December 19, 2009
From time to time, developers will pull the plug on a game for any number of reasons. Maybe the funding isn't there, or the game isn't up to snuff. Sometimes games will shift from one developer to another before hitting shelves, as is the case with Rogue Warrior. Originally handled by Zombie Studios, publisher Bethesda took them off the project because they weren't satisfied with the direction the game was taking, handing the reigns over to Rebellion. Bethesda should have cut their losses and put Rebellion's effort out to pasture permanently, as nothing Zombie could have done could be as awful as the final product on parade here.
Loosely based on the real-life exploits of Richard Marcinko, players will step into his shoes as he wanders through one bland industrial level after another as he makes his way from Korea into the Soviet Union, following nuclear missiles that pose a threat to the United States. That's all we get for exposition, and it's told through a few uninspired cut-scenes and plenty of appalling dialogue. After playing this game, I needed to sanitize my Xbox, my TV speakers, clean out my ears, and mail voice actor Mickey Rourke a six-bar pack of soap for good measure. Marcinko lacks any character development beyond being hands-down the most foulmouthed character in the history of gaming. I've got nothing against some profanity in games, but Marcinko's mouth puts even my worst Xbox Live experiences to shame, and is liable to incite spontaneous aural bleeding for anyone who does not play this game muted.
Rogue Warrior tries to blend in stealth action of the kind similar to Splinter Cell or Velvet Assassin with the brand of tactical shooting action familiar to Rainbow Six fans, and fails in both areas. Players can sneak up on enemies and press the A button to unleash a flashy instant kill move. These kills actually look pretty brutal, but any satisfaction at pulling one off diminishes when you realize just how easy they are to do. Go ahead and sneak, walk, sprint... it really doesn't matter. The enemy AI is so deficient that the enemies "meant" to be stealth killed will almost never detect you. You could take a drum corps riding a herd of wild elephants past these enemies and they wouldn't notice. A stealth system where stealth is never necessary is a broken system indeed.
Poor AI and level design set up Rogue Warrior to be a tactical shooter where the usage of tactics is superfluous. Enemies are too stupid to use anything resembling group tactics, and will rarely, if ever, try to flank. Killing themselves or each other with thrown grenades or shooting exploding barrels appears to be one of their special talents, as is standing directly in the line of fire despite having plenty of cover nearby. If opponents actually do take cover, "tactics" boils down to shooting exposed body parts or waiting for enemies to poke their heads out. Even if the enemies did have double-digit IQs, the level design here presents few tactical opportunities. Each level is painfully linear, and areas are too small to allow enough movement for an interesting battle to break out. Combat is uniformly of the formula; move forward, kill enemies, repeat. Changes to the formula like surprise attacks or enemies appearing from the rear would have been nice, but never happen. Most action takes place at the same level as the player, so only infrequently will players have to factor elevation differentials into their battle plans. The broken stealth action and poor tactical shooting design combine to make Rogue Warrior an incredibly easy and bland title, even on the hardest difficulty.
Besides the single player campaign, Rogue Warrior sports a minimal online multiplayer experience, with only deathmatch and team deathmatch options, across just six maps. The inclusion of a party system and the ability to customize game parameters in a private game is nice, but nobody will be playing this multiplayer for long. Maps simply feel too large for the number of players who can inhabit them, causing most games to play out as long, dull cat-and-mouse games, with little real drama or action. Since so few people play the game online, most public matches will launch with the room only half full, and on these oversized maps, that can translate to wandering around multiple minutes without ever encountering an opponent. Lag online often becomes so bad that strafing back and forth while rushing toward and enemy to finish them with an A button instant kill often becomes the most viable road to victory. With minimal options and a very limited player base, Rouge Warrior's online play really isn't worth your time.
The word ugly springs to mind when considering Rogue Warrior's visuals. Most of the game takes place in one bland industrial zone after another, with no distinguishing features to make them interesting or rememberable. Plain textures make the game look dated, and the questionable lighting levels in some areas will have players using night vision goggles to see more often than they should have to. Besides the already mentioned cringe-worthy dialogue, weapons sound as generic as the gameplay, and the music is as forgettable as it comes. To make matters worse, the credits roll with all of Marcinko's excessive swearing... put to music. Are you kidding me?
Perhaps the only consolation when playing Rogue Warrior is that most of its points come cheap and easy, though going for everything is quite annoying. Because Rebellion decided not to stack the difficulty achievements, players will have to slog through the horrible campaign three times. After that, it's time to boost the achievements in the multiplayer, which is really the only reason anyone plays the game online. Most can be quickly obtained with a few friends, but winning 10 ranked deathmatch games is a real chore. Taking about 15-20 hours to complete, the biggest challenge in completing Rogue Warrior is enduring this horrible game that long.
With a broken stealth system, idiotic AI, linear levels, limited tactical options, almost no story, very limited multiplayer action, and far too much profanity, Rogue Warrior is a failure in every respect. Sporting a campaign that can be beaten in under four hours - even at a slower pace - Rogue Warrior lacks enough content to make it worthy of its $60 price tag, even if the game was quality. Having to play through the campaign three times and boost online will test your patience, but Rogue Warrior isn't overly difficult to get the 1000 in. The major question is, is it really worth the time?
Appalling dialogue makes this game most enjoyable if played with the TV muted. You wouldn't remember the music and sound effects anyway.
Bland, forgettable level design with dated visuals and a level of darkness that makes night vision necessary too often, all make Rogue Warrior unappealing to the eyes.
The stealth system is broken, enemies are so dumb they're liable to kill themselves, multiplayer is perpetually laggy... Rogue Warrior asks players to suffer through a lot.
Linear level design constrains the tactical action, and the campaign runs under four hours. Multiplayer only offers deathmatch and team deathmatch. Overall, there's no value here, and no fun to be had.
Forcing players to play a bad game three times is unacceptable, as is adding over 300 points for a laggy multiplayer that features only two game modes. Rogue Warrior's list is incredibly generic, but at least most of the points come easily enough.
Rogue Warrior is easily one of the worst games on the Xbox 360. Featuring broken stealth action and bland tactical shooting, Rogue Warrior is a miserable experience, and best avoided at all costs.