prime directives and the remake) in preparation for this review – I can say the third movie isn’t the greatest. The game doesn’t act as a replacement for RoboCop 3; in fact, it easily paves the way due to certain events unfolding in the latter half – which I won’t ruin here. So, the story of this game really fits in well with the original franchise, and it respects the source material right till the end.
Great news for fans of Alex Murphy, I’m sure, but for those of you out there who have never experienced the movies, nothing here will leave you scratching your head wondering what’s going on. It’s quite self-contained. However, I would recommend watching at least the first movie before you play so you don’t miss out on all the great homages and nods. You see, when I started RoboCop: Rogue City, I wasn’t prepared for the attention to detail and care for the franchise. It really is quite special.
Now before I get to my thoughts and the gameplay, I want to address the niggles I experienced; normally, I would cover negatives at the end of my review, but let’s get these out the way first.
Visually, RoboCop: Rogue City is a mixed bag; murky textures often pop up in the strangest places, like when a tree or a car looks like it isn’t fully rendered, yet the puddles next to it have some of the best reflections I have seen in a game. There are also some weird non-expressive faces next to RoboCop’s movie accurate gleaming armour. It looks absolutely stunning in some aspects and then basic and unfinished in others; very strange to see such extremes next to each other. Also, during one side quest, I was in a video store searching for a VHS, and mid-conversation, I fell through the floor, left to watch the store rise to the heavens as I fell endlessly, resulting in having to fully close the game.
Aside from the graphics, the audio also has issues, and a simple conversation can have very mixed results. One person could sound like they are right next to you speaking, while another will sound like they are stuck down a well. This happened frequently and was an annoyance, especially during exposition that was furthering the plot. On the flip, during firefights and action scenes, the bullets and explosions are not only visually great, but they sound amazing. Another mixed bag in this department; that being said, I overlooked every single one of these issues because RoboCop: Rogue City is absolutely fantastic in the gameplay and branching narrative department.
You play as RoboCop (obviously) in this first-person shooter, and a new threat has arrived in the dystopian city of Detroit. Initially known as ‘the new guy’ and later revealed to be tied to Murphy’s past, ‘the new guy’ has an ambition to run the streets and take revenge on our favourite cyborg law enforcer. Typical 80s/90s action plot without many heavy thrills, I know, but it gloriously embraces this element to the nth degree. The game faithfully recreates the feeling of being RoboCop, combining his signature moves with new, exciting mechanics. Heads pop and blood flies in the same over-the-top gratuitous violent ways of the uncut version of the movie. The slow-motion punch remains a crowd-pleaser, dishing out slow-mo brutal justice while being a lifesaver between reloads. Oh, and they managed to get the voice and likeness of Peter Weller, the original RoboCop, to add to the faithfulness.
Your main mission is to clean up the streets of Detroit, with each area ripped straight from the movies. The steel mill, warehouses, the police precinct – they are all here, replicated right down to the smallest of details. Getting to visit the site of Alex Murphy’s death while experiencing a flashback had me sitting forward in my chair with my mouth open. To be honest a lot of moments during my time with Rogue City had me gasping, laughing and punching the air. Getting to patrol the streets and deal with even simple crimes like parking violations had me smiling, writing up tickets as I engulfed myself in the atmosphere and semi-open world.
Destructible scenery and interactive objects in the environment make every encounter feel like it’s ripped right out of an action movie. Throwing explosive barrels, crates, and anything you can towards oncoming gunfire will result in a satisfying explosion or impact with the gang members trying to take you out. Shooting comes with a crunchy, satisfying impact as you take on enemies, and combined with RoboCop Vision, you really feel like you are RoboCop. Breaching rooms of enemies will enter a slow-mo mode giving you a chance to take out the gang members before they can react. Pressing LT will bring up RoboCop Vision, which is used to scan environments and highlight enemies. The retro futuristic look used for it is just so delicious and using the scan becomes second nature during combat.
