Richard "Dick" Marcinko is known as the Rogue Warrior (yes, in real life). A former Navy SEAL, Marcinko is an author and accomplished business man nowadays. I had never heard the name before I began to look into a new game called Rogue Warrior, developed by Rebellion and published by Bethesda Softworks. This very M rated game puts players in the shoes of Marcinko as they single handedly must keep the North Koreans and Russians from 'winning' the Cold War. The action is gritty, the language is incredibly foul, and the game does have a lot of issues -- but I'll be damned if it isn't fun enough to warrant a play through.
Lights Out MF'er!
Rogue Warrior doesn't hold anything back when it comes to language, and to a degree, violence. You can't go ten minutes without hearing Marcinko drop the f-bomb, and just like with Rico in Killzone 2, it gets old and just about embarrassing after the first dozen times. Anyway, the campaign begins with an in game cinematic that sets the scene: Marcinko and two fellow members of SEAL Team 6 are being deployed behind enemy lines in North Korea to meet with a captured informant. The time frame is early November, 1986, and the Cold War is still seething with intrigue. Your buddies get killed right off the bat, leaving you to save the day over the course of the next seven or eight hours.
The first mission, and every mission after that, begins with the exact same loadout: an SM5 (think H&K MP5), a SAP-9 (silenced 9mm), and six frag grenades. The SAP-9 has unlimited ammo, but I always exchanged it for an assault rifle or shotgun once my cover was blown (although there's a Trophy for completing a mission with the pistol only). Marcinko also has night vision goggles that you can put on at anytime. For the most part, you won't need them, but there are a handful of times where you can shoot out a fuse box to create darkness in an area, confusing the enemy. These fuse boxes -- I spotted only three or four throughout the entire campaign -- are mounted on the wall and have a glimmer to them, just like the weapons you'll find in the game world.
Speaking of weapons, you can only carry two at a time, but which two is up to you. Each mission begins chronologically right after the previous one, so it's really a harsh continuity break and a sign of bad design to have you start off with a brand new loadout each time. It just doesn't add up. That said, you'll encounter a variety of realistic weapons including AK47s, P97-1s, Dragunov sniper rifles, and a few other Eastern hemisphere machine guns. With each weapon, you can aim with L2, and you can also blind fire with most as well. To pickup a new weapon, simply hold Square as prompted on screen when near a weapon and you'll drop the one currently equipped to exchange for the new one.
In addition to frag grenades and guns, Marcinko also carries a knife and several explosive charges that are used on
objective targets (and are otherwise unusable). The knife is a key part of the game and you'll get most of your stealth kills with it. Anytime you are in close proximity to an enemy, the "Press X to Quick Kill" prompt will appear. When it does, the camera switches from a first person to a cinematic third person view, and shows Marcinko dispatching the enemy in one of about a dozen different ways. Oddly enough, the official website mentions "more than twenty-five brutal kill moves," but I do not recall seeing that many. There are "finishing moves" that you can perform on enemies that have fallen down but aren't quite dead, but I only had the chance for one of these during the campaign. These kill animations are pretty awesome, but I would have liked more variety. Some Quick Kills utilize the environment, like throwing a guy over a ledge, but most are one of a handful of various stabbing or neck break maneuvers.
I must have netted at least eighty kills through Quick Kills, so by the end of the game I was bored with some of the animations, but it's a cool feature nonetheless. A couple of other points about Quick Kills is that you can do them on anyone, not just enemies you sneak up behind. At times, the prompt will appear but the Quick Kill will not take place. This seemed to only happen whenever I would try a Quick Kill on an enemy that was crouched down in cover and I was next to them. Other times, you'll execute a Quick Kill, but the events in the animation aren't logical according to the events in the seconds just before the Quick Kill, introducing another small continuity break. These are minor points that don't break the game, but they point out a lack of polish. Also, I wanted to point out that during the kill animation, your character is invulnerable to attacks from other enemies, which is a fair decision.
Knowing where your enemies are is a an important part of staying alive in Rogue Warrior. Players are informed to the whereabouts of their objective and of nearby enemies with the radar in the lower left hand corner of the screen. This easy to read radar shows icons for enemy state: green for unaware, yellow for alerted, red for actively attacking you. Since you will never run into a friendly face during the campaign, anyone that appears on your radar must die. It's possible to start off each mission by sneaking around and killing with your silenced pistol and Quick Kills, but at some point you will get spotted and you'll have to go guns blazing from there. The health system is the typical regenerative type whereby you will recover full health if you don't take too much continuous damage. You will die quickly out in the open, which is why there is a cover system like in Rainbow Six Vegas.
