Despite being a person who plays video games (a gamer, one might say) I’m not terribly fond of competitive games. I absolutely loathe any time that I’m not in control of the action happening on screen. If half of what I’m seeing are messages about respawning and my character’s face in the dirt, I’m not gonna feel like I have a great deal of control there. So, imagine my surprise when I fired up Hi-Rez Studios’ Rogue Company, and I have been playing it nonstop.
Now optimized to run at a beautiful 4K/120fps on Xbox Series X|S, Rogue Company is a third-person tactical shooter. You fight with and against other players in three different 4v4 game modes. In each of these modes, you choose from a roster of rogues to determine what weapons and abilities are available to you.
I wish I could tell you what I and the game mean by “rogues”, but there is absolutely no story to grab onto here. In fact, the most I could glean comes from the game’s Xbox Store description which says the fate of the world is in your hands. Is it? I thought I was just defusing the enemy team’s bomb. It’s not even a big bomb. Certainly not one that would threaten the world’s safety. Basically, if you’re here for a game world that’s got loads of lore and rich storytelling, then you’re in the wrong place.
That extends to the characters who have names and incredibly brief descriptions of what they’re good at doing. They’re really just stand-ins for the typical characters you’d find in any hero shooter. There’s a sniper, a medic, a super tanky guy, a bossy person, a techy person, and so on. Their character designs vary in appeal. Some, like Glitch, Scorch, and Vy are great. Others, like Trench and Chaac, are embarrassingly dorky. Dorkiness aside, credit where credit is due – every single character in the game has a clearly defined silhouette, and distinguishing them from one another in the heat of battle is effortless.
Speaking of battle, man is it fun. Every gun feels distinct, punchy, and versatile. Knocking an enemy to the ground is intensely satisfying, and getting kills makes you want to play more and more. Animations for swapping weapons, reloading, and shooting are all exceptional. They make you feel like a complete badass due to their flashy swiftness. The focus on tactical gameplay ensures that each gun’s efficiency could vary from moment to moment, but there’s enough room for a player’s individual skill to reign supreme.
During gameplay, you can shoot, dodge roll, jump, mantle, and use your character’s ability. Abilities are unique to each rogue, and I found that they vary greatly in usefulness. Thankfully, none of them feel overpowered. Anvil’s giant, deployable cover can change the flow of battle when used carefully, but Talon’s throwable radar dart is consistently useless. Talon is slightly redeemed, however, by his unique passive that allows him to pick up dropped weapons and items from a greater distance. In fact, each character feels like their passive boosts their utility greatly. No matter the ability, passive, or character, I haven’t felt that any one of them is more popular than the others. It’s incredibly refreshing to play a competitive game that doesn’t have everyone rushing to play the exact same way.
In addition to the individual abilities, each character has a different set of weapons. Some may share one or two weapons between them, but the different combinations all feel meaningful and complementary to any character’s play style. Weapons must be earned, however. At the beginning of each game, you start inside of a plane with a chunk of change and a pistol. Why do you start in a plane? So you can drop onto the map battle royale-style, duh. In the brief amount of time you have aboard your aircraft, you can open a shop to purchase upgrades for your pistol, various grenades, one of your two options for a primary weapon, and a series of character perks. Every game mode is split into several rounds, and between each one is your chance to purchase more from the store using money you’ve scored.
Those game modes are demolition, extraction, and strikeout. Demolition is similar to Call of Duty’s search and destroy. One team must plant a bomb, the other team has to stop this from happening or defuse the bomb once it’s planted, and players are eliminated in each round. Halfway through a demolition match, which is to say an eternity, the roles are switched. Extraction is my favorite game mode: it doesn’t take nearly as long as demolition, and it consists of the two teams fighting over a neutral zone to start or defuse a bomb. Strikeout is the closest Rogue Company gets to team deathmatch, but with a limited number of lives for each side. Additionally, it has a neutral point to capture that ticks down the opposing team’s lives as well.
None of these modes really push the boundaries for competitive shooters, but they are still a great deal of fun. They’re made even more fun by the fact that each map in the game is exceptionally designed; they offer a great deal of variety that bolster the game’s replayability.
Now, it’s time for the ugly stuff. My biggest complaint with Rogue Company is easily the fact that getting into a match with four people on each team is a constant struggle. Unless I was playing with at least one friend, I’d consistently end up with only three on my team. This is a huge pain. True, it’s still possible to win a match if you’re going in as the underdog, and I have plenty of times, yet your chances of victory are enormously diminished when players quit in the middle of the game. In fact, I found players consistently quitting on both sides with frustrating frequency. I don’t believe there is a penalty for quitting matches, and, if there is, players just don’t care.
Perhaps those players don’t care because they’ve become fed up with the incredibly lethargic rate at which one earns the in-game currency of reputation. Daily quests and completing matches grant progress, but you’ll have played loads of matches before you’re able to unlock a new character. This is a huge shame since each character feels so unique that spending reputation on a guy you don’t mesh with could feel crushing. Sure, there’s a robust training arena you can visit to practice your skills and try out each character, but it doesn’t give enough of a feeling as to how the character will feel in a real match. So, of course, if you don’t want to work for a new rogue, you can shell out some real money for a load of reputation via microtransactions – an unfavorable option.
Microtransactions and frustrating matchmaking issues aside, Rogue Company on Xbox Series X|S is thoroughly enjoyable. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s so snappy, action-packed, and easy to get into that I regularly convince myself to play just one more game over and over. The beginning roster of characters offer enough variety to keep you going, and, at the price of absolutely free, Rogue Company is a must try.