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Robocop: Rogue City

Robocop: Rogue City

Perhaps the most battered cop in pop culture is back in earnest to take on the thugs of Detroit and enforce the law.

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By now, Robocop has been featured in a plethora of films and games, with only the first two films really being any good. But... they were so insanely good that the character continues to be loved no matter how much rubbish he's in. In the new Robocop: Rogue City we return to the original flicks and reacquaint ourselves with the Robocop I grew to love in the 80s for a new action adventure set in the very sci-fi world Paul Verhoeven created.

It's an odd scene fifteen minutes into the adventure that makes me realise that developer Teyon has hit the nail on the head and understands what makes this world so unique. It's the future as we saw it in the 80s, not the future as it actually became. When a person is filming Robocop in one of the intro scenes, she is holding a rather large video camera of the type that was common in the past, when today we would of course use our mobile phones to film. But in Robocop: Rogue City there is no such thing. Here, the sci-fi feel consists of neon-soaked arcades with rather primitive games, small thick TVs with rounded corners and enemies consisting of classic punks with mohawk-inspired hairstyles - all framed with the social criticism of the kind we saw in the original films.

Robocop: Rogue City
The game's cutscenes contain scenes and one-liners that will have Robocop fans shouting with joy.

And that's exactly how it should be. I'm immediately transported back to Robocop's world when I'm given my first assignment to free a hostage, where I also learn about the "New Guy" and the drug Nuke that's behind the recent misery. The hostage situation is difficult and the police who quickly brief Robocop on what has happened when the latter arrives at the crime scene immediately ask for reinforcements, to which Robocop - played by Peter Weller - replies "Reinforcements have arrived". Brilliant!

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While the action bits are of course the focus of Robocop: Rogue City, Teyon has tried to flesh out the adventure with lots of other elements such as a level system, some detective elements, side missions, parallel stories and much more. In addition, Robocop is hit with flashbacks from his previous life as Alex Murphy, which are surprisingly well-written and add a much-needed layer to the narrative. This makes the adventure feel quite varied even though it is essentially a fairly straightforward and rigid shooter.

Robocop: Rogue City
Robocop can take a lot of punishment and the enemies can't hide because they are quickly found by his technology.

Of course, the shooting with Robocop's immensely powerful Auto 9 is still at the centre of the story, and the scum of Detroit must be removed rather than prosecuted. Here we find ourselves in an interesting dilemma. We all know how Robocop moves and aims, it wouldn't work very well if the game let us leap, slide along the floor, have a weapon swinging in front of us as we walk and organic movements as we aim at different enemies. Robocop has to be rigid and have a gameplay that in any other case would be considered clumsy and maybe even bad. Here it fits like a glove, but can poor gameplay be excused because it should be a certain way?

The answer must be both yes and no for me. Because when I face large amounts of enemies and with my Auto 9 blow up their skulls with well-aimed shots before they barely have time to shoot back, this feels like a great Robocop simulator. But when I fail to make quick entrances and the enemies start shooting back and running around, things get much more complicated, especially when there are a lot of them. The latter often results in me having to be overly defensive to get ahead, thus violating the Robocop feel (you probably remember as well as I do how he cleaned up the drug factory in the first film, and it wasn't by walking back and forth in a doorway shooting enemies one by one).

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Killed enemies also lose their weapons, which you can of course pick up and use. However, Robocop walking around with an AK-47 or an Uzi just feels strange and I have instead played most of the game with the standard weapon.

Robocop: Rogue City
This is what the future looked like in the 80s, it was unimaginable that arcades would die out.

In addition, the levels are reasonably large and offer a certain amount of exploration, and there are actually things to find that help you in investigations, give XP, health, and the likes. However, I think it comes at the cost of game flow seeing Robocop going into wardrobes and other secondary areas to look for things when people's lives are at stake. In addition, it's not without wondering who put out that OCP food Robocop eats, and why it's in places where it absolutely should not be? This is of course classic game design, but it takes away from the cinematic feel. Maybe it would have been better with automatic and timed levelling instead?

On the standard difficulty level, the game is fairly easy, which never feels like a concern because it suits Robocop not to die from any bullets to the chest plates. Instead, it feels completely in line with the character to be able to just walk on and ignore being shot at. You're not completely immortal though, except in the middle sequences where you can take a huge beating, and you can carry three life-restoring packs at a time. It can also be improved so you can carry more if that's something you want to prioritise with your XP.

Robocop: Rogue City
Robocop is at times really neat and also well designed.

The police station serves as something of a central hub in Robocop: Rogue City, and many missions and cutscenes are based here, and there are also several side missions to do. It's a good addition for variety, and they're often quite humorous, like having Robocop carry drunks or answer the phone. Depending on your decisions and actions, people's trust in you also changes, something Teyon is very proud of, but which I can't say is translated into gameplay in a noticeable way. Even on missions, you can sometimes perform side missions such as giving parking tickets to people or helping someone in trouble, which I have dutifully done, although I find it a bit strange that Robocop should be doing that while Detroit is going under.

Before I move on to the final part of the review with a summary and rating, I want to emphasise that I was really surprised by the graphics and sound. Robocop: Rogue City is a very nice looking game. Sure, the faces of friends and enemies could have been better, but this is greatly compensated by Robocop himself and the beautiful surroundings, which are all exquisitely designed and often offer really nice lighting effects. In addition, Teyon has done a great job with the soundscape, with lots of weight and a Peter Weller delivering Robocop lines in his iconic way. Without spoiling the fun for you, I think the game's story is fairly well written and works to keep you interested. However, I feel that it loses momentum towards the end and that the showdown does not feel satisfactory, which is a shame.

Robocop: Rogue City
It's important to choose the right option because it has different consequences - at least according to developer Teyon.

But despite the fact that the ending should have been written better, and that the game's gameplay is uneven, and that it never feels fun to look for things with the slowest protagonist in the first-person shooter space - Robocop: Rogue City works as a perfect Robocop simulator for the fans. In its best moments, I've almost giggled like a little kid in front of the screen and been reminded of why I love the character so much, and the wonderful world is incredibly well realised and offers elements fans love (not least the boss fight with ED-209). It is not a masterpiece, but a love letter to Robocop fans that is very easy to recommend despite obvious flaws, where Alex Murphy himself is responsible for most of them.

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07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
+
Verhoeven's vision perfectly realised. Very good graphics. Nice Robocop feel. Thumping soundtrack. Varied approach. Peter Weller IS Robocop.
-
Stiff battles. Sloppy ending. Uneven exploration.
overall score
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Robocop: Rogue City

REVIEW. Written by Jonas Mäki

Perhaps the most battered cop in pop culture is back in earnest to take on the thugs of Detroit and enforce the law.



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