The original RoboCop movie is a timeless ’80s action flick about a deceased police officer brought back as part man and part machine. It’s an exceptionally violent movie, but it touches on mature themes that elevate it beyond a mindless gun-fest.
I’m always dubious of movie-licensed games thanks to legendary misfires like Aliens: Colonial Marines or the catastrophic The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. I’m pleased to say my apprehension was misplaced with RoboCop.
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Welcome to New Detroit
RoboCop: Rogue City is a single-player first-person shooter by Teyon. This is the development studio responsible for the well-received Terminator: Resistance. Rogue City boasts visceral combat and satisfying gun fights gift-wrapped in a cheesy ’80s shell. One thing that surprised me was how the campaign isn’t afraid to delve into personal stories about the character. More on those bits later, but they offer welcome breaks from shooting in a 20+ hour game.
Pretty graphics at a price
I have to talk about the visuals first, and hot damn, RoboCop: Rogue City is gorgeous. The lighting and reflections are stunning, and New Detroit oozes with detail. There’s so much to see, and the world is so pretty, it’s hard not to be impressed. Whether in claustrophobic apartment complexes or strolling through open streets, Rogue City is a real treat for the eyes.
The detail isn’t just for show, either. I physically gasped in my first gunfight as the pillar I was hiding behind was chewed away by gunfire. There’s a ton of destructible scenery, and Teyon didn’t skimp on the particle effects to make the chaos look absolutely sublime. They were clearly showing off in some places. Paint cans exploding are far prettier than they need to be, but this graphical fidelity does have a few issues.
I played through RoboCop: Rogue City on PlayStation 5, and ‘Quality’ mode is on by default. I’m no frame rate connoisseur, but the game felt hideous on these pre-baked settings. It felt like an unstable 30fps and was likely more jarring, thanks to RoboCop’s stiff movement.
Thankfully, the game has a ‘Performance’ mode, which kicked up the frame rate. I switched to this within the first 30 minutes and never looked back. All of my praise about the visuals is from my time with these settings. I’d rather enjoy the hellscape that is New Detroit without wrestling with performance issues, and I daresay you won’t notice the dip in visuals unless you have a massive screen.
The power of a bulldozer with the mobility of a climbing frame
Teyon has the unenviable task of making a comically immobile hero feel satisfying to play. They mostly succeeded, resulting in combat that feels quite unique compared to other shooters.
In RoboCop, you’re going to get hit a lot, and movement options are limited to carefully peeking around corners and a little dash that requires unlocking. The visceral gunplay is enough to carry combat, but playing as a walking tank does highlight a few issues.
Bullets don’t hurt that much, but explosives, like grenades, quickly send RoboCop to the scrap heap. Fights often devolve into shooting from cover and shuffling away when a grenade is thrown.
Rogue City has gone with the increasingly rare design choice of not having regenerative health. It works, but as getting hit is commonplace, health packs are often clumsily placed just before or after busy set-pieces.
RoboCop can barely run, and in the more open areas, moving between objectives feels like a chore. Yes, the locales are pretty, but after a few hours, my heart sank whenever I saw my next mission objective was over 100 meters away.
In the movies, RoboCop awkwardly plods around, and that’s replicated in Rogue City, for better and for worse.
Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!
Combat has its limitations, but one thing that made it fun was the sheer brutality. Let’s not forget the source material is incredibly bloody and violent at times, and that’s replicated in Rogue City. There are blood spatters when you kill someone near a wall, and you can enjoy hilarious ragdoll physics when you hurl foes across the room.
A satisfying ‘splat’ accompanies headshots, and enemies popping in a flurry of red mist is commonplace.
This is likely my unga bunga shooting brain kicking in, but I absolutely loved this. Despite the clunkiness, I relished punching criminals through walls and making my enemies wear computer screens.
I thoroughly enjoyed the excessive violence, although some will likely have reservations about it. While there’s certainly an argument to be made for the combat being repetitive, I was entertained the entire time.
The heart of a hero
The reveal trailer puts combat on center stage, but RoboCop: Rogue City doesn’t shy away from personal stories, either. For as wild as the fighting is, Teyon isn’t afraid to delve into RoboCop’s human side.
Alex Murphy’s trauma of being half man, half machine is delicately handled through therapy sessions. These are much more fleshed out than I expected, complete with multiple dialogue choices.
Faces are detailed and full of expression. It’s hard not to make a comparison with a certain space-faring RPG, and RoboCop’s facial animation puts it to shame.
While rarer than I’d like, side content is enjoyable, and the same care is taken. Voice acting is decent throughout, and these personal stories offer a welcome break from combat.
Characters and their plights are varied and well-written. A wannabe security guard, for example, gave me information on a case the way he thought police talk to each other. It was ridiculous, but I’ll remember this guy over an NPC with deadpan dialogue.
Although the overall tone is pretty serious, Rogue City offers a generous helping of cheesy one-liners. There’s light-hearted dialogue to be heard if you go looking for it, and RoboCop proves you don’t need a city packed with crowds to feel alive. There’s a political power struggle going on, and the tension is palpable.
You call this a Glitch?
The story of RoboCop: Rogue City explores Alex Murphy’s struggle with glitches. It’s oddly fitting, then, that the game has plenty of its own. During my playthrough, I ran into numerous bugs. These were mostly superficial or hilarious quirks of the ragdoll physics.
I can overlook issues like this, but gameplay problems are something I can’t ignore. Scoped weapons, for example, feel terrible to use on a controller. It’s like the sensitivity needs to be dramatically lowered. I rifled through the settings for a solution, but the options are very basic.
On that note, my default pistol started zooming in like a rifle out of nowhere toward the end of the game, with the same issues. I did manage to fix this, but it was frustrating.
As much as I praised the dialogue and facial expressions, I did have a few conversations where the subject bugged or the music drowned out what they were saying. I didn’t run into anything game-breaking, but some unpolished moments sullied the experience.
I’d buy that for a dollar!
If you get that reference, you’ll likely enjoy RoboCop: Rogue City, but it won’t appeal to everyone. The clumsy gunfights and stiff movement will rub some audiences the wrong way, and there’s no way around that. As a fan of the RoboCop movies and a stickler for classic action films, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Teyon’s latest shooter. I’m clearly the target audience, but I expected a RoboCop game in 2023 to be low-effort nostalgia bait.
I’m thrilled to be wrong about that last part, and the developers did an admirable job of staying faithful to the source material while crafting a great single-player shooter.