As comic books go, 2000 AD may be most famous for Judge Dredd, but there’s a fine supporting cast of creations under that banner just as worthy of cultural exposure. One such creation is Rogue Trooper, a skewed sci-fi take on the war effort, where semi-disposable blue-skinned super soldiers, representing the south (Southers) and the Milli-Com corporation, are battling to a stalemate with the Norts (the North, yeah, there’s a civil war in the future kinda vibe going on). A tale of war heroics by beings manufactured just to fight the war is a pertinent enough one, all the more intriguing in the current climate.
Rogue Trooper was a fairly well-received third-person shooter back in 2006, even if it did come at the death rattle of the PS2’s life cycle and got little in the way of pre-release hype. Now, eleven and a half years on, Rebellion’s blue Souther will rise again with a modernized PS4 remake simply titled Rogue Trooper Redux.
For the most part, this version is identical to its 2006 progenitor, same gameplay beats, same story, you know the drill. It tells the tale of titular GI Rogue, and his squadmates on the fated mission where Rogues buddies are obliterated, and thanks to having their entire personality stored in microchips implanted in their bodies, they are reborn as Rogue’s helmet (Helm), gun (Gunnar), and backpack (Bagman). Leading to many opportunities where Rogue is in conversation with his equipment (we’ve all been there), and has them act as support, Rogue then fights on in the war for Nu-Earth, against the fascist Norts.
Where the game has been upgraded is with a more accessible set of mechanics and a fresh coat of paint on the visuals, definitely the two areas that needed the most tweaking for Rogue Trooper Redux to succeed. Unfortunately, the overhaul isn’t nearly complete enough to eradicate some of the issues that occur from an aged title.
Visually speaking, Rogue Trooper Redux, even with a definite upgrade from the original, is very far from being a looker. There’s some lovely skyboxes, but otherwise, everything looks like you remember a PS2 title being, rather than how it actually did. The animation also suffers here, with rough explosion effects, and some frightful character movement. In that respect, it feels almost untouched, a relic of an era relatively long gone, and at a budget price point, that’s a tolerable issue, but I can’t deny that I had expected something a little more polished.
Mechanically, the improvements are more noticeable. Rebellion already had a fairly forward thinking setup even in 2006, but with a few tweaks it has made Redux handle in a far more modern manner, with familiar aiming and shooting for anyone that’s played a third person shooter in the past decade. Rogue’s various upgrades, made using scrap you pick up on the battlefield (also applies to ammo, all of which is made by Bagman), feels perfectly in place with today’s upgrade-obsessed world, and makes later combat much easier to handle. Bagman dishes out items and medipacks, Gunnar can use skills like auto aim for your gun, and Helm can make finding weak spots on Norts all the easier.
Sadly, the way Rogue handles is a tad inconsistent. He sticks to cover automatically, but it sometimes requires an extra push of the stick to register, letting the enemy get a free shot at you. When it comes to doing the shooting yourself, it’s generally decent, but hit detection tends to be erratic. One moment a wide hit does damage, another sees a millimeter in cause no reaction, let alone damage. Explosives don’t have much in the way of splash damage either, meaning you have to be deadly accurate. It’s a shame because Rogue essentially acts as a multi-purpose character, acting as a demolition, sniper, spy, and assault squad all rolled into one. While not quite as remarkable now, it’s well handled when you consider the age of its fundamentals. The fact that you can move from stealth to all out guns-a-blazing within the same mission with little that feels jarring is impressive, even if switching up rarely feels that necessary.
The pace is relentless, even when you’re not in the thick of the fight on the battlefields, and on-rails sections are there to further distill the action. Fiddly it may often be, but Rogue Trooper Redux knows which side its bread is buttered. The frustrations of age are numbed somewhat by the pacing and its by-product, a lean runtime.
The part of Rogue Trooper that didn’t get a chance last time round though, is perhaps the game’s most fun part this time. Multiplayer was an option in 2006, but we were in the infancy of Xbox, and the tail end of PS2’s lifespan; not the best time to find folk to play with online, so local co-op was about it. Now, in the thoroughly connected land of 2017, Rogue Trooper Redux has a slightly better shot. You can take up to three other pals into progressive mode, where you fight along a route together, trying not to run out of lives, or you can pick stronghold, an early look at the horde mode that would become a norm in oh so many shooters in the decade since. Both are a good laugh, tasking you with racking up points in that neat balance of competition and cooperation, without being anything truly essential. It certainly adds a bit to the otherwise fleeting, frustrating package.
It may have its flaws, most of them born of the game’s initial age, but they don’t make Rogue Trooper Redux a bad game. It’s in fact, perfectly serviceable as shooters go. Perhaps that’s the problem though, there’s a lot of serviceable shooters around nowadays, and license aside, there’s not much that could be considered truly captivating about Rogue’s wartime adventure to recommend it above and beyond them. Still, it’s nice to see one of 2000 AD’s lesser-celebrated poster boys get some attention.