A few weeks ago, I saw posters advertising The Mummy at my local cinema. Remembering the mildly amusing but not especially great Brendan Fraser films of about 15 years ago, I was surprised that this particular movie had been chosen for a remake. I experienced something similar upon hearing about Rogue Trooper Redux. I vaguely recall the original game upon its 2006 release (I played a lot of third-person shooters back then), but this was no Max Payne. I was curious as to why this game, like The Mummy, had been given the green light for a comeback. Had I missed something the first time around?
To be clear, this is a remake in the literal sense. The backdrop of a never-ending war between the Genetic Infantrymen (of which our lead character, Rogue, is part of) and the gas-mask sporting Norts remains. The story of an ambush revealed to be a betrayal is largely unchanged. The graphics have been updated with fewer polygon edges and more curves and textures, but the gameplay is more or less the same as you follow a linear path through the map to reach the next objective. If anything, this shows how much this genre of game has evolved in the last decade. Now used to open world maps with accumulating side quests, the funnelling effect of the linear gameplay feels somewhat restrictive, and I often found myself wondering why Rogue could vault some obstacles but not others. For other players though, this uncomplicated path through each zone may be refreshingly nostalgic.
In a throwback to action films of old, Rogue goes it alone (albeit it with the personality chips of his fallen companions now embedded in his equipment) as a genetically-enhanced humanoid wrecking ball against the hapless Norts. Also in classic action movie style, the large numbers of enemies drop like flies showing face-palming levels of incompetence. This causes some funny moments, like when one of the Norts tossed a grenade, only for it to bounce back off an overhead beam and wipe out him and two of his comrades. However, it also makes the game too easy t times. At one point, a cutscene showed a group of eight enemy soldiers swarming across a bridge I had just gained access to. Fully expecting to be wiped out, I gingerly made my way across the chamber, only to find that the Norts had spread out, and I was able to pick them off one at a time.
In that example, I was supposed to use one of the game’s special features, the ‘sentry gun’. This allows you to position your rifle, now with the embedded chip of your pal, Gunnar, controlling it, in a strategic slot to take out enemies and/or cause a distraction while you pick off Norts diving for cover or simply lie in wait. This sounds great, but there were two issues with it. Firstly, Gunnar would often suggest I make use of this feature when the enemies were already coming, and it was too late to set him up. Secondly, it wasn’t even needed most of the time. In another instance when Gunnar’s advice came too late, I was faced with enemy soldiers streaming down a corridor. One grenade toss later and they were all dead – much more efficient than spraying bullets.
The game offers plenty of options for confronting the Norts. You can run in guns blazing, take cover and lob grenades, sneak up from behind and take them down with your hands, or pull out your sniper rifle and pick them off one by one. This adds variety, but I soon found myself mainly using the pistol and pulling out the grenades or the sniper rifle on one or two occasions per level. This simply proved to be the most efficient way forward. Early in the game, pop-up hints tried to guide me through making sneak attacks, but I took quite a lot of damage. Running in with my pistol and firing off a few bullets got me through the room with hardly any damage at all. Later in the game, I earned the ability to project a hologram to cause a distraction, but I never used it. This was simply because the lack of challenge from the AI never offered me a reason to consider switching tactics.
Even when faced with the imposing mech-infantry, I was not pinned down for long. I took cover, and while the voice chips of Gunnar and Bagman debated how on Earth we would take this foe out, I tossed a stun grenade followed by two frag grenades, and it was over. This leads to the gameplay quickly becoming repetitive. On a few occasions, you witness Rogue pull off some cool-looking kills as he pulls off a Nord’s breathing apparatus, for example, or jumps out of hiding under a bridge to assassinate an evil doctor, but these are cutscenes that take you completely out of the action (even a quick-time event would have been welcome here).
Having said that, there was a sense of satisfaction when using the sniper rifle. Crouching down in a concealed position and taking out a patrolling guard with a headshot is always fun, and Rogue Trooper is no different. Throw in the comedy effect of targeting the soldier’s oxygen tank and watching them run around in a mad panic before exploding and there is scope for some sadistic fun.
There were a couple of occasions where the variety of attack options came in useful as well. When faced with sensor-powered turrets and out of grenades, sniper rifle ammo, and salvage to make more, I was able to use the cover of the landscape to get up close and pull their wires out. That was the only time a lack of resources ever became an issue though. For the rest of the game, salvage from fallen soldiers and heaps of scrap meatal were in plentiful supply. This also meant I was able to literally stick to my guns, in this case the pistol, sniper rifle and grenades, as I was hardly ever in danger of running out of ammo. Had the salvage been harder to find, I would have been forced into mixing things up more.
I would not say this game is bad. Indeed, it is fun in places. It does feel like a missed opportunity, however. The original game has been given a new lick of paint, but its linear progression, gung-ho combat, and the comically inept AI mean the core gameplay has not aged very well. Had the developers kept the core story but redesigned the game to involve more open-ended play and a tactical approach, the experience would be much better. Alternatively, a sequel to the original with a more contemporary gameplay approach would have been fun.
As it is, much like the remake of The Mummy, I am not entirely sure why this game exists. Fans of the original may enjoy the trip down memory lane, and fans of the 2000 AD comics may enjoy the experience of Nu-Earth, but the rest of us are left with an average remake of an average game.
Developer: Tick Tock Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Release Date: 17th October 2017