RoboCop: Rogue City is an incredibly faithful exploration of the armoured enforcer, a first-person shooter with an RPG foundation underpinning the action. It's a little rough around the edges but manages to tell an original tale in the iconic cyberpunk universe, reminding us why we still love this relic of the '80s all these years later.
Taking place after the events of RoboCop 2, players slip into the titanium-reinforced greaves of Alex Murphy, a good cop and family man brutally gunned down in the line of duty. Having signed a waiver to let mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) reconstitute his physical remains into a crime-fighting cyborg, the melding of human experience and modern technology combine to form the best hybrid police machine the world has ever seen: OCP Crime Prevention Unit 001, better known as RoboCop.
Rogue City does a great job of bringing the mean streets of Old Detroit to life. As RoboCop (the role reprised by the original Peter Weller), you progress through a linear single-player campaign of missions occasionally broken up by opportunities to side quest. In these moments, players can venture off the beaten path, interact with the downtrodden citizenry, and serve and protect them to the best of their abilities. Doing so will be rewarded with XP, which can be used to develop RoboCop's skill progression system, as well as fleshing out this dystopian vision of the near future. How efficiently and consistently the player engages in police work will not only determine how much XP is earned, but which ending they get as well.
Telling a fairly straightforward tale, Rogue City is distinct enough to be its own thing while still serving as something of a setup for the genuinely awful RoboCop 3. A mysterious figure known as "The New Guy" arrives in Detroit and shakes up the local criminal elements, who are all keen to advertise their unique and chaotic services. What starts as a simple investigation of the Torch Heads gang leads to a sprawling tale touching on corruption in the OCP leadership, the shadowy Project Afterlife, and the public's reaction to an imperfect RoboCop.
Visually, the game looks great when it comes to the principal cast, but less so when it comes to environments and supporting NPCs. This isn't for lack of trying, as the love and dedication to the setting shine through. Instead, these limitations are likely budgetary, and there is a distinct "AA" feel to the game in many aspects. The open sections in between missions lack detail and are pretty sparse, but they succeed in creating a believable and atmospheric setting. The uniformly green HUD and UI support this analogue-future aesthetic, but come off about as harshly as they did in Fallout 3.
Each of the game's missions take players through set-pieces filled with chaff enemies to dismember in shockingly brutal fashion, and combat is where Rogue City is at its strongest. RoboCop's signature Auto-9 service weapon steals the show and can be modified using a surprisingly in-depth upgrade system based on the motherboard used. Depending on preference, players can modify the hand cannon to fire powerful single rounds, accurate bursts, or relentless automatic fire, with various tradeoffs and upgrades adding further complexity.
Guns feel appropriately impactful, and Rogue City offers a plethora of pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, and heavy weaponry for players to pick up during deployment. This stops things from getting too samey, and as the Auto-9 has unlimited ammunition, it encourages players to change up their loadout as the situation requires. When all else fails, RoboCop can pulverise steel, flesh, and stone with his bare hands and pick up enemies, using them as a human shield, before hurling them back to their friends, which never gets old.
It's a tough needle to thread, but we think developer Teyon has done an admirable job of capturing the weight and armoured heft of RoboCop in action, a tricky proposition because players never want to feel plodding. Instead, using tools like a flashbang shockwave and augmented reflexes that slow down time, players can remain constantly on the offensive, deflecting incoming fire and relentlessly engaging enemies in an undeniably satisfying power fantasy.
Love it or hate it, the writing is about as authentically RoboCop as it gets, which is to say it's satirical, schlocky, and bad, but charmingly so. Characters are pretty wooden in their delivery, which is fine for the protagonist, but remember that Rogue City's runtime is several times the length of the first two films combined (15-20 hours). This means your mileage may vary on when the one-liners start to wear out their welcome. Similarly, the enemy variety leaves much to be desired, mainly consisting of generic goons with guns, and their limited combat barks, too, quickly start to repeat.
Throughout the game, players can make dialogue choices that will affect the storyline and allow for some level of roleplay, which mostly boils down to enforcing the law at all costs or letting some humanity shine through. It's pretty binary, though, and not the focus, but it does spice up what would otherwise be lengthy exposition dumps.
RoboCop: Rogue City is a serviceable shooter aimed squarely at fans of the IP, and is unlikely to win over any new converts. Purists will appreciate the passion with which the still beloved RoboCop universe has been brought to life. Still, for everyone else, its relatively standard gameplay conventions will likely wear out their welcome long before the credits roll.
RoboCop: Rogue City does an admirable job of bringing the gritty universe of the films to life and of capturing the feeling of playing as the armoured enforcer himself. However, there are only so many cyberpunk lowlifes one can blast to bits before the repetition sets in.