I both tolerate and desire to castrate the Oxford heavyweights due to their strong focus on pushing out shovelware like it’s crunch time at the Wii Third Party Party. Given their internalized immortality due to the success of Sniper Elite, I see it’s only fair for them to release “classics” like Shellshock 2, Rogue Warrior, NeverDead and the undoubtedly perfect cut of PDC Darts: World Tour. Here’s Rogue Trooper REDUX to try and escape the stain.
Rogue Trooper was originally a title released in 2006 for the PS2 and original Xbox, and considering the new-found babies of the 360 and the PS3 around that time, it’s clear that the original wasn’t going to get any airtime. Since it’s release, it has received modest reviews, and most people have regarded it as a cult classic. Well, when I say “most people”, I actually mean “my one friend who was jumping all over the bloody ceiling in anticipation for this remaster”.
Now, given the fact that this is an adaptation of a 2000AD comic, the story is clearly based on grimy sci-fi tropes, and there’s an underlying sense of macho-man “‘MURICA! FUCK YEAH!” throughout the entire story. You play as a blue action man called Rogue, who has been genetically bred to survive the harsh conditions on Nu-Earth, a planet caught between a war and a hard place, said hard place being a black hole. After your entire squad gets murdered due to a mole in Rogue’s ranks, you go rogue (SYMBOLISM!) in order to find the mole and win the war for this grotesque and now useless planet.
Part of me feels like I shouldn’t do this because of the type of game we’re playing today, but I have severe issues with the story right from the get-go. For one, it’s stated that Nu-Earth has been ravaged by both chemical and nuclear warfare, rendering the planet practically inhospitable unless you wear some form of oxygen tank. If that’s the case, why should I care about who wins the planetary equivalent of an episode of Rick & Morty?
Another small hole in the plan is the characterization of Rogue himself. I get adding personalities in order to verify differences between the soldiers, and finding out whichever one killed a million-ty billion-ty enemies that Friday. However, they’re all bred the same, and there’s no real difference combat-wise, and the only nominee for a character arc for me is Venus, the female genetically bred token badass sniper chick. At least then, you could comment on the sexist treatment of female ranks within armies a la G.I. Jane, but no, she’s just another stereotype added to the pile.
Maybe I should comment on the remastering quality itself, and how it seems like a simple upscale. Textures and characters have been polished slightly, and now the Rogue Troopers look like you’ve painted your Action Man figures with a pearlescent blue. Added to the polishing is the handicapping of the cover mechanics, which means that trying to make combat a tactical affair is like trying to juggle chainsaws on a rodeo bull. Invisible walls are everywhere and they always seem to notify you of your existence when you try and safely throw a grenade over cover, only for it to bounce back and turn you into a blueberry muffin.
Okay, fine, I’ll comment on the gameplay now: it’s serviceable. It’s your typical third-person shooter affair, but crippled by the fact it was originally developed by Rebellion. In fact, after playing it, I can almost confirm that both Rogue Trooper and Rogue Warrior, Rebellion’s 2009 adaptation of Dick Marcinko’s adventures, are the same game. They both last around the same time (your first playthrough will clock in at around 6 hours), the contextual mechanics work the same way, and both have an utter hatred for the player.
In Rogue Warrior, it made sense for it to be a stealth-oriented adventure when the game called for it, because you were stabbing your way through Russian enemy lines, and no matter how hard Mickey Rourke was in Sin City he’s not the same in Warrior. In Rouge Trooper, though, when the game implies that you try and go stealthy throughout the battleground, you have to triple-take and make sure the game wasn’t taking the piss. I don’t even need to tell you why it’s stupid unless you’re colour-blind, in which case: blue doesn’t blend well into the world unless you’re infiltrating a live action adaptation of Derek Jarman’s Blue.
Regardless, Rogue Trooper is definitely a lot more focused than the absolute mess that is Warrior, although that’s like comparing Fallout: New Vegas to 3. Trooper paces itself with a confident flair, and the missions, despite being a muddled mess, manage to keep a consistent grove which keeps the stakes high at all times.
While the stakes are kept to this mile-high point, it suffers slightly from some fantastically stupid A.I. Looking back, it reminds me of the brain-dead Russian military of Rouge Warrior, the brain-dead Xenomorphs from AvP, and the brain-dead, uhh… brain-dead zombies from Shellshock 2. Enemies will constantly kill themselves with grenades, ignore that you just attempted to blow their brains out on the the pavement, and will take about eight years to notice this macho Smurf aiming his sights on their forehead.
The muddled mess comment comes from the fact that Rebellion fancy themselves as a jack of all trades, master of all. I’ve already mentioned the pants-on-head stupidity of the stealth aspects, but it’s also the turret sections which deserve particular mention. Mainly because Rebellion hearing the words “powerful genetic infantry” meant that they place you up against unfathomable odds which not even God himself could survive.
