RoboCop: Rogue City is a love letter to the RoboCop franchise, but just how far should a tribute go? Is simply capturing the feeling of being RoboCop enough, or should the series formula be followed so closely that quotes and references become hard to escape? RoboCop: Rogue City will be a great game for fans of the series, but I imagine the previous question will be on many players’ minds as they struggle to find the originality in a game so devoted to the movie.
Don’t get me wrong. I ask if capturing the feel of being RoboCop is enough for a RoboCop game because Rogue City certainly pulls it off. The model used for RoboCop, the voice, everything is so spot on that you might be convinced Peter Weller himself is making those clunky, stiff RoboCop movements on screen. In a way, he is, as he returns to reprise his role as Alex Murphy, putting the classic voice to the iconic lips.
Immersiveness and a clear love bordering on obsession for the original movie is, without a doubt, the biggest focus here. Details like RoboCop’s VCR vision, a completely accurate recreation of the Police Station, to painstakingly crafted face models of the classic cast show how much the team wanted this to feel like the real deal. You even get a bang and a spark riding up the ramp out of the police garage.
The realistic nature of the character models is actually something I’d hold against the game. They look so… jarring, being completely accurate facial reconstructions of real people but having little to no animation when it comes to expression and lip sync. It’s like watching someone puppet a bunch of wax statues, and it was unsettling. This doesn’t apply to Alex Murphy himself, considering he’s already a stiff and emotionless robot at the start of the game.
The gameplay of RoboCop: Rogue City is its biggest draw. As RoboCop, a stiff metal man who can’t crouch or move fast, you play every fight like the scene in RoboCop’s second act where he goes after Kurtwood Smith’s character in the cocaine factory. The game is all about walking from fight scene to fight scene, which all play out in the same way: RoboCop slowly moves forward, taking out hordes of enemies while shrugging off bullets. While fun, it can also get a bit repetitive in long gameplay sessions. You’re basically doing the same thing over and over again, just in different places.
You can still die, but you definitely have a generous health bar that only becomes harder to deplete as you unlock defensive perks. Since you can’t take cover, the idea is for you to shoot the enemies first. Foes can tank many body shots, but headshots put them down immediately. Enemies pause for a moment when seeing you, so you’re rewarded for fast reflexes and good aim, the idea being to clear a room before they have too much time to whittle you down.
You level up as you complete main quests and side quests, collecting evidence. Leveling up gives you access to a bunch of really fun perks that greatly change how you play the game, depending on how you allocate them.
The game also features a lot of little mechanics that seem like they were just added because the developers thought it would be fun, which I appreciate. One such mechanic is the ability to hand out tickets, RoboMeterMaid style.
RoboCop: Rogue City opens up with a gang taking over a news station. This gang is obnoxiously coked up and hilariously evil. This puppet-kicking level of criminality was charming at first, but it became kind of grating how unapologetically campy the villains were. They could have had more charm if they weren’t dedicated reference machines, but that’s something we’ll get to later.
The gang wants to catch the attention of a new guy in town who has a lot of money and is looking to spend it on crime. Murphy clears the station out, but encounters a problem when he becomes injured and starts hallucinating about his former life. This glitch causes concern in his OCP handlers and becomes the main theme of the story.
I don’t know how RoboCop fans will feel about me saying this, but do we really need another story about RoboCop trying to touch base with his humanity? His memory is no longer wiped in this game, so trying to push in this narrative of him having repressed memories or hallucinating his lost family feels like a shoehorned copy of RoboCop’s second act without any of the reasons for it happening. That being said, the moments where he’s hallucinating or discussing his humanity are executed well and were the only parts of the story I was able to take seriously.
The game plays around a lot with returning characters but makes a lot of them feel so one-note it’s kind of hard to care about them. There is an atrocious “minor character had a family member who is actually a really big deal” trope present that immediately broke the storytelling for me. The main antagonist is super uncharismatic. He is certainly not as memorable as Clarence Boddicker.
The game is so jam-packed with references and quotes that it gets a bit obnoxious at times. Callbacks to the movie are made so often that they actually might be more than 60% of the dialogue. So many things are references, even if they don’t make sense or don’t need to be. A good example of this is the main villain being referred to as “the new guy in town” just because it’s what the news reporter called Alex Murphy when he first appeared as RoboCop.
At some point, I began to ask myself what the point was of making so many references and then reusing said references. It kind of just made me want to watch the movie, which I did. It began to feel like the writers weren’t confident enough in their own writing and had to make callbacks constantly. They constantly make callbacks to elements they know you liked, so you’re aware they’re related to the original.
The game also plays it incredibly fast and loose with police protocol, which is RoboCop in a nutshell. As in character as that might be, I would have liked for him to tell someone to freeze or identify himself as a cop once before opening fire on hoodlums who won’t stop talking about how much they freakin’ love drugs.
The Final Word
Campy and overbearing with callbacks and references, RoboCop: Rogue City can make even the most die-hard fan of the series roll their eyes a few times. Despite that and a criminally uninteresting villain, the game presents a truly unique take on the FPS shooter and is faithful (sometimes to a fault) to its source material. You will truly feel like RoboCop in this game.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! RoboCop: Rogue City is available on Steam, Epic Games, Xbox, and PlayStation.