For as much as people might enjoy taking out tons and tons of Axis forces in a variety of gloriously insane and gory manners in Sniper Elite, it might come out as surprising to most that Rebellion been in game development for way longer than that particular franchise has been around. In fact, one of their releases during the PlayStation 2 era, Rogue Trooper, was one of the best shooters to come out at that time, but ultimately it didn’t get a whole lot of attention. So it was really cool to learn that it’s now being brought back to modern consoles in a fresh coat of paint and a few gameplay improvements.
Rogue Trooper is based on a strip from long-running British comic book 2000 AD penned by Gerry Finley-Day and Watchmen’s Dave Gibbons, in which genetically enhanced blue-skinned soldiers fight a never-ending war between the north and the south in a far-flung future where Earth has ceased being hospitable, with Nu-Earth taking its place as the home for humanity. The game did a great job in capturing the feel of the books by having you control one of those soldiers and continually gain new abilities by acquiring new brain chips from fallen comrades along the way, eventually turning your blue man into a one-man squad.
I have fond memories of playing Rogue Trooper back in the early 2000s, but details are now fuzzy as to just how well it would play it this day and age. Having tried the remastered version during my appointment at E3, it’s safe to say it certainly feels like a shooter of that era — it’s quite linear and to the point, with little to no fluff on the way other than a cutscene or two for story exposition thrown in for good measure. That’s not to say there’s no merit to this remaster, there’s certainly a niche for games like that nowadays, and Rebellion is being clear in regards to their intent with re-releasing Rogue Trooper: it’s an attempt to make this the complete version of what they felt like was a flawed release back in during its original run.
In that regard, they’ve nailed what a remaster should do. The graphics look a whole lot better now, thanks to new character models that are much more expressive than they’ve ever were before. There are also a few additions that are aimed at making Rogue Trooper more playable next to modern day releases, like autosaves and the ability to naturally stick to cover without having to press a dedicated button, which came in handy during the many fights in the demo.
On the other hand, it still a game of that particular moment in gaming. As mentioned before, it’s quite linear and it doesn’t go out of its way to make you care much about what’s going on outside of all the action. Same goes with enemy behavior during these firefights, really aggressive and not at all intelligent. I hope there’s still a chance Rebellion might improve that in the final version that’s coming out sometime this year for all consoles, including Nintendo Switch.
Rebellion’s other offering at E3 was Strange Brigade, a new title that has a lot in common with Rogue Trooper. It features pretty much the same gameplay style under a 1930s action serial skin, with up to four player-controlled explorers shooting their way through farthest reaches of the British colonial empire. The demo took place somewhere in Africa, and it put me, along with a random journalist who was also testing the game out, in a cooperative mission that took place in a jungle temple arena.
Calling that level an arena might be a tad limiting, due to how it continually grew as new gates opened up and allowed us to access new sections, but the entire thing felt like a closed off environment — we were able to see and run back to previous parts of the stage at all times. Waves upon waves of enemies kept attacking us as we found new levers to pull, keys to use and simple puzzles to solve.
New weapons popped up from time to time aside from the basic ones we picked at the start of the level, even though they all mostly felt the same — a three weapon loadout that included a side arm, main gun and an explosive. A special attack meter built up for each of us as we continuously eliminated enemies. It helped me make it through a few pinches here and there, although my the person I was playing with wasn’t so lucky getting his off in any way that would’ve helped us. Still, we made it through somehow, thanks to the traps we were also able to trigger in our favor, like spinning blades, floor spikes and the such, which helped tear through the undead we were fighting against.
The shooting felt on par to Rogue Trooper’s, or any third-person game with an emphasis on balls to the wall action, without worrying of trying to achieve any realism. Quite a departure from Sniper Elite, for sure. Still, as a cooperative arcade shooter, Strange Brigade certainly fit the bill as a quick drop in drop out experience, which is obviously what Rebellion has in mind for this. There was no backstory whatsoever, and I have the slight suspicion that there won’t be much of it in the final version. The setting alone was entertaining enough to help this game not look at all generic, and thankfully enough, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
There’s no release date set for Strange Brigade. It’ll be coming out for consoles and PC soon.