Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: May 23, 2006
Rogue Trooper, developed by Rebellion, seemed to come out of nowhere. Prior to this spring, I had not heard a peep about it. Imagine my shock when I found out that it is actually a licensed game, based on a long-running comic. How is it possible that I missed this? The answer lies in the nationality of the license. Rogue Trooper is based off of the comic of the same name, which started running in the United Kingdom magazine "2000 A.D." in 1981. This is the same magazine that brought the world Judge Dredd, so you should have a good idea of what to expect. Rogue Trooper is violent, hard-edged, and a bit bizarre.
It may seem odd to bring over a video game based on a foreign license, but Eidos seemed to know something we didn't. Despite its short length, Rogue Trooper is a surprisingly good action title, brimming with strategic elements and peppered with occasional instances of stealth. Also surprising is the fact that this is the third Rogue Trooper game released to date. However, I would not fault anyone for not knowing that; the previous two were computer games made in 1986 and 1990. This is Rebellion's first take on the character, though they did develop 2005's poorly received Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death.
Rogue Trooper is set in the fictional world of Nu-Earth, where an ongoing civil war rages between the Norts and Southers. The world has been ravaged due to the fighting, and is essentially unlivable. Thus, the Genetic Infantrymen (GI) were created by the Southers. These blue-skinned clones are immune to all known poisons and diseases and are the perfect warriors. Their genetic information is stored on embedded microchips. If one dies, its information can be transferred into another body, provided that the bio-chip is kept active in a piece of machinery.
Rogue is the name of your main character, and he is flanked early on by his comrades Helm, Gunnar and Bagman. The names are rather expository: each of his friends is killed but lives on due to the power of the bio-chips. Helm becomes a part of Rogue's helmet and is tasked with hacking into computers, providing radar, and creating distractions for the enemies. Gunnar fuses with Rogue's gun, which can then be set up like a turret to guard doorways and such. Bagman manages Rogue's equipment and is able to create new weapons and upgrade his current ones.
When I first started the game, I thought that it was going to be another generic, run-and-gun shooter. However, the added input of your three fused comrades creates a more tactical experience, almost akin to a squad-based shooter. Sure, you will occasionally fight alongside other soldiers, but you are usually alone ... except that you aren't – the abilities provided by your enhanced gear allow you many more choices in the game. Pair this with interesting level designs, and you have a recipe for success. Rogue Trooper appears to be fairly straightforward, but the game is actually quite flexible.
Stealth plays a small part in the title, allowing you to walk quietly behind some enemies and perform stealth kills. While you do not get the opportunity to do this often, it is recommended that you walk around quietly when possible. You may get the drop on a group of enemies that would otherwise tear you up. As I mentioned previously, your enhanced equipment allows you to do things normally impossible in the battlefield. Rogue can create a hologram version of himself for enemies to shoot at, which comes in handy when being targeted by several snipers. Set up the hologram, trace back the laser sights, and eliminate your foes!
For the most flexibility, you will want to explore your surroundings. Often, the most direct path is not the best way to get somewhere. There may be an alternate path that will let you take down your enemies from afar, but even more important is seeking out hidden salvage. Each defeated enemy leaves a little bit of salvage, but there are much larger stashes hidden in the levels, which will allow you to upgrade and expand your arsenal. Picking up salvage is absolutely essential in this game. You will use it to buy ammunition and med-packs, so don't think you can just kill everyone and not pick up their dropped salvage.
The main adventure in Rogue Trooper is not terribly long and can be completed in roughly five hours. To me, it seemed to be the perfect length before the game could get repetitive or dull. There are about a dozen missions, and they feature a fair amount of variety. While most follow the shooting/stealth/exploration formula described above, some have helicopter or train sequences that are actually quite enjoyable. The storyline is unlikely to win any awards, but I did enjoy the setting and overall atmosphere. With so many "realistic" shooters out there, it was nice to play something a little different.
I was also very impressed by the visuals in Rogue Trooper. Even on the PlayStation 2, the game is very sharp and runs at a pretty respectable clip. I only experienced framerate issues near the end of the game, when there was excessively frantic action on-screen. Most of the environments were pretty similar to one another, but they all looked nice to me. I also have to mention the inclusion of 16:9 widescreen support. With HDTVs more prevalent than ever, I applaud Rebellion for including widescreen support in a PlayStation 2 title. On the aural front, I noticed some odd glitches with the music in the first half of the game, but no issues later on. The voice acting is very competent all around, though the accompanying subtitles are very poorly done. It cannot be that difficult to make sure the subtitles match the script.
Rogue Trooper does feature a multiplayer mode, which is playable online, offline, or over a LAN. It controls similarly to the single-player mode, but is fairly bare-bones. Just five levels are available, with only two game types: Progressive and Stronghold. The Progressive game type has your character fighting his way to the other side of the map, while losing as few lives as possible. On the other hand, the Stronghold mode puts you in charge of defending an area from all other enemies. Overall, it is not terribly exciting or expansive. Most disappointing was the fact that I could not find anyone to play against. I logged onto the PlayStation 2 network a couple of times and never found a single person to play against. If multiplayer is a deal-breaker for you, pick up the Xbox version instead.
Due to the unknown license, I had only moderate expectations for this game. Rogue Trooper definitely met and exceeded those expectations, delivering a compelling and entertaining game experience. It may be a short one, but it is quality nonetheless. With a price tag of just $30, this should be a no-brainer for anyone interested in the genre. Rogue Trooper may not do anything staggeringly new, but it combines action, shooting, stealth, and exploration elements successfully and is well worth a look.
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