Players can take cover behind just about any wall by pressing L1 when close. When you do, the camera changes to a third person view. From this view, you can watch enemy movement in the room or area in front of you, and pop in and out of cover as needed with the left stick to take them out. Marcinko is able to swing out of cover and use iron sights for accurate shooting, and you can just as well shoot from the hip and even blindfire. Grenades can also be thrown both in and out of cover. The AI is usually smart enough to run away from grenades, but if it doesn't kill them, it'll flush them out. Some levels have destructible objects, like -- you guessed it -- explosive barrels that you can shoot to also help kill or flush out enemies.
One odd issue I found early on in the game while using the cover mechanic was in reloading my gun. Reloading is kind of sketchy -- it's reliable, but only if you know what limitations there are. You can walk, sprint, and crouch up and down while reloading, but you cannot go in and out cover while doing so. Even if the on screen animation shows Marcinko throwing away the old mag, if you go into or out of cover before he finishes, he will not reload the weapon. That may seem like a minor point, but it's a feature I'm used to in other games and it just logically makes sense. That you can't do such a simple task in Rogue Warrior is a letdown, but not a gamebreaker. Some graphically glitches -- minor, but noticeable from time to time -- also occurred while working in cover. These brief bouts of clipping didn't affect the framerate and it didn't get me killed, but it does point out an area where some additional developmental polish would have been good.
Whenever you do get killed, checkpoints are never far behind and load times are literally instant, which is awesome. The AI will never outsmart you, but they can outnumber you. Most of my deaths occurred because I was having a hard time pinning down an enemy at a distance with my weapons. There is an in game crosshair that turns red whenever it's over an enemy, but I had a hard time finding a level of horizontal and vertical sensitivity that consistently felt right. I ended up putting both at three, which is on the low end of how high you can set it, but that's almost right at what the default setting was.
Aiming just seemed more hit and miss than I'm used to. My biggest mistake may have just been in trying to utilize the iron sights too much. Ammo is rarely a problem in Rogue Warrior because you can always switch out weapons with those that your enemies drop, so a shoot from the hip approach is probably what I should have done more often. That said, it was in trying to fine tune my iron sight alignment that most often got me killed by the enemy I was trying to get a bead on or one of his three or four buddies. So to finish up on the AI, it's far from great, but it's not terrible either. They are smart enough to run from grenades the vast majority of the time, they use cover well, and at times it does seem like they try to catch you in a triangle. Several scripted events during the campaign can get you caught unprepared as well.
The story in Rogue Warrior is basic, but the level design and mission objectives are even more so. Level design is very straight-forward and it's pretty much impossible to get lost (I never did). There are no secret areas or collectibles to discover, which also keeps you moving right along. Most levels boil down to drab interiors with some basic textures and lighting. The game world doesn't look bad, it's just uninteresting and repetitive. The same goes for the mission design. The only doors you can open are the ones you need to go through and these are marked with a green light. Almost every mission -- there are about ten missions -- comes down to blowing up one thing or another with planted charges. There are no boss fights, no puzzles or keys or NPCs, just you, the bad guys, and something to blow up.
The Good Fight
...but it's fun. Of all of the problems and shortcomings with Rogue Warrior, it's a blast. The campaign was seven hours well spent, and while I don't have an interest in replaying it anytime soon, I had a great time. Sometimes you just want a straight-forward action game, and this definitely fulfilled that need. With the campaign behind me, I decided to check out the multiplayer which includes Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes. The online community for this game is very small, and one night I couldn't even get a Team Deathmatch game going because eight people couldn't get together. What multiplayer I was able to play was alright, but not something that was interesting enough to keep me coming back for more.
One area of Rogue Warrior I did want to make specific note of was the music. I thought the soundtrack was great. It's an in house soundtrack if I'm not mistaken, and it fits the mood and intensity of the game very well. There aren't that many tracks to it, but each booming track rocks and I just wanted to make special mention of that on a job well done. I just wish they would have toned down the language some; hearing Mickey Rourke curse over and over again got old in a hurry and after that, it become a nuisance, not a cool factor or anything like that at all.
Ultimately, Rogue Warrior is well worth at least a rental, and you may decide to add it to your collection after that.
Let's get to the summary...