What could’ve easily been a totally forgettable licensed game in the traditional style turned out to be a charmingly old-school experience in all the right ways. The kind of game where the enemies are all the same three guys on a motorcycle and the textures pop in on every frame, but you couldn’t care less as you burn through everything it has to offer.
This is the product of a focused team making a game with an achievable scope that prioritises surprising and thoughtful interactions over a reasonable length of time, rather than stretching a couple of pedestrian mechanics ad infinitum. And within that framework, it manages to be the best and frankly only worthy follow-up to the original film that’s ever been produced (Yes, RoboCop 2 is bobbins, don’t write in). Jim and I collaborated on the video below which sets out why Rogue City is so successful as a licensed project:
It’s a crunchy, satisfying shooter, with a well-realised cyberpunk setting that carries on and extends the themes and satire of the source material in a way that actually understands what it’s supposed to be about.
Practically, it’s basically the cancelled third game in the trilogy after Deus Ex Mankind Divided – just if it was made by a AA studio in Poland instead of for $100 million.
Instead of exploring Prague, solving mysteries, completing side quests, in RoboCop: Rogue City, you’re exploring Old Detroit, solving crimes and helping people find the right VHS in the rental store.
I’ve seen quibbles about it not having the same immersive sim elements – it does in a limited capacity where you burst through walls or break down doors if you want to get pedantic – but philosophically it feels like an immersive sim within the confines of the character, that you’re getting to grips with the limitations of your mechanical body as much as your exploring its many powers.
It’s just one of the main themes of RoboCop that’s slightly at odds with the ‘however you want to approach it’ idea of immersive sims, but is also one of the examples of how Teyon has obviously put a lot of thought and craft into creating an authentic role-play of the character, rather than just slapping a licence onto a run-of-the-mill shooter campaign and calling it a day.
Comparing this to many AAA RPGs which have blueprinted and bloated themselves into predictability, RoboCop has room within its remit to still feel bespoke and interesting, like its scenarios can take unanticipated turns without crashing into the walls of its sandbox.
With that all said, I’m eager not to raise expectations about Rogue City too high, because I feel like the air of surprise is one of the game’s best assets. It’s graphically janky in places, mechanically weird in others, and some of the missions devolve into frustration, but it’s the first game I’ve gotten the platinum trophy for in ages and is definitely one of the rough diamonds of 2023.
Again like the original film, I feel like RoboCop: Rogue City could be an Arrow Video release in 10 years time. A cult relic that tried to do something different with interesting game design and will be fondly remembered as more than the sum of its parts
Given the similarities between the characters, and how the developer has now handled two beloved sci-fi properties with grace and skill, we’re trying to manifest from the universe a Judge Dredd game from them.