The original RoboCop movie was a ton of fun, containing lots of subtle Easter eggs, inside jokes, an irreverent sense of humor and about as much 1980’s fashion and sensibilities as could be packed onto the big screen. Its subsequent movie sequels were not nearly as good, but the original film was really something special. For whatever reason, although he has appeared in a few titles over the years, RoboCop has not made a huge splash into video games despite being kind of custom made for that type of transition. Now, developer Teyon has rectified that, with a combination shooter and light RPG that is about as big and ambitious as the original film.
The new RoboCop: Rogue City game takes place in Old Detroit and is technically set between the second and third films in the franchise, although it looks and plays very much like the first movie. Peter Weller, the star of the movies, reprises his role as RoboCop and is truly amazing once more in the video game with his mastery of that character’s deadpan comedy delivery. RoboCop: Rogue City gives him plenty of screentime and often lets players select the appropriate level of snark that they want him to use in any given situation, which quickly became one of my favorite parts of the game. I was also hoping that Nancy Allen, another of the RoboCop movies’ original actors, would be the voice actor for RoboCop’s partner, Officer Anne Lewis. She wasn’t, but veteran actor Kosha Engler from The Wire and many other shows does a great job as his understanding and sympathetic partner. All in all, Rogue City has quite a talented and impressive cast of voice actors that really help to make the adventure memorable.
The original movie looked pretty amazing at the time it was released, and Rogue City follows that tradition by making one of the best-looking game worlds to come out in a long time. Everything is impressively rendered using the Unreal Engine 5. It’s almost unbelievable how good some of the levels look. Back when the Unreal Engine 5 demo first came out, it let players wander around a realistic city following its Matrix shootout scene. That was great, but I was really hoping that we could do more than just wander around an empty urban environment. RoboCop: Rogue City does that where every level looks amazing – and is packed with content and things to do. There have been other good titles like Fort Solis that fully used Unreal Engine 5, but they were mostly walking type simulations, whereas with RoboCop, the graphics are much more incorporated into a living world where the player has a lot of freedom. So, the world of Rogue City is much more than just a pretty backdrop.
In fact, there are two main gameplay elements in Rogue City. First, there are semi-open world levels where players can wander around quite a few blocks of the city and do things like perform investigations, talk with citizens, discover and deal with minor crimes and even write parking tickets. You will also have main objectives to complete on those semi-open world maps, but also a ton of alternate and side missions, some of which end up being a lot more fun. The second type of gameplay in Rogue City is the linear, combat-oriented levels. On those, RoboCop is mostly walking along a linear path fighting an army of enemies. But even then, many of the levels are quite huge, with side paths and stairs that go up and down to hidden or out of the way locations. In that way, even the linear maps have a degree of freedom, but the semi-open world sections are where the title really shines.
There are also quite a few RPG-like elements built into Rogue City that make it a lot more varied in terms of gameplay compared with a traditional shooter. For example, Rogue City keeps track of your choices when interacting with citizens. You need to enforce the law, but also sometimes have an option to show some compassion, like not giving an old guy a ticket for tossing old fish from his dinner into the river or giving a car thief the chance to repent and apologize to their victim. Your choices will influence how the public sees RoboCop, which will ultimately affect which ending (there are three) that you earn.
You also level up RoboCop using experience you earn by completing both main and side missions, or through collecting various contraband like drugs, stolen property or miscellaneous evidence hidden all over in every level. There are quite a few of RoboCop’s aspects that can be improved, like giving him more weapon damage, better armor, more health, the ability to scan for relevant objects at greater distances, safecracking skills or more charisma for talking with citizens or interrogating suspects. Each ability that you can improve consists of ten steps, so there is a lot to work on. Also, at steps two, five and ten (meaning that is how many points you need to spend to earn them), you are awarded a powerful special ability like a shield that negates damage for a few seconds or the ability to go into bullet-time and slow things down during firefights. That provides players with a lot of leeway in how they want to play their favorite cyborg cop.
And those who love the movie know that RoboCop’s signature weapon, his Auto 9 pistol, is almost as big a star as he is. This is represented in Rogue City because after the first couple missions, players gain the ability to level up their weapon using microchips. Unlike with RoboCop’s leveling up process, improving the Auto 9 is done like a puzzle where players need to slot different microchips into circuit boards to obtain various bonuses like more damage, automatic fire, faster reloads and other advantages. You do that by unlocking paths on the circuit boards you find, but you need to be careful because unlocking some paths result in your gun actually becoming weaker, so you need to build paths around trouble spots as much as possible. Also, the chips themselves influence the amount of advantage that you get from slotting them, and they too can be leveled up when combined. Because of all that, the gun upgrading is quite an interesting experience that can act as a puzzle-like break from all the action and combat.
There are over 55 missions in RoboCop: Rogue City, including all the main ones and the side missions. Some of them aren’t very long, like working the main desk at the police station and fielding citizen complaints, although sometimes those are really funny and certainly worth playing. All told, if you do everything and explore everywhere, there is about 25 hours of gameplay, maybe more if you really commit to exploring every nook and cranny. When Rogue City was over, I actually found myself wishing that there was a little more – a sure sign of a great title. The developers recently added a New Game Plus mode if players want to go through Old Detroit again with the option to ramp up the difficulty on the second playthrough.
RoboCop: Rogue City is a beautiful-looking game, and one of the first titles to really show off what kinds of things can be created using the Unreal Engine 5. But beyond that, it presents players with a unique, dystopian future world first made popular with the RoboCop movie, while also capturing that same sense of humor. RoboCop: Rogue City is a solid shooter in its own right and on its own merits, but it really takes things to the next level by tapping into the movie’s unique setting and world. RoboCop himself is also a really interesting character, and having Peter Weller back in that role is just the perfect final perk for this amazing adventure.