The Steam Next Fest demo for RoboCop: Rogue City starts as all good RoboCop things should: with a television broadcast. A bored newsreader rounds out the day's horrific stories before getting to the most important part: there’s a new villain in town, described by the press and everyone in this demo only as “new guy.”
Barely has he yawned his way through the day’s news before an armed gang takes over the studio and RoboCop is unleashed on the scene to take part in some double-A warfare.
I wasn’t expecting much, but RoboCop: Rogue City is a lot of fun, and most of it comes from leaning into how video-gamey RoboCop actually is: he’s an armored cop that can shrug off most small caliber firearms and has a machine pistol with unlimited ammunition stashed in his thigh. He’s the perfect candidate to star in his own mid-range first-person shooter.
It gets better. The satirical world presented by Paul Verhoeven is a staunch critique of capitalism and excess. Mega corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) literally owns the police force, giving them military hardware and no training, contributing to a war on the streets that the cops are losing. Every bad guy is a drug addict, and they’re all so comically villainous by their exposure to these drugs that you don’t have to feel bad about shooting them. They’re just dirtbags.
Weaponry at your disposal
RoboCop has clunked around in the movies like he’s the star of forgotten PlayStation 1 stinker Lone Soldier, so it’s an improvement when Rogue City hands you the controls and he stomps into battle like a mech, screen awash with HUD elements. Every weapon, from the unlimited-ammo Auto-9 that’s your dependable sidearm all the way through the submachine guns, assault rifles and even heavy machine guns that I got to tote during the demo, felt satisfying, blowing limbs off of enemies and quipping, all the while.
A large part of RoboCop was how desensitized to violence society had become - the movie itself amped up the violence to show this. In a world where most gamers are dipping into the latest Call of Duty every year and coming face to face with atrocities and brutal murder, Rogue City has somehow managed to preserve the shock factor by just being incredibly silly with it. A burst from your handgun will tear off a leg, and after several fights, it’s not uncommon to wade through the discarded bullet casings and gore to see someone completely stripped of their limbs, or bleeding from a gaping wound where their head used to be.
The path to success
Honestly, though, I don’t play shooters for the satire, and what’s here to play is incredibly satisfying. This isn’t the sort of game you experience by aiming down your sight, and I often charge left and right, squeezing shots off from the hip as I move between rooms. A favorite move of mine is to get close and then grab a criminal before throwing them directly into the roof above me, which often leads to them dying instantly. During my assault on the television studio, I was able to throw these baddies out of the floor-to-ceiling windows instead, but really I was destination-agnostic as long as I could hurl the bad guys to their doom.
There’s a skill system here that I didn’t spend too much time with, but there are some pleasing late-game abilities waiting to be unlocked: I’m particularly excited about playing the full version so I can level my armor to full, which will apparently make small arms fire bounce off my shiny carapace and hit people around me. I’ll also be able to unlock the ability to… crack safes. Which will probably be quite bountiful in rewarding resources, but doesn’t feel quite so cool.
Generally, I think RoboCop: Rogue City could be a winner. It’s palatable carnage, wry humor, a smudge of gore, and a recognizable license all wrapped up into an FPS. This demo has done the perfect job of getting me excited for the game’s full release.
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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.