Preview: force is the prime directive in RoboCop: Rogue City

Polish developers Teyon are looking to break a sad cycle with RoboCop: Rogue City. The original 1987 film is one of the definitive classics of its decade, but has been followed by a long succession of dubious sequels, TV series, comics, and games. If anyone can buck the trend, it is probably Teyon – after all, they won praise for doing a similar classic franchise some justice with 2019’s Terminator: Resistance. Another success here would follow hot on the heels of the excellent Aliens: Dark Descent.

The first major RoboCop FPS for 20 years, Rogue City is set after RoboCop 2 but before RoboCop 3. The demo sees Robo and Officer Lewis on the trail of an enigmatic villain known only as the “new guy in town”. His promise to inject a ton of cash into Old Detroit’s criminal underworld provokes the city’s gangs to try to catch his eye. First of all, that leads to a hostage situation at the HQ of the local news network.

The player is confronted with a blazing shootout as soon as Robo enters the lobby, set to Basil Poledouris’ classic title theme. Teyon are clear devotees of the films – the brutal ultraviolence of the combat recalls the drug lab battle in the original RoboCop. Robo can use his gridlike enhanced vision to identify foes, and blast them apart with a faithfully recreated Auto-9 pistol. Headshots, in particular, are almost alarmingly satisfying. 

The developers gave great thought to RoboCop’s movement speed and they have got the balance just right. Detroit’s finest is much slower than most FPS protagonists, but moves with the correct feeling of power and momentum. In place of a sprint, there is a very modest jog which would likely look bizarre on film but feels fine in first-person. The ability to pick up and throw thugs around also reinforces the sense of being a near-indestructible cyborg.

RoboCop: Rogue City
The Auto-9 is the devastating core of Robo’s arsenal.

The demo leaves a number of questions that only the full version of RoboCop: Rogue City will answer. Teyon have lovingly recreated the police station from the films, and added interstitial dialogues and optional busywork between the mayhem. Whether these will remain interesting for any length of time remains to be seen. The developers have also sought to capture the acidic satire of the films, and on the basis of the preview the results are mixed. 

Other aspects of the gameplay also raise questions. Hopefully, Teyon will have found ways to genuinely threaten RoboCop – in these levels, he appears all but unstoppable. The infinite-ammo Auto-9 is also so formidable – even without upgrades – that the other available weapons serve mainly as novelties. 

Despite the presence of only one returning cast member from the films – Peter Weller – RoboCop: Rogue City looks set to tell a fairly interesting new story. In particular, some intrusive memories from Robo’s previous life as Alex Murphy have strong potential. This was a dramatic aspect that even the films did not exploit fully, and so could be a rich vein for the studio to mine here. In any case, on this evidence RoboCop: Rogue City need only deliver more bloodthirsty RoboCop action to at least be worth a look.

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