I hate to admit it, but the “gaming community” and I don’t usually see eye to eye. These are often people who’d just as soon call you a racial slur and talk about what they’ll do to your mother as yell at you for not supporting whatever cause-of-the-week they’ve decided to be angry about. Not all of ’em, sure, but generally speaking they’re not my people – I’m typically more happy just to play whatever for as long as I’d like to play it and not really worry about the latest nontroversy. Like a stopped clock, though, they can be correct every now and again. Case in point: when they said Contra: Rogue Corps didn’t look all that great, well…
In the future, there’s aliens! They’ve taken over a city! If you go in, you go crazy and die or something! That doesn’t happen to everyone, though. The few who can survive in the Damned City are known as Jaegers; they serve as mercenaries who can infiltrate the City and complete jobs for the right price. We follow a team of Jaegers during their missions, most of which involve plenty of over-the-top carnage. Our heroes: a big buff white dude! A woman with a demon-stomach! An alien! A…panda?
Look, I’m not going to be telling you anything that wasn’t obvious when I say that this isn’t Contra. It’s not Contra in the way you’d expect, at least; something being “Contra” kind of fell apart back when Neo Contra came out for the PS2. This is a twin-stick shooter with RPG elements and graphics that would have been right at home on the original Xbox. It has some nods to classic Contra, such as the music and the odd weapon here and there, but that’s where the similarities end.
Instead, the closest comparison I can make would be to something like Hunter: The Reckoning or the Gauntlet reboot. It’s a top-down shooter where you blast hordes of enemies, collecting loot and upgrades all the way. Every so often you fight a boss with a big honkin’ life bar. As you play, you’ll gather materials which can be used to build new weapons and attachments for those weapons.
It’s not a bad concept, honestly, and the problem isn’t that it’s “not Contra.” That’s the problem the “gaming community” has with it. You know what? They can call the game whatever they want if it’s fun. The problem with Rogue Corps is that it’s not a very good shooter.
Weapons have ridiculous cooldown periods after use, for instance, which is intended to convince you to focus on upgrades but instead makes your characters feel hilariously weak early on. There’s also a wide variety of weapons but too many of them feel weak or awkward – take the grenade launcher, for instance, which has a microscopic area of effect and an awkward arc that makes it too difficult to use effectively. What’s more, the presence of “Shooting Gallery” sections that bring to mind the original Contra means that weapons without enough range are entirely useless on certain levels. It’s not great.
Finally, we can’t really get around the fact that Contra: Rogue Corps just isn’t that visually appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m firmly in the camp that believes games should still be allowed to have fun rather than everything becoming a This War of Mine-styled somberfest, to say nothing of how games need to be “art”…but the Rob Liefeld aesthetic going on here is more nauseating than interesting much of the time. That might not be the case if the models and textures weren’t ripped straight from the glory days of the PlayStation 2. I’m not sure how that even happened, but there you have it – maybe it was an intentional decision?
Look, if you can rope a friend or two into playing Contra: Rogue Corps with you it’s really not that bad. Once you’ve made some headway and gotten a few upgrades for your guns, there’s a passable shooter here…I suppose. For the asking price, though, “passable” gameplay and presentation aren’t going to cut it. You should probably skip Contra: Rogue Corps. Maybe try out Hard Corps: Uprising on the seventh generation of consoles if you’re looking for some RPG flavor in your Contra.