If common movie tropes are to be believed, heroes usually come in two distinct types. There’s the hopeless nobody who, faced with overwhelming adversity, steps up to the plate and overcomes his tormentors. Then there’s the other type – A gung ho, wise-cracking, square jawed all-American tough guy who was born to kick ass.
The lead character of Rogue Warrior has quite solidly set up his gun-toting tent in the latter camp. Bumping shoulders with the likes of Duke Nukem and Serious Sam, Decorated real-life war hero Richard ‘Demo Dick’ Marcinko is a dude who knows how to get the job done. He is a bearded, pony-tailed one-man stabbing machine, who swears more than Gordon Ramsay catching his toes on a doorframe.
You’re in control of Dick as he (and his team of inept ’special ops‘ colleagues) journey through North Korea to stop the launch of some missiles. However, his team is killed immediately after arrival (making you wonder why Rebellion Developments even bothered rendering them in the first place,) he disobeys direct orders by continuing the mission alone, kills a load of ‘commie cocksuckers’ and spouts more profanities than a tourettes sufferer in a crisis.
Graphically speaking, Rogue Warrior is painful to look at. Only Marcinko himself seems to have had any time spent on his character model, and all your opponents are just cloned bullet-sponges with less A.I than a two-slice toaster. The location aim to be dark and gritty, but all it does to achieve this is turn out the lights, making it harder for you to see just what the hell is going on half the time. All this is buried under a frame-rate that moves slower than continental drift, and gun-play so numbing that you could prescribe it as an anaesthetic.
From the outside looking in, this appears to be a generic, by-the-numbers shooter. From the inside looking out however, it’s a bad generic, by-the-numbers shooter. For a game that places all its chips on shooting guys in the face, you would think they’d have spent some considerable time making sure the ‘shooting guys’ part worked well, wouldn’t you? The first enemy you encounter is accompanied by a suggestion to use the ‘kill move’ mechanic to take him out, and I’m pretty sure this is for a reason. Tapping the ‘A’ button (or ‘X’ on a Playstation) drops you into third-person and starts an animation in which Dick uses a silent take-down, (usually involving knives and faces,) that are both immensely satisfying when they work, maddening when they don’t.
In most other games, these insta-kill moves can only be used when an enemy is unaware of your presence, but not in Rogue Warrior. For the most part of the game you can simply sprint up through a guys bullets and stab them to death, undercutting the whole ‘shooting‘ part altogether. There are some later sections where you’re forced to fight small armies of dopey morons who wander out in the open looking in the wrong direction, but even in these parts you probably won’t stray much from the Silenced Pistol, seeing as though a well placed headshot is all it takes to get by.
The critical path through the story is so straight you could use it to put up shelves – making for a brainless, uninspiring tour of Korean factories and facilites. And just when you think your reaching the end of the first chapter, the game abruptly ends. As value for money, this is a pretty big slap in the face for release day customers, who paid upwards of £30 for a sub-par experience that lasts three hours or so. I’m pretty sure I’ve had haircuts that lasted longer than Rogue Warrior.
Dick Marcinko’s gravely mutterings are provided courtesy of a frighteningly angry Mickey Rourke, who sounds like he was strapped to a chair in a cellar while a bunch of communists queue up to kick him in the shins. If you’ve ever wanted to hear what profanity sounds like coming from a real mans mouth, then you should play this game. A special mention has to be made of the totally spontaneous end credits song, which features Rourke’s more colourful phrases put to the backing of some smooth, sexy jazz. This is spectacular in a way that very nearly makes up for everything else Rogue Warrior does wrong. Check it out at the bottom of the review.
Ultimately, Rogue Warrior plays like an instruction manual for muscle-bound, meat-headed idiocy and I’m sure it’s aimed squarely at simpletons. It should probably be made totally clear that this is a fundamentally broken game that’s lacking in ways you never thought were possible, but if you don’t pay more than the price of a good meal for it, you can kind of admire it’s go-for-broke outrageousness.