Eleven years ago, Rebellion Developments and Eidos Interactive released Rogue Trooper, a third-person sci-fi shooter inspired by the British comic books series by writer Gerry Finley-Day (The V.C.s) and artist Dave Gibbons (Watchman). Or so they say. To be honest with you, I have no recollection of that game, despite the fact that I was writing for such gaming magazines and websites as GamePro, GameSpy, and Official PlayStation Magazine at the time. Though after playing Rogue Trooper Redux (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch), a newly updated remake of that game, I totally understand why I don’t remember the original.
Set on the planet of Nu-Earth, Rogue Trooper Redux casts you as a genetically-modified super soldier named Rogue who’s been orbitally dropped onto an enemy planet, only to find out the hard way that it’s a trap. So it’s up to you, and your trigger finger, to set things right by, well, going rogue.
In some ways, Rogue Trooper Redux feels like a World War II third-person shooter. Your weapons include machine guns, grenades, and sniper rifles, while your enemy strongholds not only have machine gun nests like the beaches of Normandy, but their interior construction makes them looks like the German base in every early Medal Of Honor game. Also, the bad guys, the Norts, are total Space Nazis.
But Rogue Trooper Redux shares just as much with military sci-fi. For example, your main weapon, the Gunnar, can easily switch from being a machine gun to a shotgun to a sniper rifle. It’s kind of like the Zorg ZF-1 Pod from The Fifth Element if it looked like a standard issue machine gun. You also have a portable hologram like Ahnuld had in Total Recall, though your enemies don’t fall for it as easily as Richter’s men.
You also have a backpack in Rogue Trooper Redux that, with the help of your dead friend’s A.I chip, can turn salvage you find into ammo, health packs, various explosive devices, and even weapon upgrades. Though it does beg the question: If your backpack has an A.I. smart enough manufacture ammo and health packs, out of scrap, why isn’t it smart enough to know you need more ammo and health packs, as opposed to waiting until you ask for them?
Of course, your enemies have some technical prowess as well. Including some swarming drones that really hurt, mech suits that are extra durable, and auto turrets that are best dealt with from a distance.
There’s also a neat trick in Rogue Trooper Redux that surprisingly hasn’t come up in other games. When using a stationary machine gun, you have to be mindful of its temperature, lest it overheats. Which is a common mechanic in video games. What’s uncommon is that if you do overheat your machine gun, the part that holds the ammo belt in place pops opens to vent, largely blocking your view, and adding a bit of challenge to these moments.
Rogue Trooper Redux also lets you duck behind covers…sometimes. Not only does this mechanic not always work where it should, but even when it does, it doesn’t always work well. Which would explain why, on several occasions, I would duck behind cover, but my head would be sticking out.
Good thing your enemies in Rogue Trooper Redux aren’t all that bright. (Well, good for your health; bad for your desire to be challenged in a fun way.) There were several times when it took them a moment to realize that I was shooting at them, while others were nice enough to wait until I reloaded my gun before they fired at me, even though I was standing there, out in the open, fiddling with my gun. They also didn’t shoot me when I was ducking for cover with my head sticking out.
But then, maybe that’s because they know they don’t have to work hard. One of the most frustrating aspects of Rogue Trooper Redux is that you’ll sometimes be randomly killed for no reason. On more than one occasion I was hit with an explosive and died instantly, despite there being no one within a reasonable distance, and being at the same level of health I’d been at before when I’d survived a similar explosion. It was just a cheap shot.
Adding insult to injury, the checkpoints in Rogue Trooper Redux are annoyingly far apart. Which means that not only will you sometimes die a cheap death, but you’ll then have to go back and replay a chunk of the game.
It also doesn’t help that the controls are clunky. Not by a lot, mind, you, but just enough to make this feel off, and to occasionally make it so you’re actually blocking your own view. Which is especially annoying considering when you realize that Rogue Trooper Redux was published by the same people who made Sniper Elite 4 earlier this year, a game that has spot-on third-person controls (and is one of my favorite games of the year).
Then there’s the level design in Rogue Trooper Redux. Or lack of design as the case may be. Not only are many of the interior levels drab and samey-looking, but in one instance, when the Norts deploy a guy in power armor that’s like what you’ll soon see in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, they do so not far from where you just used a stationary machine gun. Which means you so you can just backtrack a little, jump on that gun, and take out the guy in the mech suit from a distance without any threat of injury…or challenge.
Even the menus in Rogue Trooper Redux are annoying, as they flip between choices so quickly that it makes clicking on the right one rather frustrating.
But the biggest problem with Rogue Trooper Redux is that it’s just…dull. Like mind-numbingly so. While the story is interesting at times, especially to someone who enjoys British comics (like me), the gameplay undermines it by having bland levels, stupid enemies, and fire fights that aren’t as frantic or harrowing as those in far better shooters.
Which is why I lost all enthusiasm for this game after less than an hour, and really struggled to keep going. While being a sci-fi shooter with space Nazis may put Rogue Trooper Redux right in my sweet spot, it actually ended up being, well, forgettable.