RoboCop Returns: Struggling Between Authenticity and Enjoyment

“RoboCop: Rogue City” serves as an homage to the venerated sci-fi series, now 36 years in the making. The creators at Teyon, who have previously worked on “Terminator: Resistance” and “Rambo: The Video Game,” show their penchant for action classics from the ’80s. This respect is evident throughout Rogue City’s design, from its visual elements to its satirical tone, mirroring the essence of the first two RoboCop films while also providing the player with the immersive experience of stepping into the role of the iconic law enforcer. The game immerses you in an environment where the mechanical sounds of your movements echo with authenticity as you resist damage and deal with the city’s villains with the unemotional efficiency of a robot. While this fidelity to the original material is commendable, it can sometimes detract from the excitement of the gameplay, as the title struggles to balance homage with the entertainment value expected from a modern shooter.

In Rogue City, the narrative is interwoven with the series’ established lore, crafting a fresh story that still adheres closely to the spirit of the early films. Taking place between the second and third movies, you assume the role of Alex Murphy, aka RoboCop, performed once again by Peter Weller, who has been remade into a cyborg following mortal injuries. The game starts with a nod to the original 1987 movie’s style—a satirical news broadcast setting the scene for the crime-plagued streets of Old Detroit. The drug Nuke is rampant, and a new kingpin has emerged, uniting the city’s gangs under his rule. As RoboCop, thwarting this criminal resurgence is your main objective, yet the game also delves into various subplots, which yield mixed outcomes.

For example, the game begins with RoboCop experiencing a malfunction during a tense hostage scenario, which triggers flashbacks to his past life. His corporate owners at Omni Consumer Products are quick to address their product’s defects, even assigning a therapist to RoboCop. The game offers an exploration into RoboCop/Murphy’s internal struggles, providing dialogue options during therapy that probe into his humanity. These interactions offer some intriguing character moments, although the themes they explore aren’t new to the franchise or to science fiction in general.

The narrative also touches on corporate malfeasance within OCP, the dedication of an investigative journalist, the guidance of a rookie cop, and a political campaign with candidates vying for RoboCop’s endorsement. Despite these efforts, the plot often treads familiar territory established in the earlier films and encounters pacing problems, particularly when different storylines converge. Notably, Peter Weller’s performance as RoboCop is a highlight, bringing back the character’s iconic delivery and catchphrases with ease, reinforcing the game’s sense of authenticity. The game faithfully recreates the visual style of the movies, reminiscent of what “Alien: Isolation” did for its source material.

The combat in Rogue City is an exercise in slow, deliberate action, quite unlike today’s fast-paced shooters. RoboCop moves with a weighty deliberation and lacks agility, reinforcing the sensation of being a battle-hardened juggernaut. The game’s gunplay, particularly with RoboCop’s signature Auto-9 pistol, is gruesomely gratifying. While the combat doesn’t offer a deep tactical challenge, the pleasure of the gameplay emerges when RoboCop’s overwhelming firepower is on full display. However, as the game progresses and enemies become more numerous and resilient, the action can become monotonous, prompting a shift to more conservative and less satisfying tactics.

Outside of the intense action sequences, the game offers moments of respite with RoboCop patrolling the streets, handling minor offenses and engaging in side quests that allow for additional player choice and role-playing elements. The game creates an environment that feels alive and interactive, resembling the hubs found in the latest Deus Ex titles, and adorned with nostalgic ’80s details. Nonetheless, the game is not without its technical shortcomings, particularly on the PS5 version, with noticeable performance issues in busier scenes and open-world areas.

In conclusion, for devotees of the RoboCop franchise, “RoboCop: Rogue City” is likely to resonate deeply. It masterfully captures the essence of the classic films, complete with Easter eggs for fans and moments that embody the power fantasy of being RoboCop. Despite its gameplay limitations and occasional pacing difficulties, the game offers a balanced mix of straightforward combat and problem-solving, ensuring that the RoboCop experience is not only preserved but also enhanced for an interactive medium. It stands as a tribute to the original movies and is a must-play for enthusiasts, even if it doesn’t quite manage to break new ground.

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