Rogue Trooper Redux (Playstation 4 Review)
I want you to cast your mind back to the early 90’s, days of cool Britannia, back when you were wee and the world didn’t seem so shit. Your big sister got this big weird looking comic, it had a bunch of people floating on it, a mysterious green guy on a chair and it had this weird logo in bright acid red with white stroke: 2000AD.
I was a wee nerd even back then and I poured over this weird, violent and strange annual. It had this story of clowns kidnapping kids (to eat them I think?), an assassin infected with a virus that will kill him in a set amount of time, the legendary Judge Dredd, two idiot aliens running a school camp and a big blue guy that just shot pretty much everything in his path.
Same big blue guy on the cover: Rogue Trooper. This dude was running around shooting everything – I think it was meant to have some Christmas vibe so everything was this beautiful stark white with all the violence splashed across the comic panels. It was gripping stuff, the sheer energy and simplicity made enough of an impression on my young stupid brain that I can still recall the image of a man getting half his face shot off in pure beautiful clarity.
Rogue Trooper was first published back in the 80s way before I was even a glint in my father’s disappointed eyes. Originally created by Dave Gibbons and Gerry Finley-Day, the series was penned and inked by a number of artists and writers along with a few revamps and re-imaginings just for good measure. For sake of brevity I won’t write an essay and just stick to the good stuff that fits our blue hero.
Rogue is a genetically modified soldier, created to help give the upper hand on a planet scale war decimating ‘Nu-Earth’ – once an earth-like paradise but now so polluted by the conflict that the air is unbreathable and the citizens are locked in biodomes when not out in battlesuits launching missiles at each other. Basically the world is split in two: the North and South aptly named the Norts and Southers. Norts are kind of like Commie Nazis and the Southers more like Allied Capitalists each taken to nuclear-punk extremes – a lot of inspiration is taken from conflicts such as the American Civil War and World War One, except this time each have got nuclear bombs on their side.
Locked in this stalemate, the Southers develop GI – Genetic Infantrymen – lab made genetically souped up super soldiers capable of surviving in the decidedly shit habitat. Which thanks to the miracle of modern(ish) video games is now you.
As well as being super human, the GI’s are given biochips, meaning that when they die the chip can be removed and slotted onto one of the bits of gear carried by the GI – namely their Gun, Helmet and Backpack – allowing them to assist on the battlefield beyond death. In the comics and Redux, this creates the fun dynamic of having 4 characters all in one lovely killy big blue man.
Rebellion brought out Rogue Trooper in 2006 for PS2, Windows and Xbox as well as the Wii in 2009. There was no rapturous applause, just a solid, fairly entertaining game.
Aside from a fresh lick of paint, Rogue Trooper Redux managed to pack his army duffle bag with all the bugs and idiosyncrasies that plagued it upon the original 2006 release. There are checkpoint bugs, a massacre supposedly populated by thousands acted out by roughly 10 robotic A.I., and enemies often managing to shoot you through walls. Even changing weapons and zooming are laboured by way more inputs than necessary.
The intro does a good job of establishing the setting but not selling it. Playing Redux really does reinforce the great job current gen games do in integrating tutorials into the starting levels, as everything here feels clunky, stopping and starting for cutscenes/tutorials as your comrades fall to the Norts and you stick their brain chips into your equipment – they knew you were coming but it still feels like a poor showing from the Southers badass shiny new soldiers – you don’t feel as much as an unstoppable super soldier if not just a very lucky individual.
After the introductory levels the game really starts to come into its own. Being a linear cover-based shooter affair containing stealth elements granting the player the opportunity to scope out the enemies, plan out an attack, lay traps and snipe a few enemies. Or you can just run in and hope for the best – with Gunnar’s chip in your rifle he lends you a justified auto aim taking away some of the skill involved but adds a great sense of satisfaction as you dispatch enemies with ease.
Rogue Trooper keeps the gameplay simple but the scenarios interesting. It gets genuinely heart-thumping flying around an abandoned city firing a gatling gun from a chopper or defending a giant train from attack while bad guys ride horse-dinosaurs. Small little touches like being able to set down Gunnar as a sentry gun while you flank the enemy and the option of stealth kills also add that extra level of creativity to what could be a repetitive experience. There’s elements of RPG inventory management as you collect ‘salvage’ from small hidden stockpiles and fallen enemies – used to upgrade your equipment and create ammunition, which sometimes leads to a mad scramble to create more ammo in the middle of a gunfight or raises the terrible question “Do I need sniper bullets or more grenades?”. As you progress you unlock a number of weapons allowing the player to adapt to their preferred play-style. Being a coward by nature I normally choose to sit at the back of the map with a sniper rifle picking off as many as I can but someone more confident would equally enjoy themselves running into the fray tossing incendiary grenades and getting up close and personal with the shotgun.
You might think that having 3 voices from Gunnar, Bagman and Helm be a little grating through the playthrough but actually it adds to the experience. It’s really fun to hear “Good Shot” when you pop a soldier’s head open or “Here you go” when a tiny arm comes out of your bag to reload your rifle. This would get annoying I’m sure but the game doesn’t last long enough for this to become an issue – you could probably get through it in a lazy afternoon, a murderous, gun shooty afternoon. The characters, story and voice acting is fine; it’s exaggerated and silly but then again, this is 2000AD we’re talking about.
The original Rogue Trooper was essentially very simple, a fun plot of revenge and lead spread across cheap paper – Rogue Trooper Redux is similar in vein. Its strength is in its simplicity and I feel the developers more than a decade ago knew this. Despite my gripes with clunky controls and enemy AI I enjoyed Rogue Trooper, blasting my way through it in one sitting. However, on completion I found myself in an odd place as I wasn’t left wanting more in the typical sense; eagerly reaching to restart the campaign, play the wave attack levels or dip into multiplayer – which had an exact population of 1 (me) last I checked.
No, it gave me the itch for something far more ambitious: a current generation Rogue Trooper sequel or reboot. The story wouldn’t need much as the setting lends itself to sticking hordes of enemies in front of your rifle, the gameplay could be tightened up to capture the intensity of the comics and perhaps some open world elements. I could imagine Rogue walking across the ruined desertscape for Helm to announce ‘Nort recon unit 1 click West’ allowing you to lay Gunnar down to ambush from a vantage point while you flank with grenades. Once the Norts are dead setting down Bagman to scour the corpses for supplies and information – each dead infantryman getting you one step closer to revenge. A huge part of me hopes that this was the reason for this remaster, Rebellion and Tick Tock laying the groundworks for something grander.
Ahh, a man can dream. On a wee side note a lot of the original comics are free to read online as they exist in some form of copyright purgatory – I’m not gonna link them but a Google search will see you right.
Back to the game at hand, Rogue Trooper Redux is good dumb fun, if you don’t go in expecting too much you won’t be disappointed. That said, the £20 asking price is kinda steep. So, my advice is to wait until the game is on sale unless you’re absolutely dying to play it.
Editor’s Note: We are fortunate enough to have the ever enthusiastic David Quinn contribute this piece to the site. You can find him on Twitter @JDSQuinn if you wish to know more about his thoughts on Rogue Trooper Redux or video games in general.