When it was announced at E3 2019, Contra: Rogue Corps was hit with mixed criticism, and rightfully so.
Long gone is the mostly 2D side scrolling run and gun gameplay mostly seen in the 8 and 16 bit era that made the series popular. Instead, it ops for a top down and isometric style of play more akin to Neo Contra. During E3 I had a chance to sit down with the title for a hands-on preview.
Directed by Nobuya Nakazato, who also worked on Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps, the events of Rogue Corps are set after The Alien Wars.
Humanity has been decimated and the rise of the “Damned City” appeared. Most people who enter the city go insane and very few are able to resist its effects. Those who do seek out money, treasure or complete jobs.
Players take control of one of four bounty hunters, each with their own unique style of play. For example, Kaiser the hot blooded cyborg tends to lean more towards a run and gun style of play with his machine gun and rocket launcher.
Ms. Harakiri and her actual parasite companion that lives in her stomach utilizes speed, and a straight line laser weapon that shoots through enemies and does damage over time. During my play I opted to use Hungry Beast, a chain gun wielding panda.
Playing the game utilizes a twin stick style of control. One stick controls character movement and the other aims, while holding the R2 button on the DualShock controller would cause the character to fire their weapons. Over time the weapon can overheat and takes a few seconds to cool down.
Switching between them is key, especially as waves of enemies come at you. Added to this are buttons for dodging and a special ability unique to each character, as well as a high damage attack that can be used every so often.
Switching every so often from the top down view, the game would enter a shooting gallery mode. This mode shifts the perspective behind the character and locks movement on a 2D plane.
While I was hoping it would emulate the experience I had with the original Contra’s 3D stages, the overall parts were short. They usually defaulted to killing some enemies guarding a wall, which then opened up a door, and it all then shifted back to its original style.
Something I found disruptive was some enemies who took no damage. Instead, some of them would have to be stunned by dodging through them. To finish them off, some of them had to be picked up and thrown for an environmental kill or had to have a finishing blow be executed on them.
Usually this would not be too much of an issue with my time but they usually appeared as the only enemy on the screen after defeating everything else around me. This felt a bit unneeded but it was only the beginning of the game.
While I did have some fun with my time playing the game as it does have a good foundation to go by, it did start to feel repetitive. Older titles, especially Contra III: The Alien Wars, had me glued to the tv.
In comparison, Rogue Corps just seemed to miss that spark I was hoping it had. It has the potential to be a good game but in its current state feels very rough, and the chances of it getting better might be a bit slim.
The visuals for the game are definitely lacking and need polish. While it does have some level of detail, textures looked washed out and bland. Player character models had some detail but enemies models.
The zombie-like common ones were all copies of one another with a couple of color changes depending on their strength. The worst offender was the environments, nothing popped out. The comic book artwork during the introduction cutscenes, however, stood out compared to the rest of the game.
The over the top action and humor they put in the game made me forget at points that it was a Contra title. At some points I felt as if it was pushing into more of a watered down Borderlands feel, which put me off. I hope that the finished version stands out on its own.
I have been hoping for a revitalization of the series for awhile. While this may not be the path I hoped it would take, I am willing to give it a run through when its development is complete – hoping that it became a more worthwhile experience.
With Contra: Rogue Corps currently in development and its release stated for September, hopefully its issues can be ironed out and it can be made into a good co-op experience. There’s something fun here, it just needs to be further polished and ironed out.
Contra: Rogue Corps is launching across Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on September 24th.