Review | RoboCop: Rogue City – When crime starts to roam the streets from the underbelly of the city and you can’t see a way out, RoboCop offered a fresh way out in the 80s. Half-man, half-machine – although that balance can swerve to one or the other depending on the person making the judgment – detective Alex Murphy knows how to defuse just about any situation, whether it’s one that requires diplomacy or a fresh dose of bullet-shaped lead in the forehead. With RoboCop: Rogue City, developer Teyon is now trying to succeed where two movie sequels and an uninspired remake failed miserably: giving the tin cop an all-new adventure that will delight fans and newcomers alike.
RoboCop: Rogue City takes place between the second and third films in the trilogy. A new player has emerged in Detroit, still overrun by criminals, a mysterious figure with financial resources to die for and nefarious plans that shun the light of day. Just about every gang in the city hopes to be able to join this übergangster and spontaneously starts applying for jobs. The more extreme the crime, the better. Soon the blood flows through all the gutters and the streets are littered with the bodies of unfortunate policemen. A brutal hostage situation in the local news studio is the signal for RoboCop to take action. Together with his faithful partner Anne Lewis, he shoots and whacks his way through the underworld in an attempt to eliminate the ‘new guy in town’.
The story of RoboCop: Rogue City won’t immediately win awards for originality, but it does a very good job of making players feel like they’re starring in a new RoboCop movie. Just about everything feels authentic: Peter Weller returns to voice RoboCop, old acquaintances make an appearance, the soundtrack of yesteryear blares triumphantly through the speakers, and every plot element nestles neatly within the rules of the franchise. In other words, the game does not shy away from social criticism and makes time to put the psyche of the robot cop under the microscope as well. Murphy has to have an audience with a psychologist several times and sometimes experiences flashbacks to his human period, before an attempt on his life condemned him to an existence as a robot. Trust me: it’s hard to find a licensed game that’s more true to its inspiration than this one.
Hails of bullets and parking fines
RoboCop: Rogue City is a semi-open-world game, where you roam the streets as the titular cop and solve crimes. You play the game in the first person and regularly find yourself in hellish firefights, in which you take as much as you dole. What Murphy lacks in speed – he moves like a kind of tank, just like in the film and will therefore not immediately put Usain Bolt to the test – he makes up for with an oversized life bar and shooting gear that ruthlessly makes mincemeat of every opponent who tries to kill him. The gunplay is pretty spectacular, with environmental elements that can be smashed to smithereens and enemies that lose arms and legs when you hit them in the right spot. A fitting throwback to the action movies of the 80s… Although I’d be lying if I said the slow pace didn’t get on my nerves sometimes.
That pace is especially disappointing when the bullets aren’t flying around your ears. RoboCop often has to move from A to B in certain city districts and gets the chance to solve other crimes – let’s call them side missions – along the way. You can investigate the crime scenes of unsolved murders to find the perpetrator, intervene in conflicts that threaten to tear apart the streetscape and even shove a fine between the windshield wipers of wrongly parked cars. Your actions will have an impact on the rest of the game. If you always follow the booklet, your clients will be happy and you will get a higher mission score, but the people will become more hostile. However, if you turn a blind eye from time to time and stick to a warning, you can sometimes count on unexpected support.
So you’re presented with a pretty versatile game, one that effortlessly switches from old-school banging to Sherlock Holmes-esque detective work and back again. Both game elements are fun, but lack challenge in the first case and depth in the second – read: it’s actually all a bit easy. Where RoboCop: Rogue City does score is in the way you build Murphy’s abilities. As you complete missions and collect evidence, you’ll gain XP, which will slowly but surely fill a skill tree. For example, you canFor example, buy the ability to deflect bullets off walls to hit enemies behind cover. Or you can choose to increase your deduction skills, so that you can find additional clues in the environment, which in turn make it easier to interrogate a suspect and progress. Options, options, options.
When you wander the streets of Detroit, you will at times be really happy with what you see. There are no really high peaks in terms of graphics, but the dilapidated city is convincingly littered with rubbish, the unsettling alleys genuinely make you feel unsafe and the light reflections in puddles of water lend a kind of photogenic character to the game world despite all the filth. As usual, you can choose between a Quality and Performance mode, with the former aiming for 30fps against a 4K resolution and the latter trading in a bit of resolution for 60fps. Or at least it should. In reality, the environments in performance mode are markedly blurrier and barely reach 60fps, with noticeable frame dips in cutscenes and big action scenes. As far as we’re concerned, quality is the way to go, thanks in part to the slow pace of the game.
On a technical level, we’re not very impressed anyway. During our play session, we regularly ran into glitches, such as environmental elements that interlock unnaturally, cutscenes that suddenly freeze after using the pause button so that you only hear the audio, and even the occasional crash that forces you to quit the game. Up above, we were quite vocal about the environments, but we can’t say the same about the facial expressions of characters, which ungently teleported us back to a previous generation of consoles. Fortunately, everything continues to breathe RoboCop at all times, in such a way that fans will easily be able to cover these flaws with the cloak of love. We already talked about the excellent audio design, which plays a role in this that should not be underestimated.
Played on: PlayStation 5.
Also available on: Xbox Series X|S and PC.
All in all, we’re pretty happy with RoboCop: Rogue City. Developer Teyon clearly has immense respect for the source material and that shows in a story full of recognition that does justice to the franchise. The gameplay is surprisingly varied, covering just about every aspect of the cop profession, from solving murders and surviving massive shootouts to – yes – handing out parking tickets. It’s not very challenging, but you really feel like RoboCop in a run-down Detroit and that will be more than enough for any fan. On a technical level, we are less satisfied. The game is full of glitches, runs in Performance mode anything but stable and performs graphically hit and miss. Fortunately, Peter Weller’s voice and euphoric soundtrack are still there to make up for these disappointments.
- Great story
- Very faithful to the source material
- Fun gunfights
- Multifaceted agent life
- Nostalgic audio design
- Lacks some challenge
- Lacks some depth
- Lacks some speed
- Lacks finesse on a technical level