Review: Rogue Warrior

RogueWarrior.jpg Interesting fact: my mom knows ex-US Navy Seal, author and now video game star Richard “Demo Dick” Marcinko. He comes to the doctors’ office she works at here in Warrenton, VA from time to time and years back actually gave her an autographed copy of his book Rogue Warrior, which coincidentally enough is the title of his new first-person shooter from Bethesda Softworks and Rebellion.

I’ve never met the man myself, but right about now that’s probably a good thing because I’m about to harpoon his game pretty good!

Rogue Warrior, billed as a tactical first-person shooter, went through a fairly bumpy development cycle – the game was first announced a few years back under the care of Zombie Studios, then vanished from the face of the earth only to resurface earlier this year with a new, less-ambitious direction and Rebellion as its developer – and it shows. For starters, there isn’t a single tactical thing about the game… unless you consider poorly scripted stealth sequences and a clumsy, tacked-on third-person cover system “tactical.”

Beyond those points, Rogue Warrior is about as run of the mill as a military FPS can get. The game takes place during the Cold War with you playing as Marcinko going behind enemy lines to investigate and ultimately thwart a ballistic missile program involving North Korea and Soviet Russia, which leads you to infiltrating bland, ultra-linear hedge mazes, dockyards and other enemy compounds gathering intel, planting explosives and, of course, shooting plenty of dirt-dumb Commie bastards.

Each level begins with a virtually infallible stealth sequence consisting of oblivious enemies guarding corners that don’t need to be guarded or moving in predictable patterns that present absolutely no challenge, which is a shame because the stealth kill animations are actually quite satisfying…until you realize that they are so easy to pull off! Then after you skip and whistle your way through the stealthy stuff, the levels bog down into a dull process of “move down the hallway, shoot some dumb bad guys, move to the next room, kill some more dumb bad guys,” with no variation or unpredictability to keep you interested.

The shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired as well, as both the hit detection and targeting controls feel sloppily designed, and I have to question the initial development decision to make this game first-person when you have an identifiable figure as the face of the game, yet you only get to see his face in third-person cut-in animations for things like climbing ladders, latching to cover and stealth kills. If you ask me, Rogue Warrior would have made much more sense as a full third-person stealth/action game à la Splinter Cell or even something more tactical like a SOCOM.

The game is also a mess graphically. Let me just put it this way: I’m playing through the PSN Call of Duty Classic right now – a downloadable console port of the original Call of Duty from 2003 with a basic HD facelift – and the quality is about equal. That’s pretty sad. At least Marcinko’s character model looks great – he’s particularly fierce looking on the main menu screen – but again, with the game being an FPS you rarely get to see him.

Rogue Warrior’s only redeeming quality is its comedic vulgarity. The rapid-fire one-liners and excessive “F-bomb” droppage aren’t for everyone, but I thought the implementation added levity to the experience and suited the game’s personality well. From what I’ve heard, Marcinko is a colorful character and is not one to mince words, so if nothing else Rebellion and Bethesda were authentic to the source in this one area, as they were in producing the truly brutal (and strangely humorous) stealth kills. Acclaimed actor Mickey Rourke also brings his distinctive voice to the role and is believable as a roguish, potty-mouthed Navy SEAL badass – the ending credits which splice together all of his one-liners into a flowing rap song are particularly brilliant, making for perhaps the best credits sequence since Portal. The musical score in general has a cool predatorial vibe to it as well.

On the whole, Rogue Warrior feels like an unfinished budget game…only it’s not a budget game at all. Bethsoft is actually charging a full $60 ($50 on PC) for this turd, which is straight highway robbery considering the game is only eight levels long and can be completed in around two hours (maybe four hours tops on the highest difficulty), features the sorriest excuse of a multiplayer component that I’ve seen in years (8-player deathmatch and team deathmatch, and that’s it), and has absolutely no bonus materials to promote replayability or provide historical background.

I’m very disappointed in both of you right now, Bethsoft and Rebellion. A war hero like Richard Marcinko deserved much better than this!

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Pros:
+ Funny, expletive-filled one-liners
+ Cool stealth kills
+ Awesome credits song
+ Easy pickins’ for Trophy/Achievement whores

Cons:
– Dull, uninspired gameplay
– Lousy AI
– Unpolished controls
– Ultra-linear level designs
– Dated, budget-quality graphics
– Extremely short with no replay value

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available on PC and Xbox 360
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Rebellion
Release Date: 12/1/09
Genre: FPS
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1-8
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!