Blockbuster film adaptations in the gaming scene are nothing new, ever since the early 2000s, when hit-or-miss releases were ever too common. But the past has taught us that a fan-favorite title alone isn’t enough. You still need a faithful adaptation of what makes a film special, well translated into the visuals and gameplay that entice fans. As luck will have it, RoboCop: Rogue City understands this assignment to a T. And quite time-sensitive, too, given the massive “miss” we’ve had to endure in RoboCop 3.
Developer Teyon and publisher Nacon nail the beauty and gore we love about the nearly 40-year-old 80s RoboCop films. They’ve pumped RoboCop: Rogue City chock full of Easter eggs, which fans will surely appreciate while still delivering a compelling shooter experience that newcomers will enjoy. But don’t take my word for it. Tag along as we break apart every cog that runs the RoboCop: Rogue City machine in our review. Which gameplay elements are endearing enough to return for more playthroughs? Which ones overstay their welcome? Let’s find out.
Trip Down Memory Lane
You know the drill. RoboCop takes center stage as the Omni Consumer Products (OCP) wonder-creation of the Detroit Police Department. Alex Murphy sustains irreparable damage at the hands of the notorious robber gang of Clarence Boddicker. But he isn’t quite done fighting crime yet, as the OCP remakes him into a heavily armored police cyborg. With Peter Weller reprising his role as the titular RoboCop we’ve come to know and love, the films from so long ago set the stage for a brand new storyline in dystopian cyberpunk Detroit.
The timeline takes place between the events of RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3 films. As a new crime wave surges, Peter Weller is once again called upon to restore order and balance to an impoverished and crime-ridden New York. Aided by partner Anne Lewis, RoboCop embarks on a new mission to bring the mysterious up-and-coming crime boss, uncreatively named The New Guy in Town, to justice. Meanwhile, he runs into an assortment of interesting characters and NPCs, catapulting the story forward.
From homeless police informant Pickles, OCP police recruit and dispatcher Ulysses Washington, reporter Samantha Ortiz, and more, each has a role to play, some more vital than others. RoboCop struggles with merging his part-man, part-machine status. He experiences visual and audible hallucinations from his past life. They may interfere with missions, bringing forth psychologist Olivia Blanche and engineer Morgan to help him navigate his new robotic self.
Choices Have Consequences
It’s a compelling story arc that, unfortunately, is only explored via dialogue options. Still, RoboCop: Rogue City instigates plenty of criminal underworld story arcs that keep you busy and fuel the drive to clean up the mean streets of Detroit. You’ll often steer off the beaten path into story-fueled side missions. These instigate subtle RPG elements of choosing between rigid versus human choice-based gameplay. Often, you’ll decide between upholding the law at all costs or clinging to the least bit of humanity left within you.
Choices do matter, whether in feeding into the future unfolding in the missions that veer into alternate endings or molding the type of cybernaut you aspire to be. Say you catch a teenage lad in the act of vandalizing private property. You can charge them a hefty fine on the spot or let them off with a warning: your choice. The former, though, may construe bad blood, swearing to avenge himself when he gets the chance.
Still, it’s never too serious. Side missions are an everyday cop gig. Slapping tickets on lawbreakers, appeasing citizens’ grievances, patrolling the streets, and intervening if need be. Many may take their toll, taking a seemingly errand boy affair. But some do alter the course of the future, slipping into the main mission pathways to induce further depth. If not for their leisurely pursuits, you may embark on side missions to simply take in the highly detailed and endearing streets of Detroit in the sheer raw beauty of the old films.
It’s fair to say most RoboCop games struggle to capture the authenticity and detail of the old films. But RoboCop: Rogue City is a different story, thanks to chock full of Easter eggs and renditions to put smiles on fans' faces for days. As you stroll through the semi-open world spaces where side missions often take reign, rest assured you’ll spot one too many references from the films and satirical dark humor.
