Back in the days when every big action movie got a corresponding video game, one of the unspoken rules was that even if it was a bad game, fans of the film might still enjoy it if it’s true to the movie.
Which is where we find the dystopian sci-fi first-person RoboCop: Rogue City (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC), which is set up as a sequel to the iconic movie series. While shooter fans will quickly quit in frustration, people who loved the movies — and who can be forgiving where certain aspects of the titular character are concerned — will enjoy this as mindless fun.
For those who missed the movies,
they’re set in a not-so-distant future in which Detroit is so bad off that they cede control of the police to the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP), who make robots and cybernetics, among other things.
When a good cop named Alex Murphy is killed in the line of duty, OCP use what’s left of his brain and body to build a cyborg cop. But while they try to wipe his memory — making him more like a Terminator than Motoko from Ghost In The Shell — some of Murphy’s heart (and training) remains.
Set between the events of 1990’s RoboCop 2 and 1993’s RoboCop 3, RoboCop: Rogue City finds Murphy still patrolling the crime- (and litter-) filled streets of Detroit. But when a new crime boss moves in, much to the chagrin of the current criminal establishment, it results in a gang war that could tear the city apart.
At its core, RoboCop: Rogue City is, as I said, a first-person shooter, albeit one that’s a bit simplified. Because he doesn’t duck for cover (unless he walks around a corner or behind a pillar), or have a large arsenal of varied weapons, this has a somewhat old school feel. Think more Doom Eternal than Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare III.
Though Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare would be a more appropriate comparison given how Murphy frequently has to breach doors and then shoot the bad guys in slo-mo before they can kill any hostages.
Murphy’s autotargeting software is almost as advanced as what you had in Modern Warfare, in which your targeting reticle would instantly jump to some enemy’s head when you’d bring up iron sights.
The thing is, bad guys in RoboCop: Rogue City — like the bad guys in the RoboCop movies — are so full of themselves (and drugs; don’t forget the drugs) that they think they’re invincible. So they don’t always duck for cover, either.
Then there’s Murphy’s iron sights, which scan the area, highlighting enemy positions, even when his vision is clouded by smoke or other particulates in the air.
All of which…
is why RoboCop: Rogue City sometimes feels more like a shooting gallery than a shooting game. Or an arcade light gun game. Time Crisis. Virtua Cop. Stuff like that.
And that goes double when you have a performance review in which you’re pitted against an ED-209.
That said, there are just as many times when things feel (relatively) more modern. Like when enemies use windows or scaffolding or other ways to attack you from above. Or how, as you progress, you meet new and interesting bad guys, including grenadiers and snipers.
A police office’s work isn’t just about fighting crime, though. Which is why you spend some time in RoboCop: Rogue City doing side missions you find while walking the beat, missions that can include community outreach. Hence why you spend time chasing after a cat.
Though, not surprisingly, some of these still end up in bloodshed. Like when you try to help someone by finding a movie at the video store, only to run into some gun-toting’ bad guys with the same idea.
When not shooting up the place,
Murphy can use his scanner to solve crimes by analyzing clues that will hopefully lead him to the perps. Though, again, anyone expecting anything as evolved as when Aloy scanned campsites in Horizon Forbidden West, or Batman solved crimes in his Arkham games will be disappointed. He’s not RoboDetective, after all.
Which brings us to the big thing Murphy does in RoboCop: Rogue City that, while true to the movies and the character, will make this game way less fun for people.
As in the movies, Murphy can’t move very fast in RoboCop: Rogue City. He’s more tank now than man. His normal footspeed is lumbering, and even when he tries to run, it’s more like a stroll than a sprint (though it does get noticeably better as you progress).
It can be rather frustrating, especially when he’s walking to his next objective.
It’s also why, coupled with Murphy’s inability to duck for cover, the challenge in RoboCop: Rogue City isn’t about being quick on the draw, but about noticing your enemies, and taking them out before they inflict too much damage on your chassis.
This is not to say…
Murphy doesn’t do things in RoboCop: Rogue City that he didn’t do in the movies; just that he doesn’t do things he wouldn’t have done.
For instance, Murphy can pick up guns his enemies drop. Which isn’t always necessary, given how his service weapon (a machine pistol) has unlimited ammo, is rather powerful, and can be upgraded further. But it’s nice to have options.
Plus, yanking a machine gun off its mount and using it like a handheld is rather fun in a Terminator / Master Chief / B.J. Blazkowicz kind of way.
Murphy can also use the environment in RoboCop: Rogue City. Besides shooting gas cans and other things so they’ll blow up (of which there are a lot; this is a game based on ’90s movies, after all), Murphy can also toss computer monitors, motorcycles, and dumpsters at people.
RoboCop: Rogue City also…
gives Murphy the ability to upgrade his hardware and software by completing primary and secondary objectives, saving hostages, and locating evidence. This not only allows him to improve his offensive and defensive capabilities, but also to add such functions as the ability to use electrical fuse boxes to restore some health.
Still, RoboCop: Rogue City largely remains faithful to the films. It has the same raw look as the movies, and similar sound design, while its story has the same mix of gritty action, biting satire, and dark humor.
Even cooler, Murphy in RoboCop: Rogue City is voiced by original RoboCop actor Peter Weller, who sounds just like he did in the first two films (he missed RoboCop 3 to make Naked Lunch).
Sadly, he’s the only returning cast member. Nancy Allen, who played Murphy’s partner Anne Lewis, is retired from acting; Robert DoQui (Sargent Warren Reed), passed away in 2008; while Dan O’Herlihy (“The Old Man” from OCP) died in 2005.
It’s not the only thing…
that will bum out fans of the films. As fun as this may be for fans of the movies, even they will be bummed out by some of the game’s technical shortcomings.
For starters, the dialog sounds like it was recorded on old equipment. It also doesn’t always line up correctly with a character’s lip movements, and there was even one glitch where someone’s lips didn’t move at all.
The graphics are also rather last gen at times. And, in some cases, even more dated. The explosions, for instance, look weirdly detached from the thing blowing up, kind of like the cheap CGI you see when something explodes on such TV shows as NCIS: Hawai’i or Law & Order.
RoboCop: Rogue City also has an issue so common that I cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review: some of the text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading some of the objectives, the dialog prompts, and the subtitles.
And yet, despite these issues, I had fun blasting my way through RoboCop: Rogue City. Maybe it’s because it’s very RoboCop-y, and I know it couldn’t be any other way; maybe it’s because sometimes stupid fun can be good fun; or maybe it’s because that stupid fun provided a nice break from such longer and deeper games as Starfield and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Diablo IV.
All of which…
probably has you thinking I’m making excuses for RoboCop: Rogue City. And you’re right, I am. Had any other game made me move at such a slow pace, and felt so often like I was shooting wood ducks at a state fair, I’d be slamming this game like a car slamming into someone drenched in toxic waste.
But then, maybe that’s just it: While RoboCop: Rogue City could’ve been better, it couldn’t have been any more RoboCop.
SCORE: 8.0 / 10