No-one associated with this game would send us a copy of it so we had to buy it Make of that what you will. In fact let me develop this little theme a little further. Don't worry, I've got time and space, as describing the game and what happens in it won't last long at all.
Rogue Warrior is a game that's all about first impressions. In that it never actually gets them right First of all, the menu doesn't have mouse support. Neither does is have a subtitle option (that I could find) or any others beyond the fundamentally basic. Even my refresh rate was locked at 60Hz, even though the desktop I'm writing these words on is flickering away at 75Hz.
But of course, menus aren't everything. It's just that the next first impression, the gameplay one, is just as bad. The graphics are, to put it mildly, ghastly, as are the game mechanics. It's like being transported back to the days of Soldier of Fortune II, which at least was good for it's time. This one isn't good, at all. It's criminally easy, with only a puzzling recharging health system to indicate you've been wounded or are close to death. Sometimes you just die with virtually no warning, as bullets suddenly dish out 15 million times more damage than they did two seconds ago.
Generally Rogue Warrior is really easy, though. It's also astonishingly short On normal difficulty, it will take an average-skilled FPS player around 2.5 hours to complete the entire thing. And yes, it does cost $30.
The actual action is as old-fashioned and generic as it's graphics, but it's just all by-the-numbers stuff, although you do get to perform some kill moves on enemies, which are brutal and satisfying to an extent Still, you feel that the whole thing could break at any moment, and sometimes it does.
The cover system seems to be an unnecessary addition, because often it just screws up the game when you try to use it Serious clipping problems abound: at one point an attempted snap-to-cover move landed me flailing about in the scenery, and unable to defend myself against the five Communists who were blasting me with AK-47s. Luckily, there are checkpoints every couple of metres, so it wasn't overly annoying.
You might not be swearing, but your character certainly will be. In fact he never, ever stops swearing. That aged classic Kingpin might just have a new rival for its title of "Game With Most Expletives Ever". Perhaps the most perplexing contradiction when considering Rogue Warrior is how they managed to get Mickey Rourke to provide the voice for main character Richard Marcinko, who was a real-life Navy SEAL and counter-terrorist special ops type back in the '80s. They must have got him to do it before The Wrestler hit the big time, unless he happens to know Marcinko or something.
Anyway, Rourke's talents are expressed in the form of the words "fuck", "balls", "hairy", "suck", "cock" and "Commie". There are others, like "it" and "is", but generally that's the extent of his character's vocabulary. Throw in some bravado about disobeying orders and stopping a Cold War missile plot and you've got the plot in a nutshell.
Rogue Warrior couldn't be more like a bad '80s action movie if it tried. Stupid chief? Check. Burly warrior who doesn't take orders from liberal sissies? Check. Brutal stabbings, knifingsand shootings? Check. It's a pity there isn't a character with a huge pushbroom moustache, chainmail vest and ridiculous flat-top to scream at you in the finale. In fact the finale isn't really any different to the rest of the game. Nice work there, Rebellion.
So there you have it. Rogue Warrior is a dog's dinner of a game, put together with little effort or care. As with Rebellion's last game, Shellshock 2: Blood Trails, this one has left us worried about what the new Aliens vs Predator game will actually be like when it's released. The chances are they're saving up all their good ideas for that game (we hope they are), but Rogue Warrior and Shellshock 2 don't fill us with much hope.
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Dick Marcinko Is a very dangerous man. He could kill you with his thumb. While sleeping. That's why lie's considered to be one of the toughest and most accomplished counter-terrorism commanders in US military history. Shorter than he looks in his photo, his unwavering eyes emanate the calm, steely confidence of a trained killer, while his long dark hair and solid physique belie an age that's just four years short of 70.
Sitting in front of Marcinko are 40 comparatively harmless international games journalists (41 including me). Weve been pulled away from the hypnotic lights and pinging slot machines of Las Vegas and rammed into a room to catch the first glimpse of Zombie's new Unreal Engine 3-powered first/third-person tactical shooter Rogue Warrior, a game based on Marcinkos SEAL-team exploits during the Korean war.
Eager to begin the presentation, Bethesda frontman Pete Hines brings the room to calm, and we catch our first glimpse of a game that's aiming to be one of the most open-ended shooters of all time.
"We wanted to do some different things in the tactical shooter space than what's already being done. We wanted to do something more open-ended and less constrained," explains Hines as a vivid level swells onto the monitor, revealing a North Korean ship-breaker's yard teeming with detail and enemy patrols.
It's one of the campaign's earliest levels, a recreation of the start of Dick and his team's marathon undercover journey to get back across the border to safety after theyve been stranded in North Korea at the start of the North/South conflict. Yes indeedy folks, this actually happened and you're going to get to relive it.
"We wanted to base the game on a licence that would give the game a sense of authenticity, so the things that you see are as realistic as possible," explains Hines as Zombie producer Mark Long pans around the level. On the screen, Marcinkos digital twin and three Spec Ops sidekicks stand knee-deep in water that looks so convincing, I'm already stripped off to my pants and inflating my arm bands: an urge quickly suppressed when Long lets off a burst from his silenced MP4 into the water. The bullets kick up spray and steam rises from the superheated silencer. "We're also working with Dick to make sure that the weapons and equipment look and feel authentic," continues Hines as Long leads his team out of the water towards a North Korean truck parked nearby.
