RoboCop hasn’t had the most striking presence in the gaming space. He was most recently in Mortal Kombat 11 as a DLC fighter, but he hasn’t been in a full traditional video game since the 2003 multiplatform shooter developed by Titus Interactive, the studio behind the infamous Superman game on the Nintendo 64. Teyon is coming in two decades later with RoboCop: Rogue City, a promising attempt that’s simultaneously trying to redeem the franchise in the video game medium and provide a more thorough look at the character.
Shooting is one part of RoboCop’s noticeable skills, and that’s clearly the easiest part to translate to a video game. Gunplay is somewhat standard, as RoboCop can shoot thugs with his Auto 9 or pick up another weapon lying around. Environments are wonderfully interactive, though, since various chunks of the level and bits of debris will break apart or explode dramatically when shot at. This window dressing adds to the chaos and makes the firefights more lively, while also conveying the over-the-top nature from the films.
Rogue City does buck a few trends, and that’s how it stands out. Whereas most shooters have gotten faster and almost mandated the use of grappling hooks, RoboCop is a tank that methodically stomps around the battlefield. It’s a little jarring at first since it’s so outside of what most other shooters do and while the gunplay is loud and violent — goons get dismembered rather easily — it remains to be seen if this accurate portrayal will hold the game back. This also applies to tossing around spiky-haired punks as if they were stuffed animals, as it is thrilling to see a giant blood splat on the wall, but getting in close enough to clutch these criminals isn’t always the easiest or fastest thing to do.
But Teyon has given RoboCop some upgrades through his multifaceted skill tree. It touches on many different aspects and even grants him a dash that adds some much-needed mobility. Finding that sweet spot of being true to the lore and fantasy of RoboCop while also making a mechanically solid shooter was a challenge for Teyon according to game director Piotr Latocha. He explained how the studio thought it was “really important” to make players feel like they were an “indestructible tank” while still having “dynamic, fast-moving action.”
“We added a lot of things that RoboCop actually does, like grabbing enemies and throwing them at each other, picking up and throwing heavy things, breaching walls, and such,” said Latocha. “So you are a bit slower, but you can do other cool things that a heavy tank can do. But also once you upgrade your character, we added some things that were not in the films, like the dash, so we had some opportunities to get that more than dynamic movement.”
It would be pretty typical if a Rogue City was just about blasting dirtbags, but it is much more than that. RoboCop is also, unsurprisingly, a cop, and that’s represented in the gameplay, as well. The police station is lovingly realized and full of all sorts of hallways to explore, conversations to overhear, and tiny tasks to help out with. Players can also roam around the hub-like area that’s comparable in size to the hubs in Eidos-Montréal’s Deus Ex games. These open areas are filled with opportunities to solve petty crimes, issue tickets, and generally patrol the grimy, dimly lit streets.
Since RoboCop isn’t a standard real-world cop where a small infraction can be a death sentence, these brief quests and activities delve into the game’s RPG side. Players can pick certain dialogue options in order to reach a conclusion and look for clues (which can also influence the dialogue), both of which are different yet engaging ways to interact with RoboCop’s dirty world that don’t involve shooting. Each action either serves the public trust or upholds the law and this push and pull will open up different endings that “play out kind of like the Fallout games,” according to Latocha. It’s an interesting angle to add to a RoboCop game, and these segments change up the pacing while also staying true to the character, so hopefully these decisions stay important throughout the whole campaign. Latocha spoke about how the studio wanted to add this because it is great to give players choices, and this variety is what he’s most proud of.
“There’s a lot of different things to do,” said Latocha. “And I am most proud of how the game is much more than just shooting. We have some crimes to solve, different small side quests, some random encounters, and dialogue options. It was pretty important to us to have something more than just shooting.
“We wanted players to feel like they stepped into the shoes of RoboCop and just be in the city that was represented in the movies. If you see RoboCop, it wasn’t only about shooting. This was important. It was very brutal, of course, and I think we’ve covered a lot of that, but we wanted to have some more types of things to do and also a lot of humor, as well.”
RoboCop’s satirical bent is seemingly still here alongside the stunning violence through the silly commercials that play on the radio and the goofy nature of some of the NPCs. There are some appropriately funny moments in the first few hours, which is an encouraging sign since humor, as Latocha stated, is a crucial part of RoboCop. He said that the team, as is often the case when developers make these types of licensed games, watched the movies over and over again to get the mood right. It’s a high bar, and one some RoboCop media has failed at, but Rogue City appears like it is on the right track.
RoboCop: Rogue City has some rough spots, which has been the case with other Teyon games. Some of the animation is a little rudimentary and its shooting might not be the most polished in the genre, but, judging by the first few hours, it looks and feels like a RoboCop game should, and Teyon has a few more months to possibly clean up these small issues. Peter Weller’s iconic likeness and authoritative voice are only one part of the equation since there are other details that give this game more authenticity. The grim lighting, clashing tones, excessively dirty streets, and more all seem like decent adaptations of the source material. If it manages to faithfully obey these prime directives, it’ll be good for both RoboCop and story-based first-person shooters, as both have seen better times.