Robocop: Rogue City is low-budget and wonky in places, but the art direction will make you feel like you’re in the movies, and the gore-soaked shootouts offer a retro first-person shooter experience not to be missed.
Interesting skill section
Segments when the game apes immersive sims
Robocop is slow as hell
Bugs and rough edges mar the experience
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Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: November 2, 2023
It only takes the length of the pulse-pounding TV station shootout that kicks off first-person shooter Robocop: Rogue City for you to feel like ol’ chrome dome himself. Whether it’s the recognizable Auto-9 in your hand, the clunking gait, or just the fact your 9mm pistol is blowing off limbs with spurts of claret, it’s immediately apparent that this isn’t just another run-of-the-mill shooter, but a faithful adaptation of the Robocop universe.
Rogue City makes a hell of a first impression, and while it doesn’t deliver on its promises all of the time, it’s charming and full of ambition. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun, a combination of my own personal nostalgia and the fact that it’s a very solid shooter that constantly mixes up what you’re fighting against. There are, however, a lot of bugs here - I had to restart at a checkpoint several times because a gate wouldn’t open or a hidden enemy was blocking progression, and when that happened I was happy with the generous checkpointing. Elsewhere, some assets were in Polish and had not been translated, and at the start of one gunfight, I strafed left and dropped through the world.
These experiences showed off the game’s low-budget status, but they didn’t really hinder my enjoyment.
If you’ve never seen RoboCop, it’s a dystopian vision of the '80s but flung into the future. It’s 2043 in Detroit, Michigan, and capitalism has won. The police force is privatized and Robocop is a, er, robot cop. It’s a vision of 2043 where people still use VCRs and payphones, a terrible future where the criminals are all tremendously evil people and nuance is just a thing Robocop has crushed under his big metal feet on the way to gunning down another perpetrator.
The Robocop of the films immediately feels like a video game character already, with an unlimited ammo sidearm built into his leg, nigh-invulnerability, and a built-in targeting visor that highlights enemies and has a little heads-up display too. As a result, developers Teyon have merely leaned into this and given us a faithful rendition.
He’s the cop that can’t be stopped
In the original trilogy of films, it’s all a satire - although I try to forget the terrible Robocop 3 exists - and the game is clearly swinging for that same position. This is, ultimately, a story about corporate greed and the militarization of police that’s as relevant today as it was back in the late 80s. It doesn’t quite have the same bite of Verhoeven’s original movie, but it feels like a facsimile of this, and the branching storylines and skill-specific dialogue options remind me of Alpha Protocol, an unsung classic that I suspect will be joined in the cult status basket by Robocop: Rogue City.
This story is set between Robocop 2 and 3 and does a much better job of capping things off than the third movie, and it’s incredibly compelling. Welling returns to give his likeness and voice to the role of Robocop, a role he’s returned to for KFC commercials and an appearance in Mortal Kombat 11, but hasn’t been the lead in since 1990’s Robocop 2.
A shootout at an arms fair highlights everything Robocop: Rogue City is best at. The flimsy walls come apart under the heavy gunfire and explosives while you can get your hands on some of the meatiest weapons in the game, even hurling prototype missiles at your opponents. It’s an arena shooter moment in the best way.
When you’re not blasting baddies you’re digging into investigations and exploring a chunk of downtown Detroit in a hub world that you’ll revisit time and again. This is most involved the first time and has you solving murders, investigating an arcade, and issuing citations for crimes, with the choice often being a binary one of warning the criminal or fining them for their misdemeanor. This can be a little agonizing because the area is decently sized and Robocop moves slowly, but it’s almost like the game is bored of serving this up to you too because there are fewer and fewer of them each time you revisit the hub.
Combat feels pretty distinct in Robocop: Rogue City too. Part of this is down to your sluggish movement and the fact you feel like a tank, with even sustained small-arms fire being barely an inconvenience. Enemies will throw grenades at you or open up with heavy machine guns and sniper rifles to do damage, but generally in the early days, you’re free to move through combat in a fairly relaxed way, a predator amongst a pool of enemies that really can only hope to overwhelm you with numbers.
Later, you’ll fight more heavily armed gangs, corporate mercenaries, and even a variety of different robots, but the power curve is often just about right and you never feel outmatched, at worst it’s just harried by the enemies that have the sheer insolence to try and bring you down.
Of course, Robocop’s iconic Auto-9 is the star of the show. This would have happened regardless - the three-round burst is iconic and makes an absolute mess of enemies. But the game has a ridiculously convoluted upgrade system for the sidearm that means you can power it up and ensure it’s a high-quality weapon throughout. Elsewhere, every weapon from the Robocop series shows up for a little bit, whether it’s the Steyr Aug’s used by megacorp OCP, junky submachine guns, and even the iconic Cobra assault cannon, used in one memorable scene.
There’s an RPG-lite skill system that gives you percentage-based increases to different stats (the worst), which is a series of linear paths with unlocks given when you hit certain milestones. These are often very powerful: max out your armor and not only will you negate 50 percent of your damage, but all small arms fire will also ricochet off you, hitting nearby enemies. Max out your health and you’ll regenerate 75 percent of your health without needing healing items.
As you can see, I built my Robocop in the “being a tank” style, but I felt like the combat was already punchy enough. I also put a lot of points into scanning so I could ricochet bullets around corners to hit enemies - a cool idea that rarely works in the game as I just throw explosives at anyone silly enough to hide and most enemies just assault you regardless - and deduction which gave me a 30 percent experience point boost, which is incredibly useful but very boring to write about. It’s a lightweight system but like everything else in Robocop: Rogue City punches way above its weight class.
You can feel this particularly in how authentic the game feels. Whether it’s in how “Robocop” you feel as the leading man, the exhausting police griping in the station, or even just the way everyone in a suit is trying to ruin your day. It also looks the part, whether that’s the grainy scanlines when you hold right-click to enable Robocop-vision or just the haze coming off the streets. It’s also clearly made by fans, because there are a lot of fan-serving moments here, both in terms of some impressive boss fights but also in terms of beats of dialogue and even some of the areas you’ll throw down in.
At times, Rogue City feels like a five-star game. Flashes of brilliance that go above and beyond what I’d expect. Sadly, the lack of budget means that things feel unpolished and occasionally cheap. Again, it doesn’t hinder my enjoyment, but with a little extra polish, this could have been an all-timer, instead of a faithful adaptation of the franchise.
Still, perhaps that’s fitting. The game here feels like Robocop himself, a shiny exterior sitting on top of a mechanically sound but clunky chassis, backed up with a human side that elevates the mechanical.
There’s no dedicated accessibility menu here and the offering is fairly weak. Subtitles can be turned on and off and there are options to lessen screen shake, but that’s about your lot. There’s also a toggle to reduce how loud Robocop’s footsteps are, which may not seem useful now but is likely to feel incredibly worthwhile after playing the game for ten hours.
How we reviewed Robocop: Rogue City
I played Robocop: Rogue City for 13 hours on PC, finishing the main campaign, every quest, and only missing out one secret area - I have 25 of 27 achievements for the game so I feel like I’ve seen pretty much all of it.
There’s no New Game+ mode or anything of the sort, so it feels very much like a one-and-done game.
Jake Tucker is the editor in chief of TechRadar Gaming and has worked at sites like NME, MCV, Trusted Reviews and many more. He collects vinyl, likes first-person shooters and turn-based tactics titles, but hates writing bios. Jake currently lives in London, and is bouncing around the city trying to eat at all of the nice restaurants.