Robocop: Rogue City is a first-person shooter/adventure title from Polish coders Teyon who are best known for doing a pretty good job with Terminator: Resistance and so now are taking on another iconic character from ’80s movies with cybernetic and human bits and a penchant for shooting people. And the omens were good for this one as Robocop has always done quite well in the videogame world from the brilliant side-scrolling arcade and home computer games, so hopes were high when this got announced.
Set after the second movie, Rogue City sees you stepping into the robotic legs of Robocop as he does his best to calm down the criminal element in Detroit. A news report sets the scene, explaining that a new crime boss (known as ‘The New Guy in Town’) has arrived in the city and is beginning to take over organised crime in the area which such efficiency that other gangs are looking to work for him. One of those gangs, the Torch Heads, then raid the TV studio with a view to show the New Guy what they are capable of.
This sets up your first mission. After a tutorial, in the form of a little bit of Robocop calibration, you are thrown into the action with just your Auto 9 pistol. However, this isn’t much of a problem because, as Bob Morton said, you’re a bad motherf*cker. And so you start walking down the corridors of the studio building, locating targets with Robocop’s familiar HUD and blasting perps. Right away you can see that they’ve not toned down the violence and, even more crucially, you do get that Robocop feel.
Playing as a barely mobile robotic policeman could have gone two ways really. Sure, the action is slow and plodding. You can’t jump, and can barely step over the lowest of obstacles, but you’re very durable (and you’ve got a degree of health that replenishes itself) so once you forget all your run and gun FPS instincts and just embrace being a tank, the action feels great. You can pick up weapons from fallen enemies but the Auto 9 is so satisfying to use (and has a bottomless supply of ammo) that you’ll never want to holster it.
Although if you do want to vary things up you can pick up enemies to use as human shields and fling them at other enemies or into walls with significant force. And while you can take a lot of damage, you do still need to use cover and play a little strategically given how utterly outnumbered you usually are.
Rather than being a linear game, like Terminator: Resistance, there’s more of an open structure to this game with levels set in small-ish open areas where you take on primary and secondary objectives. It’s not exactly Far Cry 6 but there is a degree of freedom to it and it allows Rogue City to really sell the setting and also give you people to meet. And while the shooting is pretty much on point, the game’s main strengths are in how well the tone, characters and environments match the first two films.
From the nihilistic gangs to the long-suffering cops (including Robocop’s partner Anne Lewis), everyone in the game feels faithful to the films and it’s surprising just how bleak the game gets. This is as dystopian as it gets with a city on the verge of anarchy held together by a police force entirely undermined by corporate interests. But that utterly sells the whole thing.
Being aligned to a corrupt technology company has its advantages though. Robocop is able to equip upgrades across areas such as damage, durability, investigations and so on and these are tied to experience gain, giving you more of a reason to explore the areas that each level is set in. You don’t necessarily feel as if you’re getting massively more powerful than your enemies but there is a sense of improvement. The Auto 9 also benefits from improvements too. Before long you’ll get a PCB for it and this gives you a series of nodes that you can link to that improve (or reduce) its stats for damage and other aspects. There’s a little bit of a puzzle element to it and it’s kind of fun to reconfigure your gun so we quite enjoyed this aspect too.
Rogue City pretty much gets all of this right. It is absolutely a love letter to the first two films and with Peter Weller reprising his leading role, it all feels very authentic and so for fans of the films (of even people like me who only really liked the first one). However, this isn’t for everyone and that’s because, much like Terminator: Resistance, this is more of a double-A title than a triple-A one. With its dated visuals, gloomy setting, slow-paced action and glitchy cutscenes, modern gamers may not click with this game. If you’re not a fan of the films you can take at least one point off of the score below, maybe two. And the small levels, even if they are open, feel like they were designed a decade or two ago. In terms of the structure we were reminded of games like The Darkness from the 360-era or even things like Final Fight: Streetwise, Shenmue, God Hand and Manhunt from a generation before so there’s no denying that Rogue City offers a dated videogame experience.
But it’s really hard to care when it feels like you’re playing through the story that Robocop III should have had. It feels so very Robocop that fans can’t help but be captivated by its dystopian ultra violence and pitch-perfect recreation of Robocop’s feel. And while the game isn’t the best FPS we’ve ever played, it’s combined with some crime solving and adventuring that all helps to create a package that is bigger than its parts.
Given what the main character gives the devs to work with, this is pretty much as good a game as anyone could have hoped for and it’s clearly been made with a great deal of affection for the source material. Not many other iconic film franchises have ever produced a game this respectful, authentic and well-considered and, for us, this is better than Terminator: Resistance as it gives you more fan service as well as giving you the main character to play as but, as we said, the score below very much only applies to Robocop fans. We don’t care about the opinion of people who don’t like Robocop though. We’ve never met any after all.
+ Strong story
+ Superb action
+ Good voice acting and characterisation
- Presentation is a bit limited
- Level design is very '00s