RoboCop: Rogue City is likely the best game the action hero has ever starred in. That bar isn’t tough to hurdle, but the adventure delivers plenty of thrills for fans to be excited about. This narrative-driven first-person shooter has a loving reverence for the films and a good understanding of its protagonist, swinging for the fences with a lengthy original story, fun references, and plenty of enjoyably cheesy humor. Unfortunately, like the franchise’s vision of Detroit, Rogue City is very rough around the edges, resulting in a flawed hero but one that’s ultimately entertaining to patrol with.
Set between the events of RoboCop 2 and 3, the titular cyborg formerly known as Alex Murphy finds himself pulled in all directions. A mysterious figure known as “The New Guy” has arrived to rally Detroit’s top gangs to wreak havoc for an unknown sinister purpose. The police department is pressed under the thumb of Omni Consumer Products’ (OCP) supremely unlikable corporate stooge Max Becker, who views RoboCop and the police as ineffective relics of the past. Myriad of smaller threads vie for RoboCop’s attention, such as a snooping journalist seeking your aid in exposing OCP secrets, therapy sessions with a doctor looking to learn what makes you tick, and a new rookie partner who’s also an OCP informant among others.
By and large, the game does a good job of tying these threads into an entertaining and cohesive story full of twists and turns. Although the 20-hour adventure overstays its welcome by the last act with several red herrings and false endings, Rogue City is a better RoboCop 3 than the movie RoboCop 3. It’s fun to hear actor Peter Weller reprise his role as RoboCop, and while the other performances are decent at best, the character models and animations are as robotic as RoboCop himself. Lip-syncing is especially bad, and it outright breaks in several scenes, giving everyone the appearance of communicating via telepathy.
Roaming the explorable police station between missions or open hubs such as downtown leads to side missions that place RoboCop in bizarre, entertaining scenarios with Detroit’s finest weirdos. Whether solving a murder on a sunscreen commercial set, clearing boombox-blasting hooligans away from a storefront, or doing the “Robot Dance” at the request of a child, you could tell me these tasks are just thinly veiled vehicles for RoboCop to deliver delightfully dopey one-liners, and I would be okay with that. Rogue City doesn’t take itself totally seriously, capturing the first film’s dark satire and the sequels’ campy goofiness that, while not always hitting the mark, manage to work in a fun way.
Choice-driven dialogue presents opportunities to present yourself as a strict enforcer who obeys the law no matter what or a more empathetic, nuanced hero. Some choices do a good job of capturing the drama of RoboCop, a black-and-white do-gooder confronting moral shades of grey, like choosing to support one of two morally questionable mayoral candidates or committing illegal corporate espionage for supposed public good. Decisions steer the story and characters in different ways that funnel into multiple endings that feel adequately paid off, like helping an unhoused drug addict and informant find self-value or the journalist deciding whether or not to expose your technical struggles.
Fighting crime often involves powerfully marching down corridors and back alleys to mow down scores of idiot thugs as they unleash hails of bullets at you. Rogue City succeeds in making you feel like the human tank RoboCop is. You can’t duck or take cover and don’t need to; he’s durable enough to absorb dozens of bullets, and I loved popping off headshots while confidently marching through incoming fire as targets panicked in disbelief. Other times, I got a kick out of grabbing foes and flinging them across rooms. I felt powerful but not invincible; in tougher firefights, which usually means higher enemy numbers and more powerful artillery, rationing a small inventory of health packs became a challenging trial. This rings most true during big boss battles against familiar RoboCop adversaries, which veer into unfair territory due to their fast and relentless offense versus your comparatively limited mobility.
In addition to RoboCop’s signature sidearm, which sports unlimited ammo, the weapon arsenal is by-the-numbers and hit-and-miss in terms of the punch they pack. Automatic weapons feel good, but shotguns and sniper rifles pale in comparison. Enemy A.I. is also dumb as rocks. Foes often stand in place, inconsistently go for cover, get snagged in geometry, or, in rare instances, kill each other. I laughed out loud watching two motorcycle-riding goons accidentally collide with each other during one confrontation.
Still, the action delivers solid thrills in a basic meat-and-potatoes way. Everything works just well enough to provide a good time. Plus, several environments are highly destructible, adding spectacle to battles. Rogue City may not fully deliver in terms of polish or ambition, but it provides a potent, if repetitive, satisfaction in blasting goons as they explode into gory showers of blood, limbs, and brains.
Earning skill points to slot into various traits, such as Combat, Armor, Engineering, and Deduction, add unique perks that spice up combat and exploration. My favorite perks include buffing my armor to the point that some bullets ricochet off, killing their senders. An engineering perk let me brute force my way into safes I’d otherwise have to find combinations for. One neat combat perk let me perform trick shots off certain surfaces to eliminate targets behind cover. Various chipboards of increasing complexity, in which you create paths to passive perks by slotting different nodes while avoiding hitting debuffs, help improve general performance, but re-slotting nodes into every new board became a tiresome exercise.
Outside of battle, you engage in detective work by scanning crime scenes for clues, collecting evidence, and questioning suspects. The process is streamlined – just scan highlighted objects until RoboCop and pals make a breakthrough, like opening a new dialogue option for interrogations – but these segments are nice breaks that mix up the gameplay while highlighting the character’s less-murdery talents.
RoboCop’s recurring glitches are a primary plot device, but technical bugs became a real hindrance for the game. Enemies have a habit of sinking into floors or phasing through walls, complicating combat encounters. Cutscenes sometimes have pixelated transitions from scene to scene, and texture pop-in abounds. Bad audio mixing means some characters speak way too loudly while others sound normal. The game failed to recognize when I fulfilled an objective a couple of times, forcing me to reload a save and play the section again. Late game, certain guns fired automatically before I pulled the trigger, wasting ammo.
Hopefully, updates will stamp out these issues because RoboCop: Rogue City provides a respectable adventure that feels like a long-lost shooter of the early 2010s in mostly good ways. Admittedly, the license carries the game through its rougher patches; if you’re not a RoboCop fan, the adventure may feel dated or buggy compared to other shooters. But as a B-tier love letter to the tin man in blue, Rogue City is a nice return to the limelight for Alex Murphy.