Certain games struggle to find a reason to exist in the modern era. A lot of times companies/developers want to default on simple notions, such as Streets of Rage just needs to be a beat ‘em up or Dragon Quest will always succeed if it’s some kind of RPG, but that isn’t the case. A brand or name is a great way to garner interest or justify quirks, though neither seems to hold true for Contra: Rogue Corps. With it going after the so bad, it’s good to market, something other games have done amazingly well, tried and true gameplay and quirky characters it has potential but is it enough potential to make it truly worth playing? Here’s our Contra: Rogue Corps Review
Contra: Rogue Corps takes place after the alien invasion and quickly reduces are heroes from an impressive force to a bunch of incompetent boobs that have one joke. Kaiser is the cyborg foul-mouthed idiot who shoots first and never asks questions; Ms. Harakiri has a wisecracking parasitic alien she needs to stab to keep in check; the Gentleman is a bug that is just polite in situations where it comes off funny and a panda with a human’s brain. This ragtag team is essentially a group of mercenaries working on their own projects, yet can’t catch a break.
Admittedly, the first couple of jokes landed and were enough to make the silly cutscenes worthwhile. For instance, the first mission ends with you breaking into an establishment, safely obtaining the target, after countless reminders not to kill them, only for a vat of acid to fall on the guy and kill him. It’s the type of nonsense that is fun, in a way that isn’t entirely unrealistic. However, this silliness is not enough to carry a game.
If there is a real problem with Contra: Rogue Corps, it’s not that it tries to be silly, it’s the sense that this was not a labor of love. Just playing through some initial levels are a slog. A lack of things to see, excitement or really depth makes everything feel so hollow. How can you be excited to play with you spend all your time-fighting enemies that do little more than run at you? And, even then, the most difficult thing isn’t overcoming these challenges as much as finding the desire to care.
This problem even extends to the fearsome bosses. A great example is the first guy. Unless you want to obtain all the canisters, which makes them appear in the middle of combat sections for a brief period is an all-around awful design choice, it’s just a long series of moving sideways. If you have a bomb, even the enemies are not worth fretting and can be destroyed without a second thought.
Similar issues extend even to the design. There isn’t much in terms of exploration and a lot of places look and feel the same. Over time it improves, you just need that initial hook, something Contra: Rogue Corps fails at. You just go from looking at this street to that street to another street and maybe once in a while there is a fence. And, speaking of poor designs, the characters look dreadful.
Perhaps the best example of this flaw can be seen when Kaiser does his finishing move. There is a delightfully awful image of his face that looks cross-eyed and off. Little things would play into the awful concept that works, except the other stuff isn’t there. Instead, you’re stuck fighting waves of lackluster enemies, to collect resources and perks to improve your character so you’re better at killing the lackluster enemies, to repeat the cycle.
At times there are sparks of brilliance and it can be a lot of fun in co-op, assuming your partner has the right attitude, but there is only so much time you can spend on the same generic loop. Collect loot, fight lame enemies, get weak upgrades, collect better loot from slightly less lame enemies who drop slightly better upgrades only to repeat the process again. All of it feels like a lot of okay or uninspired ideas mashed into an underwhelming package.
It’s hard to put into words all the issues Contra: Rogue Corps has, largely because it isn’t objectively awful, it’s just painfully unimaginative. It seems to think the name and a couple of jokes are enough to sell it and honestly, it’s probably enough to garner interesting, though there really isn’t anything special about it. Everything is so plain, boring and simple that no amount of charm or quirks will make shooting some pink blob that flies at you interesting. Though, if you love top-down shooters and just want to see what it’s like, maybe check it out during a sale.
[Editor’s Note: Contra: Rogue Corps was reviewed on the PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]