Robocop: Rogue City is quality 7-out-of-10 fare – one of those games that lack the production values of an “objectively” higher-scoring “AAA” title, but are often way more fun to play. As such, how much you enjoy it will depend on what you’re willing to forgive to finally play a good game based on an underutilised IP. It shares many of the same highs and lows as Terminator: Resistance, demonstrating a lot of passion and an obvious love of the IP. However, some great character interactions, solid shooting, an authentic sense of style, and a flashy new engine can’t obscure the disjointed campaign flow, limited mechanical depth, dated character models, and awful cutscenes.
If you’ve watched the 1987 film recently, it’s easy to argue Robocop: Rogue City retreads too many themes. What makes us human and who gets to decide? Is the rigid application of laws truly just? Is there no end to corporate greed and the collateral damage it causes? Repetition, sure, but these themes make for some of the best interactions between Robocop and the supporting cast and they tie into a narrative role-playing mechanic that influences the fate of several characters and Old Detroit. That said, it’s no subversive masterpiece. Robocop guns down hundreds of gang members with no consideration for the socio-economic manipulation that pushed them into that life, and there’s no shortage of real-world examples that demonstrate trying to resolve violence with violence begets more violence.
The events of Robocop: Rogue City take place after the second film, with resurgent gangs, an ongoing Nuke drug problem, and the OCP still looking for any excuse to replace the police force with robots and level Old Detroit to make way for their Delta City project. Robocop experiences more glitches during an attack on the Channel 9 building, so OCP inserts a chip to monitor his performance (tying into the progression mechanics) and assigns him mandatory therapy sessions (used to define, question, and reinforce your role-playing choices). He’s then let off the leash to investigate “the new guy in town”, a mysterious villain whom several gangs and mercenaries are vying to work for.
This kicks off an interesting but poorly-paced story that revolves around Robocop in more ways than one. A good chunk of the opening half is spent shooting through several gangs to interrogate their leaders; destroying more dysfunctional ED-209s; dealing with OCP’s ongoing efforts to undermine the existing police force; avoiding or engaging with mayoral election campaigns intent on using him for political goals; and uncovering an even deeper conspiracy within OCP that leads into a drawn out finale and a bizarre final boss that, I guess, is was somewhat foreshadowed. I know this is both a video game and Robocop is satirical sci-fi, but the plot is still full of contrivances, inconsistent logic, and sudden deviations that make it feel as though the script was written on the fly.
That said, if you focus instead on optional missions and smaller moments between Robocop and Lewis, his fellow officers, the citizens of Old Detroit, and even the antagonists, you’ll find much better writing, unexpectedly touching moments, and get the chance to explore lovingly recreated spaces like the Metro West Police Station. Peter Weller’s voice and delivery add instant authenticity and, with the notable exception of OCP’s CEO “the Old Man”, the rest of the voice cast give it their all – even if most performances aren’t going to win any awards. During many of these moments, you choose Robocop’s response or actions, which don’t drastically alter the events you experience, but they do change how he perceives himself and how the cast interacts with him down the line.
The problem is no matter how good Robocop: Rogue City looks – with incredibly detailed environments, destruction physics, realistic lighting, and exaggerated gore – the vast majority of character models look dated and stiffly animated, lip-syncing is all over the place, and the cutscene direction feels crude: think simplistic framing, awkward cuts, poor dialogue delivery, and shifting sound levels. Robocop’s model looks great, Weller’s delivery is perfect, and the soundtrack variations of the original theme are brilliant – but all that can’t stop many cutscenes robbing the game of the emotional impact the writers clearly intended.
Now I’ve got this far without discussing the gameplay in-depth, and I’d argue that’s because there’s not a lot of depth – well, at least not enough when tackling all the primary and secondary missions takes almost 20 hours, alternating between corridor shooting galleries and repeat visits to a hub-like Old Detroit that evolves over time. Mechanically, Robocop: Rogue City is another RPG-shooter hybrid like Terminator: Resistance – albeit with less looting, crafting, and upgrading gear and a greater focus on satisfying gunplay based around Robocop’s iconic Auto-9 and his incredible resilience. There are simple dialogue and scanning-based investigations, but while some larger chapters and the Old Detroit hub often reminded me of Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex games, Robocop is no Adam Jenson. Even if a mission starts off peaceful, it’s guaranteed to end in a gunfight.
Thankfully, the shooting is solid, and Robocop: Rogue City nails the sensation of being half-man and half-machine, with the durability and maneuverability of a tank. I’d always laugh when yet another gang member or mercenary threatened Robocop and pulled out a handgun or rifle, as only high-calibre rounds and explosives pose a significant threat. From the moment Robocop thuds into the Channel 9 building, draws his iconic Auto-9, and the classic theme kicks in, you’ll spend most of your time shooting enemies in the head, in the groin if they’re armoured, or in weak points if they’re robotic. Although you can carry another weapon in reserve, the customisable Auto-9 with unlimited ammo is your workhorse tool and clearly received the most attention.
Firefights are dynamic and evolve to a degree, just not enough to sustain a campaign twice the length of the classic FPS that inspired it. Enemies with more armour, bigger guns, or special abilities are slowly introduced; environments are full of hazards you can throw at enemies, or throw enemies into; most secondary weapons are useful in specific situations; there are offensive and defensive skills you can put points into for incremental buffs and perks; and you can upgrade the Auto-9 using “PCB” omni boards and chips that feels like a less-intuitive variation of what we got in Terminator: Resistance.
The problem is it takes hours to get impactful perks if you don’t take a min-max approach – think deadly ricochet shots, bullet-deflecting armour, and bursts of slow-motion actually long enough to be useful – while there’s a steady increase in the number of tank-ish enemies that offset their impact and drag out firefights. As I was blasting through an end-game gauntlet, about 18 hours in, I realised I was just going through the same motions on autopilot: pull the left trigger, smile as the CRT effect and targeting outlines appeared, pull the right trigger, watch heads or groins explode. Considered in isolation, most scripted firefights are entertaining, but there are a lot of them and they all blur together over time.
Now despite ending on a low note, Teyon still deserves plenty of praise for creating the best Robocop video game available, just as they did for the Terminator IP, and that makes this a must-play for fans of Terminator: Resistance. For those not part of that crowd, Robocop: Rogue City can still be a lot of fun if you’re heavily invested in the IP and can look past inconsistent production values or underdeveloped systems. It somewhat outstays its welcome, but provides a unique opportunity to role-play a conflicted Robocop, violently prosecuting justice through a CRT filter, to a fantastic soundtrack. If nothing else, it might also convince you the IP could work in a dedicated narrative-adventure game.
Robocop: Rogue City was reviewed on Xbox Series S|X using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC and PS5.
Robocop: Rogue City (Xbox Series) ReviewRobocop: Rogue City (Xbox Series) Review
- Great interactions between Robocop and the secondary cast that revisit themes from the 1987 film
- Recreated locations from the films and classic Robocop lines delivered by Peter Weller himself
- A customisable and immensely satisfying Auto-9 that explodes heads, hands, and groins alike
- A progression system that (eventually) unlocks some overpowered perks
- Weird campaign pacing and contrivances
- The emotional impact of many encounters is undermined by crude cutscenes and character models
- Not enough mechanical depth to sustain a 15-20 hour campaign
- No permanent CRT filter option and no New Game Plus