After watching the few trailers for RoboCop: Rogue City by Polish studio Teyon, I was left with the impression that it was an action shooter where you fight crime as the titular iconic cyborg, putting criminals into the ground one street punk at a time. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a nigh-unstoppable hunk of metal who can deflect bullets and throw goons around like trash? But after getting a chance to play the first few chapters of the title at a private Nacon Bigben Week event, I realized that I was only half-right. Similar to the modern Deux Ex games, it has RoboCop shoot thugs in high-octane missions one day and then serve the public interest as a beat cop in Old Detroit the next. This overarching design allows the game to explore what it means for RoboCop to be one part man and one part machine.
“I’d buy that for a dollar!”
Following an original story set between RoboCop 2 (1990) and RoboCop 3 (1993), RoboCop: Rogue City starts off with a bang. A gang called the Torch Heads, who are about as twisted and psychotic as Joker’s hoodlums in Batman, have taken over the Channel 9 television studio. Soot, the leader of the crew, has taken the employees hostage just for the opportunity to hawk the drug Nuke to all the viewers watching the nightly news broadcast. RoboCop, alongside his trusty partner Anne Lewis, has been ordered to use deadly force and eliminate all threats with cold, hard iron.
Teyon has put in a lot of effort in making RoboCop feel right as the popular character and as a hulking powerhouse of law enforcement. First off, the voice actor for the character is Peter Weller, who plays RoboCop in the first two films, so the performance is undeniably authentic. Hearing him shout out-liners like “Slimebags detected!” and “Drop it, scum!” hits right in the sweet spot of nostalgia.
Then in combat, RoboCop is essentially a walking tank. Each of his heavy robotic footsteps clang against the floor, and he can fire any gun, including his signature Auto 9 machine pistol, without any recoil. He’s barely fazed by bullets, which bounce like spitballs off his metal frame. He still sustains minor damage, though, so it’s still worth him using a wall or a pillar for cover when he needs to reload. If his health bar gets too low, he can activate an OCP Recovery Charge that quickly regenerates his internal components. For a more brutal approach, he can also grab a hooligan by the throat and use him as a human shield before hurling him like a shotput into a wall. Holding down the left trigger button also allows him to scan the battlefield, highlighting any enemies with a green outline just like he does in the movies.
“You call this a glitch?”
After securing the TV station, RoboCop and his partner head back to the police station and are mostly hailed as heroes. But the chief Max Becker, who doesn’t care for the cyborg in the slightest, is far less than pleased. This is because near the end of the starting mission, RoboCop suffers a strange glitch where his repressed memories as a human begin to crack through. This makes him hesitate in a hostage situation and a camerawoman catches footage of it, leading to questions that he may be defective. (I believe it’s actually correct procedure not to fire a shot at a criminal holding a hostage at gunpoint, but we’re working with action B-movie logic here.)
At any rate, Becker wants him to head to the basement for maintenance, leading RoboCop to sit in a chair as the technical crew runs him through diagnostics and system checks. Where Becker treats RoboCop more or less as a machine, psychologist Dr. Olivia Blanche wishes to analyze his more human side instead. Having him speak with Olivia over the course of the game will likely provide insight on why these memory glitches are happening.
Sitting in the chair is also where players will see a summary of the chapter, giving a breakdown of any additional experience points he earned in a mission by saving hostages quickly or picking up stray pieces of crime evidence along the way. As a completionist, I tend to explore every nook and cranny of a level by default, so I collected a lot of bonus experience points by grabbing documents, extra doses of Nuke, and batches of nude pictures (the item just says “nude pictures” so there’s nothing spicy here, folks).
"Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening."
Every character level earns additional skill points that will impact dialogue options and combat. Most of the skills are fairly straightforward, like Combat, Armor, and Vitality for general damage, defense, and health boosts. Engineering allows you to open safes and reprogram turrets, while Scanning unlocks opportunities to ricochet bullets off surfaces, like how RoboCop saves the baby at the beginning of RoboCop 2. Putting more points into Deduction and Psychology will help make investigations easier and unlock lines of dialogue that would otherwise be unavailable. In a brief interview I had with Producer Piotr Latocha, he stated that players won’t be able to max out every skill and likely won’t even be able to max out half of them by the end of the game, so multiple run-throughs of the game can play quite differently depending on the build.
How some of these skills ultimately play out in conversation is similar to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, where RoboCop is required to have a skill at a certain threshold to unlock specific options. During one of the side quests I found while wandering a small area of Old Detroit, RoboCop is alerted that the car of the mayor’s niece had been stolen. This led to an investigation at a nearby car shop where the owner was dodging questions about the blue 6000 SUX in question, a vehicle that RoboCop movie buffs will recognize. I was able to use a clue I found in a waste basket and the two points I put into RoboCop’s Psychology to grill the owner further on what he was hiding. Later in the mission, though, I wasn’t able to open a safe because he didn’t have enough points in Engineering, and his lack of Deduction skills made him pass by a suspicious sheet of wood without any further inspection.
Despite that, I still managed to complete the quest and, to keep it vague, decide whether to arrest a particular NPC or let the person go. In fact, this ethical test between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law persists throughout the game, and how RoboCop chooses to serve the public interest will ultimately impact the ending. For instance, in one shoddy area of the city, I found a drunkard who I could arrest for having an open alcoholic container, but I decided to let him off with a warning. This was just one small choice out of many, but over time, decisions like these will add up and sway the public towards either trusting RoboCop or seeing him as an authoritarian menace. This will ultimately matter if you care about solving New Detroit’s wave of crime, which extends well beyond the antics of the Torch Heads gang.
According to Latocha, the main campaign of RoboCop: Rogue City will run about 20 hours, with side quests and general exploration pushing it toward the 30-hour mark. The game is slated to release in September 2023 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S. At the time of this writing, it is available for pre-orders at various retailers for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, and can be wishlisted on PC via Steam or Epic Games Store.
This preview is based on a beta build as shown by the publisher and developer at a private event.