Rogue Warrior Review

By Paul Semel - Posted Dec 04, 2009

Rogue Warrior is a first-person shooter based on the life and autobiography of Richard "Dick" Marcinko, a soldier who served with the Navy SEALs in Vietnam, and later formed Red Cell, who were tasked with testing the security of bases, submarines, and, most famously, Air Force One. In other words, an interesting character. Oh, if only we could say the same for this game.

The Pros
  • Hilariously filthy dialog.
  • Has the cheese of an '80s action movie.
  • Is over quick.
The Cons
  • Drab graphics.
  • More frustrating than challenging.
  • Dated gameplay.

If the first Lethal Weapon movie showed us anything, it was that interesting characters can make the difference between a rote action movie and a great one. Though, as Lethal Weapon 4 showed us, you still need more than interesting characters to make a passable one.

Rogue Warrior Review

Rogue Warrior is a first-person shooter based on the life of, and the autobiography of the same name by, Richard “Dick” Marcinko, a veteran U.S. soldier who served with the Navy SEALs in Vietnam, and later formed Red Cell, who were tasked with testing the security of bases, submarines, and, most famously (or embarrassingly, since they managed to infiltrate it), Air Force One. In other words, an interesting character. Oh, if only we could say the same for this game.

Going Rouge, er Rogue

In the game, you play as Dick at the end of 1986 as he and his squad of bad asses — oh, wait, everyone else just died — as he single-handedly invades North Korea, looking for nukes. And if this sounds like the plot to a bad Rambo rip-off, well, you’re not far off.

Except that Rambo had more character than Rogue Warrior. The levels are standard issue -- factories, army bases, a train yard -- and each is largely just a series of tubes, er narrow passageways, with hardly any alternate paths or open battlefields. The action also doesn’t vary much. While you do plant explosives and occasionally go down a zipwire, you never take control of a turret or shoot people from the back of a truck. Nope, you’re pretty much just shooting people.

That is, when you’re not sneaking up behind someone. Rogue Warrior has something of a stealth mechanic at work. There are times when your enemies are either looking the other way, or just not paying attention, and while you could just shoot them, you can also sneak up behind them and kill them real quiet like. Except it’s not much of a stealth mechanic. While you can occasionally knock out the lights, and then use your night vision goggles to find your enemies in the darkness, you can’t hide in the shadows, or toss a bottle across the room to distract them, or hide in a cardboard box and hope no one notices that it moved ten feet while they weren’t looking. They either notice you, or they don’t.

When they don’t, though, you can use a kill move -- much like you did in last year’s The Bourne Conspiracy – which you can use when you’re close enough to stab someone, which is usually what you’ll do. Man, Dick sure loves his knife. There are times when he’ll get a bit more creative, though, such as when your target is leaning over a railing. You can even use a kill move if your enemy does know you’re coming; just get close enough and “bam!”

Similarly, the game has a rather rudimentary cover system. Except, unlike every other recent game with a cover system, this one doesn’t let you run into cover. You have to run, and then hit a button to duck into place, often while being riddled with bullets. You also can’t leap from cover to cover, or over cover.

Rogue is also missing other improvements to the genre that have become standard since the dawn of the new millennium. For example, hitting the button to look down the barrel of your gun doesn’t automatically snap you onto the nearest target like it does in Call of Duty. Nor does it work if you’re in cover and peering out, like it does in Rainbow Six: Vegas.

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The Game Is Your Enemy

Adding insult to injury, the game ain’t easy, even when you play it on easy. That’s not to say it’s challenging. Rather, because the graphics are pretty drab, monotonous, and rather dark and lacking contrast (even with the brightness turned all the way up), it’s sometimes hard to see who you’re supposed to be shooting. Not even using your night vision goggles helps much.

It also doesn’t help that, as bad a bad ass as he may be, Dick dies pretty quick. It usually takes just a few bullets to take him down, or a well-placed grenade. This might be more realistic than most shooters, but since the rest of the game isn’t played for realism, this just makes things more taxing than tough.

The game is also really, really short. And not Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 short, but “That’s it? Where you going? This party's just getting started…” short. It’ll take most FPS vets longer to watch both Men In Black movies and the first Lethal Weapon flick.

Finally, there are the online multiplayer modes, which consist of fairly basic versions of “Deathmatch” and “Team Deathmatch.” Granted, you can use kill moves here, but otherwise they have none of the improvements or additions that have become standard since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

Rogue Warrior Review

“And Heart to Heart You’ll Win / If You Survive…”

There are, however, some bright spots. Dick is voiced by actor Mickey Rourke, and while there are times when it sounds like he’s just phoning it in, there are also times when he sounds like he just received a doctorate in Creative Cursing from Harvard.

Some of the kill move animations are also pretty funny, in a gallows humor kind of way. They’re not for everyone, but if Friday The 13th movies make you chuckle, some of Dick’s knife moves will, too. And, well, that’s it. I know that’s not saying much, but I’m trying to stay positive. Dick’s game may not be very good, but even pushing 70, as he is, the guy could still kick my ass faster than you can say, “Paul Mitchell.”

Palin By Comparison

Ten years ago, the Kill moves and cover system might’ve helped Rogue Warrior to stand out. But a lot has changed in ten years, and what would’ve been unique then is just rote now. To paraphrase something Dick says in the game (and Danny Glover said in every Lethal Weapon), this game feels too old for this…well, you know.