In the generation of remasters, remakes and reboots, I’m not sure anyone out there was on their knees wishing for a remaster of 2006’s Rogue Trooper. It’s weird: Rogue Trooper isn’t a game I’d ever think I’d hear of again. After all, the sixth generation third-person shooter wasn’t a cult classic, it wasn’t a critical darling and it sure as hell wasn’t a revolutionary game on the PS2/Original Xbox—it just was.
I remember being at EGX this year where Rebellion was showing off the PS4 and Switch version of this redux. “What the hell is Rogue Trooper?”, I’d hear people shout from across the room only for an occasional mate to reply with, “It’s just an original Xbox game, fam.” I’d occasionally overhear someone saying that they remembered it or that they loved it as a kid, but no one was actually interested in playing it. Apart from me; I played it four times.
This technical reskin makes Redux look like something vaguely belonging somewhere between this generation and the previous one
Rebellion’s attempt to bring this game two generations into the future is a weird one. The reason I was so interested in playing Rogue Trooper at the event was because it was a rare experience to play a game that felt like it came out of the era of PS2, Xbox and Gamecube—the era I properly grew up in. While the original visual quality of the game’s initial release is understandably lacking in the days of Uncharted 4 and The Evil Within 2, there is still a decent shooter hidden underneath its murky brown textures and flat environments.
The visual revamp is one of the more impressive aspects of this remaster. Taking the foundations of the eleven-year-old original and recreating the original models, textures and lighting effects, this technical reskin makes Redux look like something vaguely belonging somewhere between this generation and the previous one. It’s still not a fantastic looker; although stages such as Petrified Forest and Mountain Pass look absolutely gorgeous in certain sections there are some levels which don’t see the same level of visual polish as others.
Whereas the previously mentioned levels see such a vast overhaul that they actually feel impressive and impactful in their atmosphere, other locales are incredibly underwhelming. Nort Naval Base, Nu Paree and Souther R&R all look passable from afar but never manage to shed the limitations of their decade-plus-old original.
This version of the comic story is one that has been undoubtedly butchered from its source material
The archaic, chunky, polygonal design of their environments scream back to the simplistic locales of Original Xbox-era games like Red Faction or Halo 2 where blocks and flat textures reigned free. They’re not off-putting, they just stand out, but nothing—aside for a complete revamp of the original locations—could help bring Rogue Trooper’s environments into the present day. Even certain environmental textures, while still redone, look remarkably rough when placed next to others as they still follow the same designs as the original whereas other remasters, such as Halo 2: Anniversary, have slightly altered the original visual style so as not to feel too time-worn.
If there was any rough area of this remaster to point at, however, it would be the game’s animations. While every aspect of the game’s art has been redone, animations are seen left identical to their original counterparts. In-game animations are fine enough, especially when it comes to your friend-turned-backpack Bagman who is particularly impressive, but cutscenes see constant stuttering limbs and endearingly poor lip-synch.
Visuals do not make that much of a difference, within limits, if the gameplay and narrative of the product is great; Rogue Trooper, however, is only ever decent in both regards. Taking the BAFTA award-winning story of the 2000AD comic series of the same name and abridging it heavily, this version of the comic story is one that has been undoubtedly butchered from its source material.
The tale of the Genetic Infantry Units Rogue, Gunner, Bagman and Helm hunting down a Souther traitor is used primarily as filler to take the player from level to level. With lightning-fast pacing, stilted-yet-humorous dialogue and an unsatisfying ending, the narrative here is undeveloped and flat.
What players should be looking for here is the gameplay. While it isn’t the most refined combat in a third-person shooter, Redux is exactly what you’d expect from a sixth-generation game in its genre. Cover is a fastidious automatic system: initiated by slamming your body against a nearby piece of wall and you should stick to the nearest piece of cover. Unlike other games in its genre, Rogue’s cover isn’t an instant shield bullet reflector. Depending on the height of your cover, and if your lil’ blue head pokes out from the top, bullets can still hit you and chip away at your health bar making Rogue Trooper all about placement.
Rebellion’s remaster won’t last you long, but for a few hours of nostalgia for a sixth-generation shooter it might be worth a shot
There is a slight hint of strategy within the game’s combat system, but not by much. Certain enemies such as EMP troopers should be taken out first, although it is by no means required, to stop your electronics from malfunctioning, and you should throw EMP grenades at enemy electronics (such as mechs) to take them out afterwards before moving onto the fodder. It’s a simple system, helped little by the game’s crude controls, but it works for the majority of the five-hour campaign and is fun enough, especially in local co-op.
Outside of the main story, Rogue Trooper does include two alternate modes to play through, which are also available for online multiplayer. The defence-focused Strongholds mode and the mini-mission Progressive mode offers a welcome wealth of additional content to play through should you be so inclined, but they fail to bring anything new to the table—and that’s for 2006’s standards not today’s.
That’s probably the biggest problem with this remaster: it’s all been done before, but better. If you’re a fan of the original, dropping down twenty bob for some enjoyable nostalgia is surely going to be a good time, but Rogue Trooper still feels as barebones as it did eleven years ago and no amount of visual spit-and-polish can fix that.
Rogue Trooper Redux is little more than some spring cleaning on an age-worn bungalow. While the newly added visual sheen can make it more admirable from afar, once all of the shine is gone it’s not long before it starts to show its age. Rebellion’s remaster won’t last you long, but for a few hours of nostalgia for a sixth-generation shooter it might be worth a shot.