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Rogue Warrior

A Review of Rogue Warrior: If It's A Tactical Shooter, Then So Was Blood 2

So, recently, Steam offered Rogue Warrior at a small discount if you pre-ordered. The ease of ordering on Steam, combined with the awesome trailer, and the Wikipedia article, made me think that perhaps Rogue Warrior would be a tactical shooter driven by a realistic plot derived from the real-world military experience of the main character, Dick Marcinko, whom you get to play in Rogue Warrior.
Take a look at the trailer, it's honestly awesome:
For those of you who don't know, Dick Marcinko is a living military legend, the Navy SEAL who founded SEAL Team Six. As if that weren't enough, in 1967 Marcinko is credited with leading the single most successful SEAL operation in the Mekong Delta of the Vietnam War; subsequently he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Space doesn't allow me to go into any more detail but the bottom line is that Marcinko is a heavily decorated, legendary special forces operator with a long and colorful career.
After I saw the trailer, I checked the Wikipedia article ( which said,
The game's plot is embellished from Marcinko's real life encounters during his time as a SEAL as well as his autobiography from the same name. No further details have been released yet. Bethesda has yet to state what plot elements were included or left out from Marcinko's sources. It has been revealed that the game is being built as a "personality shooter", which means the game focuses heavily on the plot and character development for Marcinko and his squad throughout the game.
So, I thought, "Aha, that kind of reminds me of John Mullins, another highly decorated special forces man who was known for his service in Vietnam! I remember when John Mullins was both the military advisor and the main character in Soldier of Fortune 2 how Soldier of Fortune 2 ended up being the best casual tactical shooter of all time! Maybe Rogue Warrior is going to be just like that! I mean, they went through the trouble to get permission to have Marcinko be the player character, so I'm sure he wouldn't let them have the game be totally stupid or anything. Surely Bethesda, known for popular role playing games, knows character development, and would portray this character awesomely, right?"
As it turns out, however, the only thing that you might consider realistic about Rogue Warrior is the fact that Marcinko curses a lot, a real-world personal trademark. I am really not sure that Rogue Warrior can legitimately be considered a tactical shooter, because the core gameplay is so simplistic that it feels like a FPS game from the mid 90s, like Blood 2. Basically, the whole game is about running through extremely linear indoor maps and shooting everything that moves. Actually, it's worse than Blood 2, because the levels are all characterized by console-esque cramped, short distances and the corresponding cramped, reduced number of viable tactical approaches.
The game has some extra features that, on paper sound like they add tactical depth, but which in reality are so poorly implemented that they contribute literally nothing to gameplay. For example, the game tried to rip off the cover system from Rainbow Six: Vegas, where the player can tap a key in order to take cover behind an object, and from there can peek out from cover in order to take aimed shots, or may hold his weapon up in his extended arms to spray suppression fire without his head leaving cover. However, where that system actually, you know, worked in Rainbow Six, in Rogue Warrior it is almost never worthwhile to do so. This is because your accuracy drops significantly when you are firing from behind cover and at the same time many cover objects do not provide full protection from enemy fire. I have beaten this game twice on the Normal and Elite (hardest) difficulty levels and during my Elite game I had stopped taking cover altogether and instead had more success focusing on using my years of intensive FPS training to simply shoot the enemies really quickly. Which is, you may recall, what Blood 2 was all about.
Next, the game tried to rip off of Splinter Cell by, in certain very specific points of the game with a lot of very specific scripting, giving the player the option to shoot conveniently located fuseboxes, cause darkness, and kill blinded enemies. But, this was stupid, because even in full light, enemies who have their back turned to the player never notice him, even when the player sprints and makes noise. Basically, turning off the lights adds next to nothing to the already pathetically simplistic stealth system in the game. Throughout the entire game, there is no point to using stealth. Again, certain parts of certain levels are designed so that if the player runs on a certain route, he can silently kill certain enemies. However, it's no harder or easier if the player chooses to go in guns blazing, and it's impossible to continue to stealth outside of where it's basically scripted to be able to work, because the opponents will be facing points the player will have to cross. The entirety of stealth in this game is simply whether or not opponents are positioned facing you or facing away from you.
It was probably supposed to be mostly a part of the stealth system, but Rogue Warrior also rips off of Tenchu a bit, in that if Marcinko gets close enough to an enemy, you may tap the action key, and then Marcinko becomes completely invulnerable to bullets and explosions for a few seconds while he goes through an environmentally sensitive instant-kill animation and immediately kills the enemy. If the enemy is near a wall Marcinko will drive the enemy into the wall, or if the enemy is near a ledge Marcinko will fling him off. Normally, though, Marcinko brutally stabs the enemy, or sometimes beats the crap out of him. It is all very amusing, and some of the knife and unarmed kills are actually very similar to sentry removal silent killing techniques from military hand to hand combat circa 1986, which I appreciate from a historical perspective, but it's completely broken gameplay. Remember how all the levels are small and cramped due to console-itis? When the enemies take cover behind objects you often do not need to bother with trying to flush them out with grenades or with trying to shoot them when they stick their heads out. You can literally sprint up to them, tap your Action Key, and watch Marcinko stab the enemy repeatedly in the lungs. The only problem is that sometimes the game is prompting you to tap the Action Key for the instant kill, and you do so, but nothing happens. You tap the Action Key rapidly five or six times and Marcinko just stands there and then dies from being shot at point blank range. The much-hyped environmentally sensitive instant kill function of this game is very noticeably bugged.
It hardly seems worth mentioning after all the above, but another ding against Rogue Warrior being gritty or tactical is the fact that Marcinko has Call of Duty 2 style regeneration from bullets. If you get shot, but you don't get shot again for a few seconds, you magically recover from having been shot with no ill effects. I don't understand why anyone thinks that mechanic belongs in a tactical shooter. Also, the reload animations for some of the guns are goofy and unrealistic. When Marcinko reloads a pistol he somehow makes the magazine shoot away to the side. That's just bizarre and silly.
On the whole I am seriously disappointed by Bethesda over Rogue Warrior. They had an idea with a lot of potential but the execution fell flat on its face at every turn. Never before in my life have I ever said that a game had awesome music and voice acting but utterly irredeemable gameplay, but I say it now for Rogue Warrior. The soundtrack and the voice acting was so amazing that it almost makes me cry that there is almost no game there to play. I'll leave you with the end credits music, literally the best part of the whole game. It's not safe for work:
-- Wounded Ronin (12/31/2009)

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