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RoboCop: Rogue City is so much better than you could have imagined
What a weird little nugget
When I first heard of the licensed game, I, like most, assumed it would be pretty unremarkable. Perhaps that lowered expectation allowed me to have the experience I have had, but I have really enjoyed my time with this game. “I’d buy that for a dollar!”.
The game does assume you have some knowledge of the characters and their background. Only briefly explaining some of it as necessary to move the story forward. Similarly, so will my review; as a die-hard RoboCop fan, it’s hard to put myself in the position of someone who’s never seen it. If you haven’t, go watch it.
Opening on the classic intro of the news broadcast similar to the first movie, which really helps set the stage for the love this clearly has for the original property. The broadcast quickly takes a turn when the first big bad of the game appears: “Soot” and his gang of Nuke-addicted anarchists hold up a news station to let the “new guy” in town know they want to do business. It is quickly established that the new guy is a legendary crime lord, and everyone in town wants to work with him. This is when our titular hero and player character, RoboCop, shows up, and the game kicks off pretty quickly. Voiced by the original actor from the first two movies, Peter Weller.
RoboCop walks like he looks—slow and stiff. And yet, it still works really well? I was never upset at his speed. Occasionally, during larger open-world sections of the game, I found myself wishing I could run purely because my objective was on the other side of the map. But during most of the action, this game constantly has you inside of enclosed environments where your slow movement is, if anything, a way to force you to slow down.
The gunplay and main loop of the game are repetitive; it’s the exact same no matter what in the sense that you are always going to default back to the classic Auto-9. The iconic custom weapon of choice stored inside Robo’s leg. All of the enemy weapons are equipable, but your Auto-9 has better damage, infinite ammo, and, as you find later in the game, upgradeable. Occasionally, I would mess around with the police riot shotgun or the Desert Eagle-inspired .50 Caliber Pistol. But it always paled in comparison to the Auto-9, and that seems to be on purpose. The developers clearly wanted to ensure they didn’t nerf RoboCop in favor of a more challenging gameplay experience. I think they balance it well by instead swarming you with enemies. They don’t rely on waves but rather just have locations packed with them that you have to fight through on the way to your objective.
“The developers clearly wanted to ensure they didn’t nerf RoboCop in favor of a more challenging gameplay experience.”
Speaking of enemies, they don’t invent anything that hasn’t already been established. Human enemies can vary; the antagonist changes as you move through the ranks. But the icons are here to stay, and they played it very safe not to try and reinvent a new creation. You have the Classic ED-209, RoboCop 2, the mechanized horror that housed what remained of Cain in the second RoboCop movie; it seems OCP wasn’t keen on scrapping the project after all, and various types of human enemies with different gimmicks like calling for backup, riding a motorcycle, a grenadier, or sniper. Gunning them all down feels incredibly satisfying in their own way, thanks to the tight gunplay.
When you aren’t in a battle of bullets, you will find yourself inside the police station, jumping between small interactive conversations or locked into cutscenes. The other area you spend your time on will be out on the street, a very small section of Detroit carved out for the game containing city hall, a bank, and various alleyways and businesses. You will mostly do actual mundane police work during these moments of relative open-world freedom. Identifying illegal parking, ticketing people for smoking while pumping gas, graffiti, or even investigating murders. During your investigations, you are usually provided speech choices, allowing you to either “let ‘em off with a warning” or “charge them for the crime.” The inclusion of police work feels like the kind of polish a game like this never gets to complete. I would have expected these kinds of extra features are usually cut when talking about building out licensed tie-in games of this nature.
“The inclusion of police work feels like the kind of polish a game like this never gets to complete.”
Now, as much as I am praising it for what it does right, there are obviously some things it could have done better. One of the biggest and most immediately noticeable is the absolutely horrific lip-syncing. To the point where I wondered if the animations were done in another language and the lines were being dubbed over in English—but there are moments when it’s clear it’s just not synced properly. Robocop is a character whose mouth is the only visibly human part of the character; having his lips move out of sync with his lines is very noticeable and a bit jarring.
Another aspect is the surprising quickness they move on from bad guy to bad guy, implying that maybe they didn’t quite know how to really end these story arcs to get to the meat and potatoes of the main act. Rather killing them uneventfully or having them just not appear anymore once Robo got ahold of them or got what he needed to move the story along. Giving me a repetitive gameplay loop is hard to swallow if you aren’t going to package it with consistent storytelling; that’s part of the balancing act, especially with licensed content.
Closing Thoughts & Recommendations
Through the muddy, dark atmosphere of the sometimes not-as-fictional world, as it may have seemed in 1987, there is a fun romp through the fictionalized Detroit as the mechanized super cop. The gunplay kept it engaging, the story felt original and compelling enough, and the atmosphere played an important role in keeping it all together. I came in expecting much less and came out pleasantly surprised. Fans of the series will love this opportunity to really don the role of RoboCop, and newcomers will find a dark, gloomy robot rogue cop game with some extremely light RPG mechanics tact on for effect.
At only $49.99 I would give it a buy if you are interested in experiencing Robo in game form.
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