STAFF REVIEW of RoboCop: Rogue City (Xbox Series X)

Thursday, November 16, 2023.
by Brent Roberts

RoboCop: Rogue City Box art The 80's were a decade of excess and the 90's were the societal revolution against it and this was ever so apparent when it came to movies. When it comes to iconic, almost cult like following of a movie, there are few that can stand the test of time like Robocop. The infamous "I'll buy that for a dollar" or "dead or alive, you're coming with me", the action, the sound effects and even the stop motion made the series one of those movies that you watched over and over. It became a guilty pleasure of sorts because it was far from the greatest of movies, yet provided so much enjoyment and entertainment that we as consumers of digital media have been wanting a Robocop game but in a way that paid homage to the nostalgia of the series that started this all.

Over the years we have had many, and I do mean many attempts to bring Robocop to the gaming world. History shows us that movie games do not have the best track record when it comes to producing a quality experience that simulates the movie it's based on. Now though, developer Teyon has decided to step up to the plate and deliver Robocop: Rogue City which is supposed to be a cannon story that takes place between Robocop 2 and 3. All of us moviegoers know that sequels don't necessarily bring about the best in a movie trilogy and this is the case with Robocop. Entries 2 and 3 into the series showcase a downfall in production development, story, and a loss of what made the original so great. With a game now set in the middle of this, how will Teyon fare with it? Let's take a look.

Starting off the opening menu music to me was sensational. It was a soft piano version of the Robocop theme music and for some reason it just caught me pleasantly off guard. There is more that I'll mention later but to kick things off it was very refreshing. Another cosmetic treat off the bat is how the game takes the green "80's tech" feel that we have come to love from the movie series. This is when you know that starting this game will take you on a time warp back to the 90's. The menu system is fairly straightforward, but there are a few things I should point out. Robocop in the movies was not an agile, nimble hero that jumped and rolled and was very acrobatically. Nope, Robocop instead was a direct tank of a figure and that is where you will find a lot of your gameplay involved.

To put things bluntly, Robocop: Rogue City is your traditional formula of go to point A, shoot and kill every criminal, and the move onto the next objective. The story though, is a direct tie into the events in Robocop 3 so if you were to watch Robocop 2 and then play Rogue City and then watch Robocop 3, you will see how the stories connect to each other. This was a wonderful touch because it made it feel like a continuation rather than a direct "one-off" storyline that had nothing to do with the Robocop trilogy at all. If you haven't seen the Robocop trilogy or saw it many moons and decades ago, here's a brief overview synopsis of what you can expect when you dive into Rogue City.

The story is centralized in Detroit where rival gangs have claimed "territories" and crime is skyrocketing. Police are struggling to maintain order as they are woefully outmanned and outgunned. Enter now, OCP (Omni Consumer Products) which is a company with one objective in mind, the creation of Delta City. This utopia is supposed to replace the crime infested, run down city of Detroit. This company is the primary antagonist throughout the Robocop movies/games and in Rogue City they're no different. The problem with OCP is that they also created Robocop. While under the guise of a "good will" gesture to the City of Detroit and its people and police, little did they know that it was all part of an experimental cyborg program designed to create autonomous policing cyborgs that would essentially put the Detroit PD out of business. Like Robocop, OCP sees you as its property while the Detroit PD sees you as one of their own. This is the crux behind your gameplay in Rogue City.

The choices you make will ultimately reflect what your story plays out to you. Yes, you read that correctly. Teyon has not only put in player choices but has also developed the story so that depending on your choices. Your path will be different as will the outcome of the results. This is due to two main parts of the game which are your side quests and your "evaluations" at the end of every mission. The side quests allow you to choose between your primary directives in how you handle situations. For example, if you notice someone littering that is a crime and you can give them a ticket for it. On the other hand, you can also let them off with a warning and instead of upholding the law, you are increasing your public trust. Remember, you ARE a cyborg so people will need to trust you, yet crimes must be punished. What do you do? The choice is yours.

After these side missions, you have the main story line as well. Each one of these missions is done in a quality that pays homage to the Robocop movies. Without spoiling the plot, itself, when you progress through this story you will see how Alex Murphy (the slain police officer that became Robocop) has to manage and learn how to process these intense memories and painful emotional connections. Each mission takes you deeper along this psychological journey and when you're finished you actually get "reviewed" by a specialist who dives into your actions and how these moments impact you. How you respond in these sessions will also contribute to how your story plays out along with the endings. Yes, there are multiple endings in Robocop Rogue City and the outcomes are determined by your actions.

