Review: RoboCop: Rogue City

Cyborgs were a popular sci-fi theme in the ’80s. Terminatorand RoboCop are two film franchises that are the best-known examples of bringing the melding of man and machine into the homes of millions in this time, both addressing the benefits and potential horrors of giving sentience to machines. Teyon attempted to recreate the cinematic magic of the former a few years ago with Terminator: Resistance, and like everything else in the franchise after Judgment Day, it was fun for a playthrough, but was still rough around the edges. It had potential for greatness, but fell short in many areas. But now they’re back with another iconic gun toting cyborg with RoboCop: Rogue City and based on the demo we recently played we started this review with the optimism that OCP’s future of law enforcement might have less malfunctions than Skynet.

Taking place after the events in the film RoboCop 2, the game begins with a rather humorous newscast before things go horribly wrong, as they tend to do in game intros. Crime is on the rise with the arrival of someone simply known as the New Guy. This up and coming crime lord has caught the attention of the leader of the Torch Heads, who proceeds to take over the newscast to let the New Guy know his gang is ready to business. RoboCop and his partner Officer Anne Lewis respond by reporting to the news station to free some hostages while taking out Torch Heads. This is only the beginning of a battle between Detroit Police against the various gangs of the city and some nefarious new criminal operation called Project Afterlife. Not only does RoboCop need to fight against the criminal scum of his city, but there’s also budding conflict between Alex Murphy and the machine he’s become.

Even though the two games are unrelated, RoboCop: Rogue City will feel familiar to those who have played Terminator: Resistance. It seems as though the 2019 game was used as a template for this, though overall the execution is an improvement. The first-person shooter is divided into different chapters that usually begin at the precinct. This is where RoboCop receives his assignment briefings, practices shooting at the gun range or takes in more mundane police tasks to help his follow officers. This can include addressing the public in the complaint line or helping an officer gather personal belongings. Outside the precinct RoboCop’s assignment will vary from chapter to chapter. Sometimes he’s patrolling downtown, where he can take care of other mundane tasks like issuing parking tickets or scaring off hoodlums while searching for his main objectives. Other times he’s put right into a danger zone, such as a gang hide out or trying to stop a bank robbery in progress. Calling this an open-world game would be a stretch, but there are quite a few scenarios that allow RoboCop to explore the area at his own pace. Unfortunately, finding points of interest while exploring in the more open world chapters are few and far between.

For most players the main attraction of RoboCop: Rogue City are the action sequences where the tin man is blowing away scumbags with his Auto 9 or other found firearms. Controlling RoboCop is battle is like piloting a bipedal tank. He can’t jump or crouch and even while running his movements are slow. While his mobility and agility is limited this offset by his ability to withstand quite a bit of abuse from conventional weapons. Explosives and OCP super weapons give him a bit more trouble but the developers made certain that controlling RoboCop lets the player feel tough. The battle sequences are a series of hiding behind cover while shooting at the bad guys. There isn’t a great deal of stategy to this but still provides some good high octane fun. RoboCop has the strength to throw various objects at enemies which range from old televisions to motorcycles which can give him an advantage and is just plain fun to do. If he can get close to any enemy he can also pick them up and use them as a projectile.

RoboCop’s visor is equipped with a high tech scanner. This is useful in highlighting hostile targets in a firefight but also has noncombat applications. RoboCop is more famous for his brand of lethal law enforcement but solving crimes often requires the use of brains over bullets. There are several crime scenes that require investigation and using his visor he can scan the area for clues. He find use the visor to analyze blood types to look for matches, or identity trails of footprints consistent with the suspects or other persons of interest. Adding this detective element gives the game an interesting component and makes it feel like Rogue City has the player doing actual police work and is more than just a mindless shooter.

RoboCop can be made more powerful by distributing skill points. These are earned by gaining experience levels and by getting higher grades on his assignment evaluations. He has several areas where he can grow. The obvious ones such as armor and attack power are included, but there are other benefits to putting points into other areas, such as Deduction, Psychology or Engineering. His Auto 9 duty weapon can also benefit from upgrades. Throughout the game RoboCop can find different PCBs that can be fitted with chips that increase damage, clip size and fire rate. The chips have to fit the pathways of the PCB, so it can take puzzle solving skills to maximize the improvements to the Auto 9 while avoiding incurring attribute penalties.

The majority of chapters include side objectives that RoboCop doesn’t need to complete, but can offer rewards like extra experience or an improved evaluation score. These activities can range from infiltrating a gang’s drug stash to destroying their merchandise to convincing a kid out past curfew to return home to his worried mother, or even taking on impromptu murder investigations. Completing the side objectives doesn’t always come with major tangible rewards for RoboCop, but the majority of them are interesting enough to make them worth the player’s time. Plus completing them can lead to good character and story development. Murphy’s interaction with NPCs can have a subtle effect in shaping the outcome of the story.

Games based on licensed properties are risky ventures given their history in general. Some games handle the source material with care and respect and are able to incorporate it into a game that’s worth playing, but everyone has had some experience with a franchise they love that was reduced to a terrible shell of a game. RoboCop: Rogue City fits into the former category. Many familiar characters from the film return here and there’s no shortage of references and Easter eggs that will delight fans. There are several humorous moments throughout the story and they capture the essence of the satirical bite of the original film. One character in particular was an amusing reference to The Sopranos, which seemed odd. but still got a chuckle. One of the interesting story elements is how they explore the duality between RoboCop and Alex Murphy where the man is trying to surface from within the machine. As whole this could be viewed as a sequel to RoboCop 2, and given what we got in RoboCop 3, this would have been preferable. Unlike that last film, at least Rogue City has Peter Weller in the starring role.

One of the odder qualities of RoboCop: Rogue City is the inconsistent graphic quality. Some of the characters, particularly RoboCop himself, look detailed and lifelike whereas as other characters like Pickles clearly look like game character models. The lip synching often matches up with the dialogue audio as well as a dubbed foreign film. But even with these issues, this is still a great-looking game. The same inconsistency with quality can also be found in the dialogue itself. Peter Weller’s performance of the titular hero is fine, as are most of the performances from major characters, but there are more than a few performances that are just terrible. The next issue will be very upsetting to some while others won’t care at all, but one of the echoes of Terminator: Resistance that can be found in Rogue City is the trophies are glitched. When resuming gameplay from having the PlayStation in rest mode, the trophies didn’t pop. Turning off the console rebooting the game made the story progression trophies pop, albeit long after they were supposed to. Trophies based on doing a specific action like issuing a ticket didn’t pop until a new ticket was issued. Having reviewed this on PlayStation this issue can only be confirmed for that console, but it could be present with achievements on PC and Xbox.

Closing Comments:

RoboCop: Rogue City is easily the best RoboCop game to date. That in itself isn’t exactly a high bar, but regardless of the quality of previous RoboCop games, the developers got this one right. They put a lot of time in studying the source material, cramming the game with references to the films. The story is interesting enough, but does suffer from uneven pacing. Spending time at the precinct between missions to attend to more mundane things can break the momentum, but does help make the character feel like an actual police officer and not just a rampaging killbot. The mix of exploration, conversation, detective work and shoot outs help make the game feel more cinematic which is appropriate since it’s essentially written as a sequel to RoboCop 2. In spite of the criticisms mentioned in the review, RoboCop: Rogue City is an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. As a continuation of RoboCop’s story Rogue City works well and is worthy of the time of any RoboCop fan.

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