That is Rogue City’s biggest strength – making you feel like you are the man/machine himself. But perhaps getting Peter Weller on board for voicing Murphy should be seen as the icing on this jam packed cake. Sergeant Reed, your partner Anne Lewis, and even Casey Wong from Channel 9 News are all present, further enhancing the immersion in the world. Even throwbacks like the side quest involving murder and Sunblock 5000, or graffiti in the Street Vultures turf that reads “Can you fly Bobby?”, will truly appeal to franchise fans.
And yes, that does also mean that in RoboCop: Rogue City you are found walking at a slow, exaggerated robotic speed like the movies. But for the first time in a first person shooter, I was glad that the easy route hadn’t been taken; giving speed booster upgrades just wouldn’t feel authentic.
Talking of upgrades, you can shift RoboCop’s skills after you earn enough XP. From combat and defensive capabilities to dialogue improvement (we will get to this later), you can build your own RoboCop based on how you want to play. I highly recommend the ricochet upgrade that allows you to bounce bullets off of points on walls to reach enemies hiding behind cover.
That’s not the only skill tree you will be upgrading; RoboCop has his trusty Auto-9 that can be upgraded by finding and equipping OCP boards to the pistol. These upgrade your sidearms’ magazine capacity, weapon spread, reload speed, weapon damage and armour-piercing capabilities. This skill tree is quite different from the simple ‘select and apply’ seen in normal upgrade systems. You get different values to each one here to enhance various parts of the weapon, and they all need to be carefully added to avoid the negative sections that can decrease performance. It’s a nice little mini game in itself, and each new board has its own perks available. While you can pick up weapons on the go, the Auto-9 is more than capable of taking down rooms of bad guys and feels the most authentic. It also has infinite ammo, which is a bonus.
Playing pretty much twenty hours before I saw the credits roll, Rogue City is a decent length. I did not complete every objective, and I played on a low difficulty for review, so completionists and those looking for a harder difficulty will easily see thirty hours go by in a flash. At one point, the narrative seemed to reach its conclusion after an arrest (trying to stay spoiler-free here), and I felt sad. That’s when I knew how much I loved the game – I didn’t want it to end. So when the story continued on, I was overjoyed that I still had more to do. It’s safe to say, not many games can pull this off in the late game stages. In fact, I wish I still had more of it to play right now! There is replayability, kicking in if you don’t achieve A grades for each mission, or if you fail to finish all the side quests, but once these are done there isn’t anything to see outside of choosing a higher difficulty on a replay.
There is grading after each level – explained narratively by OCP requiring the installation of a chip to monitor performance. Obtaining an A grade for each will take some time as they require side objectives such as saving all hostages to be complete or a certain amount of evidence to be turned in.
Those side quests glow too, occur organically and allow you to further immerse yourself in RoboCop’s Detroit. Agreeing to help someone can also have consequences, as people will remember how you treated them, and this can affect how they act towards you and the ending of the game. The dialogue is also important; your psych evaluations, speaking to the public or trying to diffuse a situation can all lead things in different ways. All the side diversions are optional, but I did as many as I could because I loved every moment of it. You really get to know some of the side characters like Pickles or the new rookie a bit more by playing through them.
There’s more though. Little touches need to be highlighted, like the shooting gallery at the station where you can try for a high score, or seeing ED 209 firing during a field test on efficiency because a thrown grenade goes off next to it. These bits really help the feeling of being part of this living, breathing dystopian universe. There’s no doubt that the essence of what made RoboCop a smash hit movie has been finely distilled in Rogue City; this is a great and natural feeling addition to the franchise.
In all, Rogue City offers a true RoboCop experience, immersive gameplay, and a story that keeps players engaged. The attention to detail and faithful recreation of the iconic character makes this a must-play for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. I can happily ignore the niggles because Teyon have remembered the most important thing for licensed games – authenticity and fun gameplay.
With a fantastic blend of 80s/90s action and storytelling, RoboCop: Rogue City raises the bar for what a RoboCop game can be, while delivering an unforgettable gaming experience in the dystopian city of Detroit.
“I’d buy that for a dollar!”