RoboCop: Rogue City Review
As one of the better known 80s franchises, RoboCop has had multiple films, cartoons, comics, and of course videogames. The latest one is here in the form of RoboCop: Rogue City from developer Teyon and publisher Nacon, a first-person shooter with exploration and light RPG elements, set between the events of the second and third movies. You play as the titular cyborg police officer merely doing his duty in enforcing the law.
Of course, when a news station is attacked by a street gang wanting to get the attention of The New Guy In Town, Officer Murphy is keen to step in and save some hostages. Joined by his partner Officer Lewis, he works his way up the skyscraper only to suffer some serious damage, but will that affect his performance? The good news is that you soon find out; the bad news is that it involves sticking in a chip that logs his performance and gives a letter grade after each campaign mission. See, the company that runs the police OCP (Omni Consumer Products) doesn’t want a defective RoboCop going rogue around the city.
The game is separated into two sections: the police station and the city of Detroit. You start a mission by leaving the station, and once you’re in whichever section of Detroit that your mission requires, you’re free to just be a cop. RoboCop: Rogue City isn’t just shooting bad guys’ limbs off; you actually have to be a police officer, one who writes parking tickets, resolves disputes between citizens, answers queries at the precinct front desk… Honestly, this could have just been a first-person shooter with references to the cyberpunk dystopia the world has become, but Treyon went the extra mile by making RoboCop an actual cop.
RoboCop has three prime directives: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law. While carrying out your duties there are usually two choices, one of which will uphold the law and the other will serve the public trust. It’s up to you to decide which one you’ll do, and your choices may affect how things unfold later in the game. There are multiple endings in this 20+ hour game, so you might not find out how things were affected for a while…
During my playthrough, RoboCop: Rogue City encountered a number of issues, much to my frustration. The most common (and minor) one is lip-syncing being either missing or mis-timed, which wouldn’t really matter if not for how many characters are based on the actors from the movies like Sergeant Reed. The second issue seems to hit most games that Nacon publishes, with textures popping in a couple of seconds too late and things floating in mid-air that shouldn’t be. The most major one was when I would get soft locked and have to restart from the most recent checkpoint, such as when I was scanning for clues and my scanner wouldn’t complete to 100%, locking me in scanning mode unable to move. I will say, however, that checkpoints in these instances were generously placed and required the most minimal of repeating a task.
As well as the Auto-9 pistol, RoboCop has the aforementioned scanner, known as RoboCop Vision, which highlights enemies and items of interest such as drugs and stolen handbags. Whenever you level up, you get a skill point to upgrade yourself with, improving your defence, scanner, and a bunch of other things. Using a certain amount of points in one skill will unlock things like a short dash, so it’s really in your interest to complete side missions and find all evidence of illegal dealings to get those experience points. The Auto-9 is also upgradeable using motherboards and chips found throughout levels, so that adds an interesting element as you can only use one motherboard at a time.
The graphics in RoboCop: Rogue City are honestly difficult to classify, as the environments are phenomenal, but the character models are just fine. The named characters look like the actors on whom they are based (as far as I remember), just a little less detailed, but RoboCop’s face under his helmet is sheer uncanny valley. It’s like Peter Weller himself is sitting there, and since he voices the character for the first time since 1990 (nobody else reprised their roles), it’s almost unsettling at times when the helmet is off. Oh, while on the topic of “graphic” stuff, I should mention that I didn’t expect the game to be so over the top gory — I saw a torso fly past me thanks to an explosion at one point. No notes.
The music is also something of a mixed bag, as it seems to have a lot of versions of the RoboCop theme. I like the theme as much as the next person, but I kinda wish they had left it more for the bigger set pieces? The rest of the music is great; there are even renditions of early 90s-style music — or 90s music that I just haven’t heard — to really fit the mood. Unfortunately, while the voice acting is overall great (bar a few gang member performances), the audio mixing can be hit-and-miss, with volume levels all over the place on occasion.
Hidden around each map, along with various contraband that gives you experience points, are letters, memos, and things of that ilk that help flesh out the world a bit. They’re entirely optional, so don’t feel like you’re missing out by not collecting them, but they do contain some good satire. There are also radios hidden around the game that will play a commercial or news report a single time when activated, and it’s always for some hilariously dystopian thing. Pay 9.99 and get a random, non-transferable, medical thing ranging from a paediatrician appointment to a heart transplant!
Honestly, while I do really enjoy the gameplay in RoboCop: Rogue City, the writing is the real winner for me. The team at Treyon really hit the satire angle perfectly, so even when RoboCop isn’t making brilliant quips, I would often find myself grinning about something. That’s not to say it’s all funny; there are a lot of serious and heartfelt moments peppered throughout the game too, so it’s really well-rounded in every department. But come on, getting a lesson on antitrust laws from drug dealers? That’s brilliant.
I will admit that I was worried that RoboCop might move too slowly when this was first announced, but the size of levels and his ability to jog meant that I was never too frustrated by it. You are, after all, basically a walking tank that can literally walk through some walls and just punch through others. If you were able to move faster, you might not buy into the fact that you can burst through a door and take multiple bullets while you shoot some creeps in the face. You’re not invincible, but thanks to a restockable supply of health kits, you might as well be!
While RoboCop himself might walk at a plodding pace, the game itself moves at a nice clip, so if you’ve ever wanted to face off against some of Old Detroit’s toughest, then you need to check out RoboCop: Rogue City. With a great script, nice action set pieces, challenges, and plenty of sidequests, I definitely don’t need 20 seconds to comply with recommending this. Okay, so that was a bit tortured, but so was Alex Murphy in the original movie, and he got a cool suit of cyborg armour out of it. Your move, creep.
RoboCop: Rogue City (Reviewed on Xbox Series X)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
There are some issues with the game, but they certainly don’t hamper the fun of smashing through the walls of Detroit.