Hit The Gas
Eager to prove his point, he lets off a flurry of bullets, which hammer into the truck's front bumper causing it to shake like a headboard in a brothel until it falls to the ground with a clang. Moving his sights to the engine, Long lets rip again, this time igniting a small flame that licks hungrily at the truck, slowly devouring it until it reaches the petrol tank. Seconds later, the truck is blown into a thousand molten shards while Marcinko nods sagely in the background.
Visuals aside, perhaps Rogue Warrior's most impressive attribute is its attempt to meld run-and-gun gameplay with open-ended squad-based combat, theoretically allowing you to approach each level as aggressively or as stealthily (or indeed, as tactically) as your cold heart desires.
"We wanted to go with something that was a departure from the genre's current nondescript, over-stylised direction," explains Long as he moves his team towards a cluster of nearby North Korean patrolmen with a single mouse click, while propaganda music blares from speakers mounted high on poles throughout the yard.
With the option to command each individual team member (each of which has the same set of abilities that you have), or to issue orders to your entire team, Rogue Warrior's gameplay is looking more flexible than a Russian gymnast, clearly leaning towards the more open-ended approach adopted by the likes of Splinter Cell: Double Agent than more conventional, linear shooters.
Slow And Fast
But there's little time for contemplation right now as Long's eager to showcase both of these playing styles. First, he chooses a tactical, stealthy approach to the conundrum of taking out the guards. Leaving the rest of his squad behind cover, he slowly flanks a lone guard before drawing a bloody smile across his throat.
Next he cycles through his collection of booby traps - remote, time and pressure bombs -and plants one on his victims uniformed corpse. The dead mans radio crackles briefly as one of his fellow guards checks in on his status, but the enquiry is met by silence.
Alerted by their comrade's lack of response, three nearby guards rush to check on him, kneeling low in apparent concern as they search for a pulse. Big mistake. Grasping the remote detonator switch, Long takes out all three men with a single press of a button without having to fire a single shot.
"This is a system that were calling 'Lure Behaviour, beams Long. "Guards communicate with each other via radio and they're going to be checking on each other so they'll know if something bad has happened to someone on patrol. You can also place a booby trap on an alarm in order to take out any enemies that try to activate it.
While the Lure Behaviour system is a welcome addition to the fold, it strikes me as somewhat baffling that Zombie aren't planning to include an option to pick up and hide enemy corpses. Its an omission that seems strangely at odds with whats clearly shaping up to be a highly detailed and tactical experience. Let's just hope they change their minds before it's too late, eh?
With the presentation coming to a close, it's clear that Long is determined to go out with a bang by showcasing the games all-out action features. Selecting one of the many routes through the level, he leads his team towards a group of gargantuan rusting hulls, surrounded by pockets of enemies.
"There are a lot of different routes that you and your team can take through the levels," says Long as he waits for a pair of North Korean soldiers to pass his hiding place. "The Al is integral to this setup. Its designed to react to you and your team regardless of where you are on the map. The AIs communicate to each other, call for alarms and reinforcements, see you and hear you. Sometimes they'll fight you, sometimes flank you, other times they might flee and regroup. We want to keep the unpredictability of warfare as authentic as we can."
Lofty promises, hut these are sentiments we've heard before. Far Cry promised the same thing, as did the likes of Rainbow Six 3 and Half-Life 2. All of these games offered a slight element of unpredictability, yet their enemies' intelligence never quite matched the claims of the developers. As Long gives the order to break cover and attack, we hold our breaths to see what this latest pretender can deliver.
Surprisingly, we're not disappointed. As the ship-breaker's yard is engulfed in a hail of lead, Long sends two of his men to flank the enemy soldiers, who instantly seek out cover. Short bursts of gunfire are exchanged, as each side preserves its limited supply of ammo. Enemies duck out from their hiding places, before diving back, but they're soon overpowered with a few well-placed grenades and a cunning flanking manoeuvre that they never see coming.
The Longest Journey
"We're trying to give you a tactical shooter with tons of potential to play the way you want to play and we're going to throw tons of curve-balls at you along the way," says Long as the end of level cut-scene kicks in. In it, Marcinko and his team are left contemplating their predicament as the sheer extent of their task is revealed - the camera panning for miles over the North Korean countryside, over countless battlefields, all the way to the South Korean border and safety.
With that, Long sits back with a smile, confident that he's proved Rogue Warrior really is the game that finds the elusive middle ground between tactics and exciting action. A quick glance at Marcinko reveals a satisfied, approving smile. Praise doesn't come much higher than that.
Having already played plenty with trolls and elves in Oblivion, publisher Bethesda is moving on to seals...er, SEALs. Tactical shooter Rogue Warrior casts you as an elite Navy soldier whose North Korean vacation is cut short when Kim Jong-il decides the Korean War deserves a do-over.
But while the story mode combines elements of SOCOM and Rainbow Six, it's the multiplayer that really makes Rogue Warrior stand out. Besides supporting up to 24 weekend warriors, maps are put together like a jigsaw puzzle, as each of the two teams pick a tile (ranging from tight indoor backdrops to wide-open battlefields), and the game randomly chooses the middle ground. As a result, you'll find more than 200 possible map combinations, with promises of additional tiles available for download later.