RoboCop: Rogue City takes a familiar formula -- cop shoots baddies while looking for clues -- and raises it to new heights by staying absolutely true to its franchise roots. We've covered other great shooter/detective games, like Shadows of Doubt, Disco Elysium, and even the brand new Alan Wake 2. Now it's time to take a trip to Old Detroit in our RoboCop: Rogue City review.
When the original RoboCop first hit movie theaters in 1987, it was clear that this wasn't your ordinary sci-fi action thriller. Dripping with social satire, it was a chance for director Paul Verhoeven (and writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner) to take aim at the brutality and corporate greed of Reagan-era America.
Set within the world and timeline of the RoboCop film series, RoboCop: Rogue City seeks to capture that same tone, blending dark humor with a vision of what I would call "1980s America pushed to its logical limits." Most impressively, they brought the original RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, on board to do all of Robo's voice acting in the game. But tone aside, how does RoboCop: Rogue City actually play?
Walk, Don't Run, To A Game Store Near You
One of the aspects of RoboCop: Rogue City the developers, Teyon, were clear to call attention to throughout the development of this game was RoboCop's speed. He's slow, he plods along; this is not the kind of guy who can sprint. If Teyon was anxious to get out in front of RoboCop's movement speed for fear of complaint from a duck-and-cover-loving audience, that fear is misplaced.
In my opinion, RoboCop's movement is what makes this game feel unlike any other FPS titles I've played in a long time. There's cover you can walk behind (there's no option to hide behind cover, and you can't duck), but you're slower than your enemies who will often pivot to get at your bad angles. And there's a "sprint" but it ain't fast. However that sprint is, in my opinion, the perfect speed. Fast enough to keep traversal interesting, but slow enough to remain faithful to the spirit of RoboCop.
So, because RoboCop can't run, there has to be a tradeoff, right? Correct: He can take some serious incoming fire. Like a walking tank of justice, you move from area to area, attempting to blast your enemies away before their combined force of fire whittles down your generous health pool. In this way, at times it can feel almost like an old-school arcade rail shooter light-gun game. Am I playing House of the Dead here? Or Time Crisis?
Speaking Of Shooting...
The bulk of the action in RoboCop: Rogue City comes from extended firefights that you'll enter into throughout the game. From Nuke junkies with mohawks and SMGs to a biker gang with a bad attitude who shoot you from their bikes (rude), to expert private military contractors, and beyond (but I won't spoil that), it seems like everyone's out to plink a bullet off your chrome dome.
The shooting in RoboCop: Rogue City is fun, fast, and visceral (there's a lot of gore), but it's not necessarily reinventing the genre. As I gushed about above, the best part about the way combat works in this game is the forced slower pace. There's something fun about standing your ground as bullets fly at you from all directions.
One really clever aspect of the game is the way you upgrade your sidearm. Your Auto-9 starts of as a relatively weak gun, but it has unlimited ammo, and you can only ever hold your Auto-9 and one additional gun you pick up from slain enemies. So you tend to rely on it quite a bit. As you progress, you'll find new motherboards you can slot in, and there's a fun puzzle aspect to upgrading the gun.
By the time I'd gotten my Auto-9 upgraded to a pretty satisfactory level, I preferred it over almost any other weapon I could find in the game. Add to that the fact that the Auto-9 feels amazing to fire, while some of the other weapons can feel clunky (especially the ones that rely on a zoom, which messes up your "RoboVision" that you need to look for clues), and the Auto-9 becomes a no-brainer.
Speaking Of Brains...
So, movement and shooting aside, you've also really got to use your RoboBrain in this game. This was a fun surprise for me when I first started my patrol of Detroit. It's not just a classic FPS where you're running from gunfight to gunfight. You also have to be a true police officer, helping citizens and your fellow officers solve problems large and small.
To do this, you'll survey areas -- most of the game is broken up into different smaller locales you can explore (it's not exactly open world, but it is fairly open in each locale). When you're in a given locale, you'll be called upon to help with various side quests. Leave the area to continue the main story, and you'll abandon any quests you didn't finish.
From there, you'll track down leads and try to uncover evidence in all sorts of cases. From finding the right motorcycle license plate number to surveying the scene of a crime for bloody footprints you can follow, to helping your drug-addicted "friend" find a VHS tape he can't remember the name of in a video store, you never know where your investigations will take you.
I absolutely love the way solving crimes and mysteries work in this game. Even though you push a button to enter RoboVision, which scans the area for clues, this does not feel like your typical, boring "Detective Vision" game mechanic. I still found myself scouring areas of interest, trying to locate that one piece of evidence I'm missing that would help me bust this case wide open.
There's also a lot of incredible dialogue in this game. As mentioned at the top, Peter Weller reprised his role as the voice of RoboCop in this game, and the level of humor and expertise he brings to the role is unparalleled. The story, though so full of fun twists and callbacks I dare not spoil much, harkens back to key characters and moments of the original trilogy.
Throughout, you'll find yourself making friends and enemies, choosing which mayoral candidate to back in the upcoming election, and speak frequently with a therapist about whether or not you're truly a human being.
You can play the hardline, Lawful Good, "Rules Are Rules" cop who doesn't see in shades of gray, or you can be a kind of RoboCop who lets things slide for the greater good.
Tiny Bugs in the Mainframe
Performance-wise, RoboCop: Rogue City generally ran really well for me on the PlayStation 5. During times of extreme chaos, I did notice a framerate drop, but things really have to be going sideways for RoboCop to have enough bedlam on screen to really clock anything egregious.
The other minor issue I had was with how the game saves. You can't just save the game whenever you want. Instead, RoboCop: Rogue City autosaves the game in between checkmarks, but I didn't notice any symbol to indicate that the game was saving. So if I needed to return to the title screen, I had to make a guess as to where my last checkmark was. Normally it's right where you'd expect it to be, but (especially when you're in the precinct) it can be hard to predict.
I would have loved the option to save whenever I wanted, and the inability to do so feels a little dated in an otherwise fairly modern-feeling game.
Other than that, I only really noticed a few random instances of the classic "dead enemy spinning in circles" kind of glitch, and once I was looking through a scope before the game went into a cutscene, and when I came out of the cutscene I was stuck in scope view. These are minor quibbles that didn't truly impact my gameplay, but worth pointing out that, polished as it is, there were still a few little hiccups.
RoboCop: Rogue City Review - Final Thoughts
RoboCop: Rogue City is a game that truly delivers on its promise to be a lovingly crafted new addition to the RoboCop franchise. With storytelling as sharp and witty as some of the best moments in the film series, it's a huge success in my book.
Because there are some slight technical issues, and because the shooting here is very strong but not surprising or innovative, RoboCop: Rogue City really needed to land the plane on its investigative elements, roleplay options, and overall look and feel. It did all that and more, surprising me at almost every turn.
RoboCop: Rogue City was reviewed on PS5 with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 16 hours of gameplay (with a primary focus on main story quests). All screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Completely nails the tone, feel, satire, and humor of the original films
- Detective gameplay is thoughtful, surprising, and thorough
- RoboCop's slower walking speed actually gives this game a truly unique and fun pace
- Inability to save on demand feels dated
- Shooter mechanics are solid but not innovative
- Slight framerate drops when the action boils over into full chaos