Despite the fact that hundreds of games release every year, the vast majority tend to go ignored by the gaming populace at large. Whether this is a failing of marketing, critical drubbing or just not living up to the expansive heights that we as gamers crave, the bargain bins are littered with titles that go unnoticed or maligned. With Lowered Expectations, we scrape the craggy underbelly of releases gone by to see if a change of perspective can reveal something worthwhile.
In the darkest streets of our cities and on the war torn plateaus of far flung countries, a hero wanders. Righting wrongs only with the power of strong cheek bones, accented with just the right amount of makeup, the hero strikes. Among the underworld, they say that the last thing they see before death are two bright red streaks under eyes haunted by the depths that humanity goes. Taken out in a blur of fabulousness, the globe traveling vigilante ekes out justice for those with little fashion sense. Oh. That’s the Rouge Warrior. Rogue Warrior is a shooty, stabby thing starring Dick Marcinko.
Even that last statement is slightly untrue. Dick Marcinko is indeed the protagonist of the game. Mickey Rourke actually provided the voice. Based on the man who managed to turn his military experience, including his days as a Navy SEAL Team commander, into a prolific series of books, ranging from his experiences, novels, and leadership/managerial help tomes. The guy is basically Rambo with a typewriter and without the crippling depression. So, having a game based entirely around him makes a good deal of sense. Bethesda and developer Rebellion seemed to agree. Critics and audiences weren’t exactly big on the end product, though. Sitting at a 29% on Metacritic isn’t considered a rousing success and I am unaware of anyone else who played the game, let alone were even aware of its existence.
Now, calling the actual game a “shooty, stabby thing” is not reductive. It is the most precise description in the history of descriptions ever to have been put forth, if some self-congratulation can be forgiven. The game starts off with Dick and two squad mates choppering into North Korea in the ’80s to do some serious SEALing. After a brief scuffle, one of the North Korean soldiers pulls a grenade pin. Dick decides to let his friends have fun with that, and dives a few feet away, surviving the explosion that atomized the other two. This is the set up to the story of his vengeance, as he uncovers a shipment of nukes from North Korea into the U.S.S.R. Oh, and the U.S.S.R. also managed to develop an effective missile defense system that is revealed and exploded. Because, why not.
So, Dick decides to take matters into his own beefy hands. What follows is two hours of gunplay and stabbing. Starting off, there seems to be a bit of a stealth system. Running up to a soldier and pressing a button, in theory, does a quick kill. While this animation is in progress, Dicky is invincible, so using it is advisable should some enemies drop from the ceiling. That is assuming the button works. It doesn’t always. More often, Monsieur Marcinko will end up engaging in the bang bang. The actual shooting and aiming down the sites is alright. Some reviewers complained about shots not landing where they should when the game came out. This was not experienced here. Instead, the biggest issue found was in reloading. Take cover or leave it before a second has passed after the animation is completed, and it is as though it never happened. It’s like every weapon as anthropomorphic Alzheimer’s.
Another common complaint lies in the stupidity of the enemies. This is absolutely true. These guys eat grenades like twenty-nine cent hot wings, and are aggressive towards explosive barrels whenever they come within close proximity to one. Seeing how hilariously suicidal these communist cretins are, it’s a wonder that the Cold War wasn’t over sooner, with the end result being the entirety of the Soviet land being irradiated and the survivors sitting on the ground, slapping raw meat against their own faces. My operating theory is that the soldiers engaged in a Faustian bargain, trading any sense of self preservation for the ability to have their bodies die awesomely when the time comes. More than once, gunning down a soldier can result in the corpse cartwheeling sideways in mid air, without traveling any distance, only to crash into the ground like the god of gravity got pissed. The body will then bounce off the ground and fly a few miles off the map. It’s glorious.
One other thing of note is the script and oneliners. Obviously the plot was the result of a barely hit deadline after a couple of month’s rum and Red Bull binge. No question there. But, man, does the character of Sir Richard of Swearington spew the bile. A few of them even land and garner a laugh. Really, though, the nonsense that spews from the character’s mouth is so over the top, that the script of the Stallone film with that name suddenly seems sane. The line readings don’t seem so much as preplanned, but instead are the recorded aftermath of a prank played on actor Mickey Rourke involving bodily fluids, a slingshot, yogurt, and a stubbed toe. “$#%& you, you $#%&ing amateurs,” our hero might intone. They also have a predilection towards rooster flavored lollipops, if the protagonist is to be believed. Truly, the profanity is hobby grade.
Depending on the type of player, Rogue Warrior might be worth a buck or two. The entire project is a slapdash, nonsensical haberdashery of idiocy. I mean that the enemies in this game wear dumb on their head. Yet, this is one of those titles that is so bad, it almost has to be experienced to be believed. I was incredulous that a real publisher like Bethesda released this into the wild. Even approaching this title with the idea that it would be rough didn’t quick set the bar low enough. Frankly, nothing can prepare the player for Rogue Warrior, just like nothing can prepare evil doers for the rose colored revenge meted out by the Rouge Warrior.