IGN Review of Rogue Trooper
Action games tend to get stale rather quickly. Especially now, when third-person explode-a-thons rule the marketplace. Developers need to come up with ways to set them apart. That, or go the traditional route and just do it better than anyone else does. Look at God of War. It didn't really do anything new, but it offered a wild degree of polish and refinement.
In the case of Rogue Trooper, developers shake things up a bit. It's still a straightforward action game, but it offers the right blend of stealth and innovative weapon management to keep things fresh. And it all takes place in a distinct future filled with alien landscapes, genetic freaks and high-tech hardware. The setting actually does quite a lot to lend the game a unique flare. And the story, while simple, does a decent job of keeping your interest throughout the adventure.
The whole affair takes place during a futuristic war between the Norts and Southers. The Norts eventually gain the upper hand during the conflict, and the Southers have to come up with something drastic to shift the war in their favor. They decide to modify human beings to create Genetic Infantryman. These super soldiers benefit from superhuman strength and resistance to the toxic atmosphere of Nu Earth, their native planet. On the eve of a massive campaign against the Norts, the GIs suffer from a betrayal that almost wipes them out. Only a handful survive and are left on the battlefield to fend for themselves.
The game follows the exploits of a GI known only as the Rogue Trooper. He survives the GI massacre and sets out to find who orchestrated the betrayal. What makes this game different, and therefore better than many other action efforts, deals strictly with the way you use weapons and equipment. To put it simply, the consciousness of three dead soldiers possesses most of your equipment. See, each genetic soldier comes with a little chip that stores his or her skills and personality. If killed, another soldier can rip it out, equip it within 60 seconds, and form a symbiotic bond. That's how Rogue Trooper winds up with the company of three GIs.
And they each have a different voice and personality, lending this solo action jaunt a bit of a squad-based feel. It's not, of course, since you can't control these soldiers directly, but it helps make the game feel different. Cooler still, each of these dead GIs performs vital combat functions. You first attach a soldier by the name of Gunmar who ends up handling your weapons. He helps you reload when out of ammo and tracks enemy targets to improve accuracy. You can even place Gunmar on the ground and let him act as an independent turret. This works incredibly well, as it acts as backup when outnumbered or you can use it as a distraction when trying to be sneaky.
Bagman, the second guy you find, rides in your high-tech backpack. He can manufacture new weapons and upgrades using scrap you find scattered throughout the game. Scrap is basically money in Rogue Trooper, so it really helps to find as much as possible. Having said that, the game is entirely too generous on standard difficulty. You will always have enough scrap for ammunition, grenades or whatever upgrade you wish to purchase. It's a simple matter of choosing what you want from the menu and buying it. Still, it's a cool idea. And having your "intelligent" backpack inject you with drugs when you sustain damage is undeniably groovy.
Lastly, you come across Helm, who handles (surprise!) your helmet. At the most basic level, Helm lets you zoom in on enemy targets for sniping purposes. But he can also project a hologram of your image to confuse enemies. His most important duty, though, is in-house hacker. Helm can bypass just about any gate or security panel in the game, and all you need to do is place him next to the door and let it do its work. This lets you hack and fight simultaneously; something you'll definitely need to master if you hope to see the end of the game.
Together, these four GIs make Rogue Trooper a refreshingly fun title. On the surface, none of the challenges you face look particularly new. And to be honest, they're not. But how you handle these situations does in fact feel new. Say there's a group of soldiers milling about in front of you. You can do a great many things about it. First, you can run in guns blazing and hope you survive. Second, you could project a hologram of yourself to distract them, and then approach from the rear and take them out with a grenade.
Third, you could sneak behind the group and place the Gunmar turret in just the right spot so it'll create a crossfire effect when you sneak back in front of them. You can apply this mode of thinking to just about every situation in the game. And while it may drag the pacing a little (planning always does), it definitely adds a nice bit of depth and replay value. Plus, it's one of the biggest reasons to play this game. Were it not for this flexibility, Rogue Trooper would be far less of an experience. It'd become like any other action title with a cool back story and pretty alien environments.
As is, though, this game makes you feel like a true "army of one." Blasting though cratered landscapes and sneaking through urban environments is a rewarding experience. What makes it fun, in addition to everything mentioned above, is how easily you can use the environment to your advantage. You can duck behind crates and boulders, hug walls and everything you'd expect from a modern action game. You can also "blind fire" from behind cover to send enemy forces running for cover of their own. This is a great tactic when all you need is a few seconds to heal or set a sentry placement. And yes, you get an assortment of party favors such as ground-to-air missiles, sticky grenades, beam rifles and other goodies.
In terms of multiplayer, Rogue Trooper doesn't offer the most comprehensive package, but it's nevertheless fun and addictive. One mode, called Stronghold, has you defending an allied GI from hordes of advancing Nort soldiers. It's the kind of hectic gameplay that really makes use of your in-game abilities. Another mode, called Progressive, has you completing objectives while dealing with an array of enemies. Like Stronghold, it's fun and fitting for a game of this type. You can play online or through a LAN, and the setup process isn't all that painful.
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