As you go throughout the game, you'll rapidly become acquainted with the gameplay mechanics. Remember, I said you were not nimble or agile. In reality you're a lumbering tank of a weapon. Using the sticks to move and fire, Rogue City allows you to really dive into the Robocop lore with the same exact targeting system where the enemies are scanned, outlined in a green box, and then tracked. This can come in handy as some of your main missions I talked about earlier involve some combat sections where you are having to outkill either some other police officers, SWAT, and even several ED-209s. This ability to be a tank allows you to run into fire and prove to OCP and Detroit why you are an invaluable asset to the Detroit Police Department. Completion of these go towards your mission rewards at the end and based off your grade, which will determine how many skill points you get.

Which naturally segues into the how to level your character up part of this review. In Robocop you gain experience through enemies killed, documents scanned, pieces of criminal activity acquired, opening safes, side quests, main quests. Now that may seem like a ton of opportunities to earn experience, when you see how the game breaks it down, you'll know why this game forces you to explore. Each 1,000 experience points allow you to gain 1 upgrade slot. If you get an A ranking on main missions you can earn up to 3,000 points. Now that sounds great but then you realize that side missions net you 50 experience points, criminal evidence can net you between 10-100 points depending on the item. Enemies can earn you about 10 points per kill, and so you can see how the mission breakdown is so important.

Every mission has side missions within them, plus other measurable factors such as how much crime evidence did you find? Did you perform side objective "a" or "b"? Hostages saved? These are all examples of some of the factors that are in every mission. If you want that A ranking and those points, then it would go a long way to exploring every inch of Detroit. These skills range from combat, armor, focus, engineering, psychology and more. Rather than some elaborate trees, Robocop: Rogue City offers a straightforward system that provides certain benefits at the beginning, middle, and end of the skill tree for a particular skill. Some examples of this would be in Engineering where you can invest 6 points and you gain the ability to unlock any safe without the code.

Your character isn't the only thing you can level up though. Your trusty Auto-9 pistol can also be upgraded through the acquisition of new PCB boards and various connector pieces. As you browse the areas of your missions, you will come across these PCB boards which enable you to upgrade your weapon and allow some bonuses as well as some penalties. You can upgrade your pistol's magazine capacity, weapon spread, reload speed, damage and armor piercing. You can upgrade these by using chips found within some enemies and OCP containers. These octagonal chips come in different power levels, types, and shapes. For instance, you can have a chip with an opening on both the top and bottom and is at 20%. This means you can take the power current from the PCB board and have it gone straight through and provide that 20% bonus onto your weapon. Each one of these boards offers a different configuration and different bonuses as well such as automatic fire, never reload, increased armor penetration and much more. Through the use of these chips, you can upgrade your weapon and then prevent any negative penalties.

These chips can also be upgraded but a warning before you do, it's totally random what you get so let's say you put in three "L" shaped chips, you may or may not get another "L" shaped chip. Without the ability to purchase them, some of these can be pretty valuable so take caution when/if you decide to upgrade your chips for your PCB board. Robocop Rogue City also offers a nice green monochromatic map that will help you find locations to explore as well as secrets to uncover throughout each mission. This is where the genius of the game resides though. You can use the map but since you're not nimble or agile, it takes you a while to move around and when you're looking everywhere for evidence and documents etc., this map becomes an invaluable tool.

Graphically Robocop Rogue City looks tremendous in some places but highly generic and low budget in others. The character modeling for the main characters is done incredibly well with a dynamic attention to detail. Robocop, the chief of police, and even his partner are spot on from the movies and the developers have done a fantastic job of making it believable. The rest of the environment and characters you can rapidly see were using what resources were left. While this was kind of a letdown, hearing the voice acting and seeing the broken animation on those who aren't main characters in the story really shows a difference. Other sound effects though are done brilliantly. Your targeting system, pistol, walking, ED-209's mobility and voice, all of it seems like it jumps straight from the late 80's and early 90's.

Robocop: Rogue City offers an ever-changing storyline based off your character's choices while paying homage to the amazing source material found decades ago on the silver screen. While not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, neither was the Robocop movie trilogy and it has become an icon of film, so why not this game? This is when I realized that I needed this game to be imperfect to be a perfect representation and Teyon delivered that in spades. If you're a fan of the classic Robocop and would love a chance to dive into a story that links movies 2 and 3 perfectly and have it been cannon, then you owe it to yourself to pick up Robocop: Rogue City, or else there could be.... trouble.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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