Let's get one thing straight. Contra: Rogue Corps is not the Contra game you've been waiting for. The sooner you temper your expectations the better. It isn't a smart, modern evolution of the series or even a fun homage to the classic Konami series. If you go into the game looking for just that, you will be disappointed. However, if you give it a try with an open mind and take the game at face value without pinning the legacy of a fantastic franchise on its shoulders, you'll find an occasionally clunky and dated but fun enough twin-stick shooter that's a fun diversion alone, made even more entertaining by fast-paced co-op play. Hey, at least it's technically more Contra, right?
Contra: Rogue Corps finds players jumping into the center of The Damned City, a bombed-out wasteland of a metropolis that's right in the middle of an alien invasion. Technically, the campaign is actually meant to take place some time after the end of Contra III: The Alien Wars, but it's difficult to discern why or how the things that are happening are. So it's best to toss out all preconceived notions you may have about Contra as a series to push forward here and take it at face value as a standalone game, as it were.
That's because it's completely different in terms of tonality and content, going "rogue" in terms of doing its own thing, like the title sort of implies. Sometimes it has far more in common with the overwhelmingly unfunny "jokes" games like Borderlands tends to serve up over and over. Sometimes it lands some truly giggle-worthy zingers. Either way, the story isn't the reason you'd ever pick this game up to start with, anyway.
That's okay, though. You get to play with a fun cast of characters like a cyborg named Kaiser, Ms. Harakiri, a woman with an alien in her stomach (literally fused into it), Hungry Beast, a cyborg panda (lots of cyborg stuff in this game, huh?), and the Gentleman, a bug-like alien. Each character plays a bit differently, with unique abilities and power-ups, and you can swap between them.
Running and gunning
Rogue Corps lets you jump right into the game and get started with the campaign, which you can opt to play alone or via co-op by way of online or couch options. The game feels as though it was built to be enjoyed mainly with other players around you, and as such is more entertaining when you have friends around.
The twin-stick shooter takes you down into the trenches instead of having you run from side to side on the screen to eliminate any threats that come your way. You aim with ones stick and let your weapon rip with the other. It's very simple. It can be a delight to rush into crowds of enemies and gun them down with any one of your powerful weapons, and it's satisfying to see them fall when you're successful in clearing out crowds. There's a simple, Xbox 360/PlayStation 3-era charm to it that feels just entertaining enough to be worth it. I enjoyed teaming up with friends for couch co-op unburdened by a dramatic narrative and coupled with silly characters and plenty of guns to blow things up with.
You don't have to worry about ammo, but you do have to worry about an annoying cool down meter that will find your guns overheating and unusable. This is pretty odd to include in a Contra game where the entire point is to keep shooting, and it got on my nerves more than a few times. You can purchase a few upgrades to get around it, but it just doesn't make sense for the game as a whole.
Plus, while running into hordes of enemies guns blazing is usually fun, it can also get old quickly. The levels are quite similar to each other, and the enemies and boss encounters rote. It's very much a game you want to play in shorter bursts or as a party game when you've got willing friends ready to shred some bad guys with you. The occasionally clunky controls can become frustrating as well, with camera angles that don't quite work well in the moment from time to time, but these are issues that can mostly be overlooked.
A bit rough around the edges
Most of Contra: Rogue Corps' issues stem from the fact that fans will balk at the fact that it isn't traditional Contra as well as its few annoying gameplay mechanics and humor. However, its biggest failing is its graphics. Simply put, this game doesn't look great. It's reminiscent of an old Xbox Live Arcade title you might pay $14.99 for, just so you and your friends have something new to play for the weekend.
Textures are-reused constantly, and character models aren't anything to write home about. This is in juxtaposition to its narrative segments, however, which do look pretty decent, with a fun comic book style to them that wouldn't be out of place in a graphic novel. On the plus side, the voice acting isn't too bad, but the music is largely forgettable.
A fun if forgettable ride
Contra: Rogue Corps may not get high marks for reinvigorating the Contra series, nor does it innovate or do anything exceptionally well. But a game that you enjoy playing doesn't have to, and I found myself enjoying this raucous shooter more than I thought I would. It may have its own fair share of problems, but its low price and low barrier entry make it a serviceable and potentially hilarious time to be had solo or with your friends. Just drop the Contra from the title if it bothers you so much and give it a try.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 code provided by the publisher. Contra: Rogue Corps is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Contra: Rogue Corps
- Fun assortment of characters to play as.
- Lighthearted, silly narrative.
- Fun run-and-gun action that doesn't try too hard.
- Doesn't resemble the original Contra in any real way.
- Clunky controls.
- Frustrating weapon overheat mechanic.
- Feels dated overall in terms of graphics and gameplay.
Brittany Vincent posted a new article, Contra: Rogue Corps review - Clunky yet explosive fun
The quicklook made it look like a hot mess. Not the game play and systems I want in a contra game.