A Blast From The Past
Back in 2006, an addictive third person shooter came out of nowhere. Unfortunately, it seemed to get lost beneath the waves of the other games that came out around the same time. Rogue Trooper, when I first bought it, was secondhand from a friend who had badly damaged the box. But from the cover art featuring blue, shirtless soldier, I (hilariously enough) thought it was supposed to be another tie-in to the Army Men franchise. Silly thought to have huh? Thankfully, I was wrong.
Rogue Trooper, for its time, ended up being one of my favorite third person single player experiences. It took the somewhat clunky AI-based squad mechanics that developers were toying with back then and found a way to condense it down into one character (more on that ahead).
But, all good things must come to an end. Like many games I loved of that era, they slowly faded away for one reason or another. Then it happened, mere days ago I saw something that made me grin ear to ear and my eyes widen in joy. Dropping into my lap, the opportunity to revisit 2006 with a fresh coat of paint in Rogue Trooper Redux. I. Was. Ready!
Rogue: A One Man Army
Welcome to Nu-Earth. A hell of an ongoing war between the technologically and scientifically advanced Southers, and the brutish but calculative Norths. The two sides fight a perpetual battle across the surface of Nu-Earth and the skies above, and to the victor goes not only the planet but the power of the black hole closest to it.
The Southers utilize a fighting force spearheaded by the Genetic Infantrymen, created to be the best: blue skinned cogs in the great Souther war machine. They are designed to operate as a cohesive unit in more ways than one. There is a saying that only the dead have seen the end of war, but for the G.I.'s even that's not guaranteed. Rogue Trooper Redux sets us in the role of one such G.I. named Rogue. His comrades Helm, Bagman and Gunnar are inseparable and some of the best that Southers have churned out. However, as their drop onto Nu-Earth goes bad quickly, and other G.I. units are torn apart, even Rogue's squad suffers heavy casualties. (VERY EARLY GAME SPOILERS AHEAD)
One by one, Gunnar, Bagman and even Helm meet their end. Or rather, their bodies do. In a bit of creativity, G.I.'s - if reached quickly enough after passing - can have a chip removed from their bodies and integrated into their comrades, which effectively turns Rogue into a literal one man army by the time he's integrated all of them. And they still live on, offering advice, tactical appraisal and comradery-based banter to see Rogue through the mission.
Their names actually give quite the hint to what their roles end up playing in the game: Gunnar becomes integrated into your rifle, and improves the targeting system as well as giving access to an automated sentry mode, while Bagman (integrated into the backpack) handles inventory and utilizes scrap and blueprints for new items more efficiently over time. Helm gets the short end of the stick, as most of the time his use boils down to opening a door real quick and then going back to being perched on your head as a now-sentient helmet.
Back in 00’s this variant of the squad shooter formula was a thrill. It is no longer as innovative, but I'll still take it over some of the abysmal friendly AI that's in video games even today (I'm looking at you 'helpful' companions in shooters).
The Places You'll Go, The People You'll Meet
As far as the "Redux" part of the title goes, the graphical upgrade is both hit and miss. Characters and enemies look much better than they did in 2006, but environments even with the fresh coat of paint and higher definition textures still have that distinct 'feel' of the third person games of that era. Rigid is the best way to describe most of the level appearances. Sharp corners abound, at times you'll feel like you're playing in a series of open-top boxes connected by a series of hallways, with little in the way of cover except for rocks and boxes. The environments, the characters, the story... they have not aged well. While I still have a blast in combat, the story just isn't the unique experience I remember, the characters are mostly bland outside of Rogue and his squad, and - as previously stated - the environment designs with just a new coat of paint instead of a complete redesign just don't hold up well in 2017.
I have to stress again, though, that the combat is very gratifying. While it may be more simplistic now than when I was a kid, there's always something special about planning the perfect ambush with a combination of your GUNNAR sentry, mines and sneaking behind distracted enemies and going for the one-hit kill. Okay, so this is one of those times that nostalgia didn't quite bring me back the game I remembered, BUT if you're a fan of memorable combat set pieces, I can definitely say that is one thing from my memory of the game that definitely held up. It's easily the most important thing.
Combat still holds up relatively well more than a decade later, character models and enemies benefit greatly from their graphical overhauls.
Story and most characters are bland, level design is showing its age even through new coats of paint.