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One of the more surprising video game announcements we've seen in a while was the reveal of RoboCop: Rogue City, a first-person shooter set in the world of RoboCop—that is, the legendary 1987 movie directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Peter Weller, not the 2014 remake.
It was unexpected. But now that the game's meaty demo is out and I’ve put a few hours into the game, I have a new frontrunner for my most anticipated games of the fall. RoboCop: Rogue City is a throwback to an old style of game in the best possible way.
Back in the early aughts, developers were exploring the first-person shooter genre and still experimenting—this was before the industry settled on “Every shooter is Doom or a world war.”
RoboCop: Rogue City is just over two weeks away! 🤖🏙️
Discover everything you need to know about the game in just 60 seconds! pic.twitter.com/2tIiUoam6C
— RoboCop: Rogue City (@RoboCopRC) October 17, 2023
Alongside your Medals of Honor and Calls of Duty, we got to play weirder titles like The Darkness and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay—both from Starbreeze. They sat somewhere between the deep role-playing of series like Deus Ex and System Shock and the shoot-first-don't-ask-questions action of countless military shooters. These games didn't just put the main character's preferred weapon in your hand; they put their shoes on your feet.
Escape from Butcher's Bay put you into an inescapable intergalactic prison and tasked you with doing exactly that—getting the heck out of there. You had to trade and interact with other prisoners, manipulate guards, and even endure being put in stasis every day to find your way out.
Meanwhile, The Darkness introduced us to Jackie Estacado, a mob enforcer imbued with a demonic spirit voiced by Mr. Bungle and Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton. You still had your job to do, but in the downtime you could explore your neighborhood. You could even sit down with your girlfriend and watch an entire movie that was embedded in the game.
Both games sought to immerse you in the worlds of their characters. Fighting off prison guards or shooting down punks was a part of each character's life, but they had time outside of that.
And that's exactly what RoboCop: Rogue City feels like. Hailing from Polish game developer Teyon, this isn't a RoboCop action game—it's a new chapter in the life of RoboCop.
The demo opens as it should, with an extended action sequence. As RoboCop, you head into a television station where people are being held hostage by a gang called the Torch Heads. As you work your way up the tower alongside partner Anne Lewis, you’ll have to solve some minor puzzles and look for evidence. The tension heightens, however, and RoboCop begins to hallucinate the voices of his wife and child, with the climactic sequence almost going horribly wrong when he visualizes his wife as the hostage of the gang punk.
After taking down the creeps, you find yourself back at the precinct. Characters you know from the movies are there, and after a battle like that one, you need a little maintenance and downtime. Robo struggles with memories of his past life, but can't quite vocalize them.
He's still a cop, though, and you can perform your standard cop duties. You haul a guy down to the drunk tank. There's a shooting range where you can practice your fire and set records. Later, you'll attend a briefing that sends you out on your own into a Detroit neighborhood that looks like it could've been ripped right out of the movie.
This area would be pretty small compared to open-world games these days, but it's detailed and dense. And RoboCop is pretty slow, if we're being honest. There are multiple cases to track down and solve, and the game gives you leeway to mete out justice as you see fit. That kid doing graffiti? Maybe he needs some community service time. Should the regretful car thief do time, or should he be the one who returns the car to its owner?
In that neighborhood, you can also look for legal infractions using your optical scanner and hand out tickets. A car parked next to a hydrant? Maybe paying some money will teach you a lesson. Through all of this, you can level RoboCop up by solving crimes, finding evidence, and blowing off creeps' heads when the situation demands it. That adds abilities like a dash move or being able to open safes without the combination—the same sort of light role-playing elements that those older games offered, letting you feel like the character without devolving into tedium.
It’s a different vibe from today’s speedier shooters. You're not the Doom Guy sprinting around at Olympic speeds. RoboCop moves slowly and deliberately, but he also can take a ton of bullets and doesn't have to worry about fall damage—he's different enough from your generic shooter protagonist to really feel like RoboCop.
If this demo is indeed indicative of the final product, the $50 price tag is going to feel like a steal when RoboCop: Rogue City hits PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S on November 3. And if so, we'll have to keep an eye on Teyon as a studio that can recapture the vibes of the Xbox 360 era’s more focused and quirky shooter campaigns.
Editor's note: RoboCop: Rogue City is a traditional video game with no NFT or crypto elements.
Edited by Andrew Hayward