RoboCop Rogue City is a souped-up Deus Ex with a sprinkle of Call of Duty

RoboCop Rogue City is a souped-up Deus Ex with a sprinkle of Call of Duty
Ford James Updated on by

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RoboCop may not seem like the most obvious choice when it comes to action film characters who would fit with a video game adaptation, especially a first-person shooter. After all, RoboCop is essentially a walking tank. The average, lowlife thugs of Detroit are nothing to him, because he’s capable of walking through incoming gunfire with hardly a scratch on him. And walking is what he does; you’ll hardly see RoboCop enter a light jog, let alone sprint at full pelt as you’d expect in FPS games. He can’t duck and dodge behind cover, which means the movement element is almost non-existent because of how limited he is.

However, developer Teyon knows this. Piotr Łatocha, game director on RoboCop: Rogue City, explained to me that the most important thing for them is staying true to the lore, because fans “want to feel like they’re in the boots of RoboCop”. He went on to explain that “it was obvious we needed to have him strong, tough, heavy, and kinda slow”, despite the limitations that would put on combat.

“Instead of ducking, sprinting, or wall-running – what you see with modern games”, Łatocha went on to explain, “we have things like grabbing and punching enemies, throwing big objects like garbage cans”. There are also skills to unlock as you progress, and some of those are tied to movement such as the dash ability, but the intention is for players to start the game feeling like the true RoboCop, as close to the lore as possible. From there, the player can become more powerful.

RoboCop Rogue City gameplay preview: RoboCop firing a pistol while using the auto-targeting to highlight an enemy.

From the segment I played on the normal difficulty level, that was the immediate limitation that stood out. I could hold forwards and take out simple enemies left, right, and centre, without my health bar taking much of a hit at all. Ramp up the difficulty and you’ll be sure to encounter slightly more formidable opponents, so RoboCop isn’t completely unbeatable and there’s still some semblance of a challenge there, but Łatocha explained to me the idea behind that is to simply reward the skill of the player. Much like you’d find in a Call of Duty game on veteran difficulty, but here, RoboCop: Rogue City is just easier.

Call of Duty is part of what Teyon is attempting to channel, but it’s only part of the way there. In the build I played, aiming down the sights of your weapon was only possible with the AK-47-inspired assault rifle, whereas the pistol and SMG didn’t have that functionality, instead allowing the player to only zoom in slightly but still ultimately firing from the hip, much like the manual aiming mechanics in Fallout 3. Łatocha assured me that was a mechanic that was still being worked on – but whether every gun will have ADS capabilities, or instead they’ll remove them from the few guns that do, is uncertain.

Up to this point, RoboCop: Rogue City felt very much like a Call of Duty campaign with its linearity, but after completing the first mission, I was let loose in one of the open-ended areas. I hesitate to say open-world, because it’s not quite that free, but there are multiple locations within the game where you can explore however you like, accept side quests, and discover entirely optional encounters. This felt very Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, almost uncannily so.

RoboCop Rogue City gameplay preview: A man in a red and black checked shirt walks past a shopping trolley in a dark Detroit street.

The first thing I did was approach some loitering youths blasting music out of a stereo, right outside a corner shop. The shopkeeper was having a go at them, but they wouldn’t move – until ol’ RoboCop stepped in. A few dialogue options were available, including one to try and reason with the troublemakers about why loud music can damage their ears – classic RoboCop, always worried about the teenagers getting tinnitus – but they didn’t respond well. The only thing that worked was quite literally pounding their stereo with my fists.

It was a disappointing outcome because I’d rather my RoboCop didn’t resort to violence at the first opportunity, but Łatocha later revealed to me it was simply because I hadn’t explored and/or leveled up enough for the right skills.

“For example, in that situation you could have used Psychology 2 or Engineering 2. If you use Psychology 2, you’re able to move forward and do no harm, but if you use Engineering 2, you can trick them into thinking the car they’re sitting on is rigged – actually, this is a fanservice thing – with MagnaVolt. So you can use that line to tell them, it’s better to move away from the car because it’s MagnaVolt protected, and they’ll just pick up the radio and go away.”

So peaceful resolutions are possible, and if you encounter something you don’t feel equipped to deal with at that time, you can return later on. However, some side quests are time-sensitive – if you don’t complete them when you’re still in the area, you’ll fail them. There’s plenty to do in each area, but rather than making vast, sprawling maps to explore, thanks to RoboCop’s slow movement, each one is small but densely packed.

It cannot be overstated how much RoboCop: Rogue City feels like a Deus Ex game, albeit with a heavier focus on combat rather than stealth to complete missions. Whether it will reach the same heights as Deus Ex is to be determined, but it wears its inspiration on its sleeve, while staying true to RoboCop lore as much as possible. It even has multiple members of the original cast reprising their roles, including Peter Weller as the one and only.

RoboCop: Rogue City launches in September 2023 for PC and consoles. Check out our other preview from Nacon’s roster of games at Big Ben Week in Paris with our Ad Infinitum gameplay preview, which is a terrifying psychological horror game.