Because RoboCop has never been just an action film, but more in the sense of punchy satire. Whether it’s signage, advertisements, radio and television broadcasts, you’ll catch wind of Verhoeven's biting political commentary, corporate scumbaggery, the private military as police, greed, and tying it in a splattery bow of gore and gleeful crime. It’s truly a celebration of 80s RoboCop in more ways than one, reminiscing what’s great about the RoboCop franchise.
But newcomers, especially those used to the influx of modern-day exquisite attention to detail, may frown upon the static character animations and, sometimes, glitching lip movements. The beauty here isn’t in the technological lighting and ray tracing advancements. You can almost see the budget constraint on the visuals jump off the screen. But, rather, in the love letter, RoboCop: Rogue City pays homage to its source material.
Bread and Butter
Progression, similarly, isn’t an out-of-the-box, ingenious additive. But it still has a unique flair of its own. You’ll gain XP from clearing side missions and detective tasks like picking up crime evidence. Most of these are scattered all over, including drugs, Nukes, etc.
You may also scan evidence, follow blood trails, and solve puzzles. Extra XP unlocks upgraded gear and skills, some infused in the environment. Like additional HP, with the option to pick up healing items as you go. You even have a psychology upgrade to uptake – but onto the good stuff.
The action-packed sequences are where RoboCop: Rogue City truly shines. RoboCop isn’t your usual run-and-gun compatriot. He’s a slow-walking sloth with a massive tank cyber-build to shield him from damage. So, you may even blissfully trudge forward, maiming and dismembering enemies where they stand, and make it through to the next mission unscathed.
What RoboCop: Rogue City lacks in speed, he makes up for in outright badass gunplay. You’ll often engage groups of enemies in airtight arenas. Your job is to finish them off one by one. Often literally blowing their heads off to thy kingdom come before moving on to the next. Thanks to your unlimited charged Auto 9 Pistol, you’ll never run out of bullets to maim.
Heads blast off to pieces, leaving a trail of bloody flesh in their wake. Walls explode on impact, and glasses shatter, filling the battle frontiers with bits and pieces of destruction. It’s absolutely thrilling to destroy enemies, even when they don’t come in variety. Blasting them off is enough to keep your adrenaline pumping for the 15-hour or so run-through.
You’re free to pick up enemy weapons, too, switching from Auto 9 to shotguns, assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and more, as you please. But these have limited ammo, so you’ll inevitably return to the Auto 9 when you run out. Let’s not forget RoboCop’s grab-and-haul mechanic that latches onto enemies' necks and uses them as shields against gunfire or launches them off into the abyss. Or, alternatively, the freedom to grab onto objects, including exploding canisters, computers, and guitars, and thrust them off into anything that moves.
RoboCop: Rogue City isn’t a blockbuster masterpiece. It doesn’t even pretend to be. But for the limited resources at hand, the visuals and action sequences impress beyond measure. Fans of 80s films will love Rogue City, seemingly the RoboCop 3 alternative we would have preferred. It features limitless reminiscing features to the old days, whether in witty one-liners or chock-full throwback detail strutting along the streets of Detroit.
Action sequences, on the other hand, feature explosive combat. It’s destructive in the best ways possible that amplifies RoboCop’s cybernaut abilities while also paving the way for newcomers to enjoy. As much as games have way exceeded expectations, thanks to technological advancements and creative appeal, RoboCop: Rogue City has taken the road less traveled into the fun arcade times of simply blasting anything that moves for the mere fun of it and sitting back in awe of the destructive mesh of blood and debris.
Yet, without the love and nostalgic appeal of the films, it’s hard to say whether RoboCop: Rogue City will grasp the attention of newbies to the franchise. That much remains up for debate.
RoboCop: Rogue City Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
Part Man, Part Machine, All Cop
RoboCop: Rogue City is exactly the adaptation we were hoping for, especially one reminiscent of R-rated 80’s action cinema. It’s blissfully true to violent and gore-ridden combat and stays true to RoboCop’s E.M.O., like taking minimal damage from gunfire. You truly feel like a walking tank on a mission to deliver justice against the bottomless threats to Old Detroit.