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Robocop: Rogue City review: faithful fan service let down in many areas

Robocop: Rogue City review: faithful fan service let down in many areas

Too much fan service?

In my years writing about video games there’s one word that I don’t tend to use when writing a review. That word is ‘fun’. It’s not a word that evokes any emotion conjured by a game, it always feels a little too generic when words like ‘joy’, or ‘excitement’ suffice. However, for this review of Robocop: Rogue City, ‘fun’ is a word that makes the most sense to use because, after several hours with the game, I stopped having fun.

I can pinpoint the moment when the game went severely downhill. A handful of hours in, Robocop has just broken up a gang’s territory, and his backup, ED-209 a bipedal killing machine, goes haywire and becomes an impromptu boss fight. What happens next is a drawn-out and protracted experience that magnifies all the issues with the game.

Sadly, the issues are plentiful. Some flaws can be forgiven like the cringey dialogue, because it’s a Robocop game, based on a franchise that lauded it up in the 80s glory of one-liners and bravado-laced scripts. The humour also can be hit or miss, but when it skewers the action movie tropes it’s a welcome reprieve from a dull script delivered by actors that seem bored most of the time.

Some issues can’t be forgiven, like the framerate that jumps all over the place; the badly animated models that rarely lip-synch to the voice lines; and horrendous audio bugs that cause some dialogue to sound like a whisper while the next line is delivered with excruciating volume.

Robocop: Rogue City does get a few things right. The environmental visuals are stunning, particularly at night when neon signs can pop from the darkness and the streets are filled with a light mist. This quality of fidelity is also given to the 3D model of Robocop which looks ‘new-gen’ shiny and smooth, and as the game progresses, character models do start to match the level of quality.

There’s a conversation system where you can choose Robocop’s responses, making him more or less human, or tread a weird line between holding up the law or looking out for the people. It’s an odd addition, but it goes some way to bringing personality to a completely robotic character.

Robocop: Rogue City /

The ‘fan service’ moments of quotable dialogue, appearing characters, and the brooding scenery of Detroit, all land wonderfully. Everywhere feels seedy, including the police station and the NPCs are a quirky mix of outlandish and over-the-top acting, peppered with 80s flair and insults that died on New Year’s Day 1990.

The developers also made some nice choices in the systems that surround Robocop. His skill tree is one. This is a list of traits that improve things like health, armour, perception, and engineering by investing skill points. Along each trait, there are skills to be unlocked; for example, if you level up vitality you’ll unlock the ability to recharge health from nearby junction boxes.

The system for upgrading Robocop's signature gun is also a quirky mini-game that plays a little like a pipe game; where you have to link the power source to the nodes that will improve the weapon while avoiding those that will reduce things like damage, recoil or ammo count. You find tiles for this system out in the world in the form of computer chips and it pushes players to explore the semi-open world.

‘Semi-open’ because really it’s just a bunch of closed-off levels linked by cut scenes or corridors and each section ends with a grading and XP totaling screen as if it’s a linear level. The XP can be gained by killing enemies, collecting random evidence littered throughout, and by completing mission objectives. The exploration is fine, it’s nothing special seeing as most explorable areas are small rooms adjoining a corridor and the evidence is handily tagged on-screen. However, this does bring me to the worst part of the game. Robocop himself.

Robocop: Rogue City /

This is obviously a conscious design decision, but Robocop is plodding, dull, and oftentimes horrendous to control. If you’ve seen the films, it’s an obvious design flaw. He moves like a tank; slow and with intention. He isn’t spritely which is the video game opposite of enjoyable movement. The developers have blessed us with a sprint button, but it’s merely a light jog. It takes ages for Robo to get anywhere.

This restricted movement is also seen in his aiming which is so hideously clunky that for the majority of gunfights you’re standing still in the hopes that you can nudge the crosshair onto an enemy without overshooting and blasting the wall behind them. It reminds me of playing first-person shooters on PlayStation 2. Moving the reticule around the screen is like wading through treacle and the worst part is, it makes sense. That is how Robocop moved in the film. It just translates badly to a video game.

The AI is equally disappointing, often resulting in grenade spam and sheer numbers to take down Robocop, rather than any kind of intelligent design. I’ve never seen so many grenades being thrown outside of Veteran Call of Duty campaigns. Sure, it makes for a more chaotic fight, but seeing as Robocop can’t run away from anything with speed, it usually results in tanking the damage while you frustratingly nudge around the reticule.

And this is summarised in the ED-209 fight I mentioned at the start. In the fight, ED-209 plods around a small courtyard alternating between spraying bullets and launching barrages of missiles. Robocop staggers from cover to cover desperately healing because even when standing behind concrete pillars Robo seemingly takes damage due to the destructible scenery. This intersperses the shooting which, most of the time, misses ED’s weak spot. Even using different weapons, like the AK47 or .50 CAL sniper feels like shooting blanks rather than fully loaded rounds.

From this point, the game never really bounces back. All the weapons suffer the same curse as Robocop’s primary side-arm; the variants of the AI punks add little to no depth just because they’re snipers or grenadiers; everything starts to feel like a bland pastiche.

Robocop: Rogue City /

The biggest crime here is, oddly, the faithfulness to the source material. On paper it makes sense and it does evoke the same feelings as the films, but it makes for a very frustrating experience that ends up being a bitter disappointment. When the worst part of your shooter is the shooting, then something went badly wrong.

Pros: Fan service, authenticity to the franchise, visuals

Cons: Bad movement and aiming controls, spotty audio volumes, skipping framerate, boring dialogue.

For Fans Of: 80s Action films

4/10: Below Average

Robocop: Rogue City is available on PS5 (Version tested), Xbox Series X|S, and PC. Review code provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores

Featured Image Credit: Nacon

Topics: Xbox, PlayStation 5, PC