Also On: PC, Xbox Series X
The original RoboCop on the surface was an action film about a murdered cop revived against his choice via cybernetics to take on crime in a dystopian Detroit, below the one liners and the explosions was a biting commentary of the failure of government and the overreach of capitalism. As RoboCop found popularity with the general populace and as additional works were released the more subtle and nuanced elements of property fell further and further into the background. NACON and developer Teyon’s effort with RoboCop: Rogue City, while positioned as a bridge between the 2nd and 3rd film, thematically feels closer to the original.
A mysterious figure dubbed “The New Guy in Town” has filled the void left after the creator of the designer drug Nuke was taken down in RoboCop 2. As gangs attempt to ingratiate themselves with this new power player, the Torch Heads take extreme initiative and break into the Channel 9 building to broadcast their case. RoboCop and his partner Anne Lewis fight through the complex, but during the course of the breaching of the building, the titular character suffers from hallucinations and freezes at a pivotal moment. Although the day is saved, it causes a public relations nightmare for both the Detroit Police and his maker the conglomerate Omni Consumer Products (OCP).
With the installation of a monitoring chip (a fantastic way to justify the post mission rankings), RoboCop is on the case to take on the New Guy in Town. One would assume that the game would just be a series of shootouts, but the development team actually turns this assumption on its head. Murphy can do actual police work, from the mundane issuance of traffic tickets, to the heavier work such as assisting in murder investigations; it shows that the future of law enforcement is actually capable of enforcing laws and not just putting criminals in body bags. If you feel this type of work is beneath you then prepare to suffer as you will lack experience needed to upgrade Robo’s systems.
There’s two types of skill trees in the game and one feels more fruitful than the other. Earning 1000 exp will net you one skill point that can plug these points into a variety of options. Obvious ones would be to increase your firepower, armor, but more subtle upgrades can go towards your perceptiveness and even empathy. The game doesn’t appear to let you max out all the skill trees so you’ll need to make some hard choices when you spec out your Robo. The second upgrade system is for the Auto-9, your trusty sidearm. During the course of your journey you will find PCBs and connectors which open up a Pipe Dreams-ish mode where you need to route power to certain modules while avoiding those that will grant stat penalties. A fastidious officer will find plenty of PCBs, but I found one relatively early in the game and configured it so it grants a 70%~ boon to my damage and I never felt the need to experiment with this further.
The Auto-9 isn’t the only offensive option you’ll have. Any weapons that enemies use can be utilized against their compatriots, from the lowly handgun to crazier hardware such as rocket launchers and the fabled Cobra Assault Cannon will be things you can get your hands on. Another offensive option that surprised me was the ability to grab and throw objects. Monitors, gas canisters, and even chairs can be lobbed with the former being a great way to control crowds due to their explosive nature.
With that said…how is the shooting? It feels good. Enemies never feel like they are complete bullet sponges, some are strategic and have headgear which can mitigate headshots, but those impediments can be removed with several shots. Although the most effective target in this universe is the crotch…it seems in this dystopian alternate history scenario only men can be gun toting thugs…it almost appears as if the developer really took Scene 27 from Our RoboCop Remake to heart. I think the minus regarding the action is Robo’s inability to take cover. Vertical pillars are your friends, and anything waist high is a hindrance as you can’t use it for cover and you certainly can’t bound over it to close the distance due to his less than stellar mobility. Also boss encounters felt like a slough, I found myself surviving them by finding an indestructible vertical pillar while peeking out to take potshots…there were certain set pieces where I wish the developers thought more outside of the box (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but a certain late game boss fight set in an “Expo” was rife with possibilities).
The world of RoboCop: Rogue city is surprisingly fleshed out. The developers definitely did their homework when recreating the iconic locations of the film. MetroWest Police Precinct feels like it was lifted from the film, from RoboCop’s staging area (you can even find the food dispenser which issues the baby food used to nourish Robo’s organic parts) to the station’s garage which features that oddly angled ramp that causes all exiting vehicles to slam their rear…it’s all there. One part of the game even features a trip to OCP headquarters and while exploring, I even found the executive lounge where this scene in the movie took place. I even felt required to turn on every radio just to listen to the absurd current events taking place in the world. Locations that don’t have any basis from the films feels accurate, however the lack of pedestrian density and activity prevents them from feeling lived in and truly alive.
While I was invested with RoboCop’s relations with the various characters in the game, it never gave me reason to go back and see what would’ve happened if I made different choices. Perhaps if there were trophies tied to seeing certain results (did we really need 3 shooting range related trophies), I would be more interested in going through the game a second time. For now I think I might settle for waiting on the inevitable youtube videos to see what would result if I treated the rookie officer with disdain rather than be a dutiful mentor or which candidate I backed or didn’t in the mayoral race that was a b-plot throughout the game.
The final gripe I had for a relatively polished title was the graphical flickering that took place during conversation scenes. Which is odd since I’m generally not that perceptive about this type of thing, but it happened so frequently that it became a point of contention. Hopefully a post-release patch will smooth this over, but don’t let this gripe hinder your interest in checking out the title.
RoboCop: Rogue City managed to be one giant leap in the right direction for a property that could never find a proper footing in the video game space. It worked extremely well as a bridge to the 2nd and 3rd films and managed to provide an action packed romp for someone who is looking for your usual power fantasy experience. I hope Tayon gets a second crack at the guy and really lets loose without the confines of the two films holding them back. That and maybe put less cutscenes of Robo watching a car drive off…it happens more than you think. Otherwise if you’re a fan of RoboCop or are Robo-curious, you owe it to yourself to check out Rogue City…and yes spend more than a dollar when acquiring it (This was the best I could do in cramming that line in, anyways go pick up this game…I need to figure out how to do well in the shooting range).
Note: NACON provided us with a RoboCop: Rogue City PS5 code for review purposes.