RoboCop: Rogue City is the best game ever starring an action hero. That bar isn’t tough to break, but the adventure offers enough thrills to keep fans excited. This narrative-driven first-person shooter has a loving respect for the movies and a good understanding of its protagonist, swinging for the fences with a lengthy origin story, fun references, and plenty of enjoyably cheesy humor. Unfortunately, like the franchise’s vision of Detroit, Rogue City is too rough around the edges, leading to a flawed but ultimately entertaining protagonist to patrol.
Set between events Robocop 2 And 3, the titular cyborg formerly known as Alex Murphy finds himself pulled in all directions. A mysterious man known as “The New Guy” has arrived to wreak havoc on Detroit’s top gangs for an unknown nefarious purpose. The police department is pressed under the thumb of Max Becker, a highly disliked corporate stooge of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), who considers RoboCop and the police to be ineffective relics of the past. A myriad of small threads compete for RoboCop’s attention, such as snooping journalists seeking your help in uncovering OCP secrets, therapy sessions with doctors wanting to know what makes you tick, and new rookie partners who are OCP informants, among others.
For the most part, the game does a good job of tying these threads together into an entertaining and coherent story full of twists and turns. Although the 20-hour adventure was greeted by the last act with several red herrings and false endings, RoboCop 3 is better than the Rogue City movie. Robocop 3. It’s fun to hear actor Peter Weller reprise his role as RoboCop, and while the other performances are excellent at best, the character models and animations are almost as robotic as RoboCop’s. The lip-syncing is particularly bad, and it breaks down completely in several scenes, giving everyone the appearance of communicating telepathically.
Between missions or explorable police station roaming open hubs like downtown lead to side missions that keep RoboCop outlandish, entertaining with Detroit’s best outlandish scenarios. Whether it’s solving a murder on a sunscreen commercial set, clearing boombox-blasting goons away from a storefront, or doing the “robot dance” at a child’s request, you can tell me these tasks are thinly veiled vehicles for RoboCop to deliver delightfully. Dopey one-liners, and I’m fine with that. Rogue City doesn’t take itself entirely too seriously, capturing the dark satire of the first film and the campy goofiness of the sequels that, while not always hitting the mark, manages to work in a fun way.
Choice-driven dialogue presents opportunities to present yourself as a strict law-abiding enforcer or a more empathetic, nuanced leader. Certain choices do a better job of capturing the drama of RoboCop, with black-and-white facing the best shades of gray, such as choosing to support one of two morally questionable mayoral candidates or illegal corporate espionage for the public good. Decisions advance the story and characters in different ways that flow to multiple ends that are adequately paid for, such as helping a homeless drug addict and informant find self-worth, or a journalist deciding whether or not to expose your technical struggles.
Fighting crime usually involves marching energetically down corridors and back alleys and gunning down scores of idiot thugs as they unleash a hail of bullets at you. Rogue City succeeds in making you feel like the human tank is RoboCop. You can’t and don’t need to duck or take cover; He’s durable enough to absorb dozens of bullets, and I loved popping headshots while confidently moving through incoming fire as targets cowered in disbelief. Other times, I got a kick out of grabbing enemies and flying them across rooms. I felt powerful but not invincible; In tougher firefights, usually with higher enemy numbers and more powerful artillery, rationing small stocks of health packs became a challenging experiment. This is especially true in big boss battles against familiar RoboCop opponents, which veer into unfair territory due to their speed and relentless offense against your relatively limited mobility.
Along with RoboCop’s signature sidearm with unlimited ammo, the weapon arsenal is hit-and-miss in terms of numbers and the punch they pack. Automatic weapons are great, but shotguns and sniper rifles pale in comparison. Even the enemy AI is dumb as rocks. Enemies often stop in place, move incoherently to cover, get caught in geometry or, in rare cases, kill each other. I laughed out loud when I saw two motorcycle riding goons accidentally crash into each other during a collision.
Still, the action offers solid thrills in a basic meat-and-potatoes way. Everything works perfectly to provide a good time. In addition, several environments are highly destructible, adding flair to battles. Rogue City may not quite deliver in terms of polish or ambition, but if it’s repetitive, there’s a powerful satisfaction in blasting goons as they explode into a bloody shower of blood, limbs and brains.
Gaining skill points to slot into various attributes such as combat, armor, engineering and reduction, add unique perks that spice up combat and exploration. Among my favorite perks is buffing my armor causing some bullets to fly off and kill the sender. The engineering perk allows me to go into safes indiscriminately, otherwise I have to find combinations. A neat combat perk lets me do trick shots from certain surfaces to eliminate targets behind cover. Various chipboards of increasing complexity, in which you create paths to passive perks by slotting different nodes while avoiding hitting debuffs, help improve general performance, but re-slotting nodes for each new board is a tedious exercise.
Outside of combat, you engage in detective work by scanning crime scenes for clues, gathering evidence, and interrogating suspects. The process is streamlined – scan highlighted objects until RoboCop and friends make progress that opens up a new dialogue option for interrogation – but these segments are nice breaks that highlight the character’s less-than-killing talents.
RoboCop’s repeated errors are the primary plot device, but the technical errors are the game’s real hindrance. Enemies have a habit of sinking into floors or phasing through walls, complicating combat encounters. Cutscreens sometimes have pixelated transitions from scene to scene, and texture pop-ins abound. Bad audio mixing meant that some characters spoke very loudly while others were normal. The game failed to recognize when I completed the objective a couple of times, forcing me to reload the save and play the section again. Late game, some guns automatically fired before I pulled the trigger, wasting ammo.
Hopefully, the updates will remedy these issues as RoboCop: Rogue City delivers a respectable adventure that feels like a lost shooter from the early 2010s for the most part. Admittedly, the license carries the game through its rough patches; If you’re not a RoboCop fan, the adventure may feel dated or buggy compared to other shooters. But like a B-grade love letter to the Tin Man in Blue, Rogue City is Alex Murphy’s return to the limelight.