Creating a game based on Detroit City’s crime fighting cyborg is no easy task. An awful lot could potentially go wrong, from the way RoboCop is presented – including his calculated movements and his hardcoded behavioural traits – to the satirical slant of the movie trilogy being somehow lost or misunderstood. Even the setting could fall fowl of a lack of care and attention; crime ridden Detroit City has its own personality with its rows of boarded shops and litter strewn alleyways. Moreover, it’s a powder keg waiting to ignite. All it takes is an extra special loon with a petrol bomb.
Rogue City’s dramatic opening sparks a chain of events, starting with a gang of lowlife punks taking over the local TV studio, sending the streets into chaos. No time is wasted waiting for backup, with RoboCop tackling the situation head on with only radio support. The good news is that it’s instantly apparent Polish developer Teyon – responsible for the reasonable Terminator: Resistance and the disastrous Rambo: The Video Game – has a deep understanding and appreciation of both RoboCop himself and what made the original movie (and its sequel, to an extent) a cult classic.
Robo isn’t your typical action hero; he doesn’t perform combat rolls, lob grenades, jump, or crawl. He is slow and tank-like, firing rounds with maximum efficiency by targeting and exploiting weak points, and able to withstand several hits. Neither does he carry a squad’s worth of weapons, limited to just two – one of which is the trusty Auto 9. Enemy’s heads explode like melons, with the sheer force of this hand cannon packing a wallop. The same is true for Robo himself, able to grab enemies and throw them with force or strike with a swift blow. This makes for a lot of fun and messy gunfights, especially once perks are unlocked. The ability to ricochet bullets unlocks early on, allowing for one hit kills, while a shield becomes invaluable during the gung-ho final hours.
The Auto 9 can be upgraded too, and the method of doing so is surprisingly engaging, taking the form of circuit boards with components to place appropriately to maximise stats. If you start to find combat brutal, a tinker is likely overdue.
The focus on slow, metal boots on the ground, combat does give Rogue City a slightly old-skool feel. It’s as if it comes from a time before Titanfall and Apex Legends introduced fast-paced, kinetic, movement to the genre. Thankfully, there are other areas that feel far more modern, helping the package as a whole stand alongside its first-person shooting peers. Rather than merely presenting a list of linear locations to blitz through, the action is spread across several bite-sized chunks that last 1-2 hours each. These usually begin with downtime at the police station where they might be a sub-quest or two (one humorous mission sees Robo manning the front desk, dealing with Detroit’s great unwashed) along with leads for a potential secondary quest when out on the streets.
The target range, meanwhile, proves to be more than just a distraction; it’s possible to see the incremental advancements made throughout, with new high scores frequently reached.
Once on patrol, you’re able to freely explore the streets, more or less living a day in Robo’s life. You’ll get to hand out parking tickets and help the downtrodden citizens before engaging in the main quest, which sees the action relocate to a new location – a mixture of grimy steel mills, warehouses, tower blocks, sewer systems, and so forth. The sub-quests are well worth undertaking, set in some lively locations – including a video rental store and an arcade. There are plenty of familiar sights from the movie trilogy to take in, including obligatory references to TJ Lazer and Magnavolt. And yes, the theme tune is present. It’s employed to good effect, used sparingly.
Rogue City mixes up the shooting action often, introducing new enemy types – including gang members on motorbikes, which you can grab by the neck as they ride past – and taking Robo into both cramped indoor and expansive outdoor locations. Impromptu challenges provide friendly competition, with one HQ assault comparing battle efficiency with ED209. Upon returning to base, Robo’s performance for that shift is evaluated and graded – and often you’ll notice sub-quests that were overlooked by failing to explore locations fully.
Familiar faces appear throughout, with Anne Lewis, Sergeant Warren Reed, and “The Old Man” all deeply woven into the storyline. They appear alongside new characters, including a young black recruit Robo takes under their wing, crooked OCP employee Max Becker, a shady but helpful Nuke addict known as Pickles, and a news reporter often found snooping. The story allows you influence most of the characters just mentioned, right down to a political battle between rivalling mayors. Robo is also introduced to a psychiatrist early on in a bid to curb his corrupted flashbacks, with your responses here also having an impact on the ending.
The humanitarian touches help the story feel grounded, with more emotional beats eventually emerging. By recasting old actors, and reusing key locations, it almost feels like a lost RoboCop movie. All this is backed up by decent production values. Not sky-high, but certainly modest. Even the supporting cast’s character models are detailed and semi-lifelike, and the quality of both the voice acting and dialogue far exceeds expectations. Sure, there are examples of typical video game chatter mid-battle, but during quests you’ll often see characters show either contempt or empathy towards RoboCop; which is how it should be in order to lend the experience a real-world feel.
Whereas the RoboCop films became progressively worse, Teyon’s action flick adaptations have gone the opposite way, becoming more refined and polished as the studio hones their craft. By showing a deep understanding of the property they’ve been entrusted with, together with what makes a first-person shooter crunchy and entertaining, they’ve created something to be proud of. RoboCop: Rogue City has all the elements that made the first movie a hit, making only the smallest of missteps.
Teyon’s RoboCop: Rogue City is out now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series. Published by Nacon.