When you’re stuck to these turret in order to defend a normal squadron, train, or a hovercraft thing, you’re met with an entire army who act like you stole the last serving of Cheerios at their barracks and begin to nuke you. Meanwhile, not only do you have to defend yourself from air forces, you also have to watch out for ground troops spamming your ass with mortars and Sammy missiles like nobody’s business.
The worst of all of this culminates with an archaic and bafflingly stupid boss battle against the mole in your ranks, where said mole decides to unleash the entire army upon you again, but this time you aren’t on a sanctioned turret. What follows is a rigmarole of quick-loading and a smorgasbord of frustration, considering you have one of every soldier type and vehicle after you. It would probably seem a bit easier if it wasn’t for this fucking awful controls as well.
Even though I’ve only just mentioned them, the controls for Rogue Trooper are some of the worst I’ve come across for a shooter… ever, and it stuns me how Rebellion thought the choices made were acceptable. For one, you can’t reload manually. I’m serious, you have to wait for your bag to do it for you, and in that time, if you move, change cover or attempt to do anything but lie there and take gunfire, you can’t reload.
Another strange idea was to make the weapon switching as stupid and unresponsive as a comatose Forrest Gump. Switching to one of your many secondary weapons is an adventure in and of itself, where the game seems to ask you whether you’re sure you want to use the Sammy launcher to take out the massive aircraft looking to turn you into blue waffles, and even then, it won’t pick the weapon you want. When it does? Rogue seems to take the scenic route of switching weapons, turning it into a movement of emotional feel, which further delays getting out of the goddamn way.
Backed by this is another mechanic I’ve only just remembered to mention, and that’s the existence of salvage. Salvage is used to create ammo and upgrades for your weapons’ many, many, many capabilities, and I’ve only just mentioned it because up until now, it wasn’t much of an issue. But now, in-between fighting the hordes of a thinly-veiled Russian militia, I also have to loot their bodies and scrap piles, in the middle of firefights.
This final boss battle is where everything breaks down. I can tell that there was no other way for the game to go, it was slowly building up this monument of stupidity, but oh my word. There’s upping the ante, and then there’s turning the game into such a Clustertru- I mean, fuck of issues that ruin all enjoyment given up until that point. And it has three parts? Oh sweet merciful Neptune…
After a while, you get to the final part of the boss battle, amidst a flurry of deaths and teeth-grinding anger. Finally, you’ve done it. You’re able to get the shot off. End this game and cleanse the 20gb that this game infected. You break the last barrier and… the game spawns two turrets that shred your Action Man to pieces and you have to do that final section all over again. Hahaaaaaaaaaaaa, fuck off.
Does it end on a satisfying note? I don’t know, and I don’t care. What begins as a momentous romp through wastelands, ends as a muddy and miserably designed testament to how cynical Rebellion comes across in terms of developing a game that isn’t fucking Sniper Elite. Rogue Trooper is only decent when you finish it halfway, because you know for a fact that these stakes are not going to be worth the rage throughout.
Beneath the stunning stupidity of the AI, the stunning stupidity of the controls, and the stunning stupidity that irradiates Rebellion’s work, I end it with the same comment I always do when finishing up with their stuff. There’s something happening, and I like what’s happening on screen as it develops, and if it was given to better developers, I’d probably love the end result. As it stands though? Tedium.
However, I don’t really want to put all of my blame on Rebellion, even though I’d love to. Rebellion’s approach to Rogue Trooper is but one piece of the puzzle, and for the rest of the pieces, you only need to look at what was happening in the foreground, and by that, I mean the gaming industry shift from one generation to the next. It’s only a theory but follow this beat and tell me what you think.
It’s 2004/2005. The Xbox 360 promotes and eventually comes out with Gears of War. An arcane and depressing romp through a world drenched by a toilet, that’s both ultra-violent and muted in its restraint. A title equal to taking a bowel movement, and splitting it into 12 parts because you believe the audience can’t handle a rush. With the mainstream acclaim, other companies took notice and began to see if what Epic and Microsoft did could work for them. And thus began the Age of Brownish-Grey for the next 3-5 years.
Prey. Ghost Recon. Resistance: Fall of Man, The Darkness, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Quake Wars, TimeShift, Far Cry, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Velvet Assassin, Turning Point, MorphX, Unreal Tournament. All of these titles personified this movement with their drab tiling and depressing aesthetic, with only a few escaping the curse, and the rest wallowing in negative memory. And beneath all of the shit and piss? Rogue Trooper. Another title with promise but followed a movement designed to work against it.
As it stands, Rogue Trooper has the chutzpah to stand out, given its 2000AD pedigree, but doesn’t have the competence to follow-through with a resounding swagger. It’s a product and victim of its time, respectively, and it’s a shame to see it die such a dull death. My final thoughts? CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE A JUDGE DREDD ADAPTATION, I’M BEGGING YOU, I’LL FUND IT MYSELF, I JUST WANT TO SEE JUDGE DREDD RIDE HIGH AGAIN, COME ON, THE MOVIE WAS GREAT, PLEASE JUST MAK-
A mostly well-done remaster of a game that failed to turn heads in 2006. History repeats itself.