Version tested: Xbox 360
It's got Mickey Rourke voice-acting. It's got more gratuitous bad language than just about any first-person shooter you've ever experienced. But sadly that's all the good stuff. Rogue Warrior has nothing else of much interest, and the obscenity-littered dialogue that would become its trademark were it memorable enough to deserve one isn't particularly witty anyway.
The Rogue Warrior of the title is real-life SEAL commander Dick Marcinko, upon whose heroics the game is apparently based. Slashing, shooting, blasting and punching his way through North Korea and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, Marcinko's task is to blow up the Russians' nuclear arsenal, plus their own fully armed and operational Star Wars missile defence shield, all the while ignoring explicit orders to disengage from the pencil-necked bureaucrats at mission control.
In addition to guns, grenades and knives, Marcinko is also armed with an infinite supply of star-spangled F-bombs that he unleashes with gay abandon upon the hated Commie scum, who are, apparently, "cocksuckers".
I don't have any real problem with the foul language. Indeed, I was drawn to reviewing this game mostly because of the eighties setting, and the forlorn hope that it might summon up the spirit of the foul-mouthed action movies of that era that I love with a passion. Unfortunately, the dialogue is almost as bad as the "user-generated" variety you typically encounter on Xbox Live, albeit minus the homophobia.
Disappointing obscenities aside, the real problem with Rogue Warrior is content, or more specifically the abject lack of it. On the default difficulty setting the average gamer should be able to complete the game's meagre eight missions with change left from three hours, while FPS veterans should be aiming to polish off the game in just over two. I personally found myself somewhere in the middle, easily vanquishing every mission before elevenses on a Sunday morning, with time for a hearty breakfast and the latest episode of The Thick of It.
In a world where the Modern Warfare 2 single-player campaign gets short shrift for its brevity, Rogue Warrior actually offers less gameplay than the average DLC expansion pack and, unbelievably, is being sold as a full-price game - although retailers, perhaps now conscious of their mistake, are discounting the game by over 50 per cent already.
More than that, the actual variety level within the campaign itself is slight to an almost shocking scale. Weapons selection is minimal: a couple of pistols, a small selection of machine-guns, a sniper-rifle and a single shotgun - less than 10 different shooters in total. There's no special equipment, just one type of grenade and that literally is your lot. Mission objectives are similarly bereft of variety, usually taking the form of moving from point A to point B in the dullest fashion imaginable, and placing some explosives en route if you're really lucky.
The issues with the single-player game, while it lasts, are many and varied. It's tempting to lay into the enemy AI, but that would involve calling it "AI", which would be excessive for the blanket incompetence of these identikit soldiers. Stealth elements could also have been so much more. One of the game's few positive points is its use of light and shadow, but this is squandered in a game design that telegraphs the action and stealth divide so blatantly.
Stealth kills are a piece of cake because, in the areas of the game the level designers have set aside for this sort of behaviour, virtually all of the enemies have their backs turned to you by default. Not only that, but they remain blissfully unaware of your approach even when your thundering footsteps all but give the game away. Even the screaming deaths of their comrades do nothing to alert other soldiers, despite their being just metres away from the kill.
Rogue Warrior does at least have brutal close-quarters kills - simply move up close to an opponent and press the A button, and you're shown a set-piece animation involving fists, knives or the murderous use of scenery - but these get very old very, very quickly. It's also interesting to note that being blasted by another enemy soldier while the sequence takes place doesn't seem to break your stride. Must be all that SEAL training.
Overall, the single-player campaign is best described as disastrous, and the game's credentials are not boosted by the inclusion of what is a mostly awful multiplayer mode. This too is basic and lacking any kind of originality whatsoever, taking the form of bog-standard deathmatch and team deathmatch. It's like going back in time to the launch of online console gaming, and, actually, it's like going back there graphically as well.
Tech-wise, the game is a bit of a nightmare. Rebellion has rolled out its "Asura" engine (a new one on me, but Google says it's derived from idTech4) and aside from the odd well-lit environment or nice dynamic shadow, the visuals look low-poly with a bizarre mishmash of different levels of texture detail.
V-sync is enabled on the Xbox 360 version we reviewed, but frame-rate is abysmal. If you get anything above 20FPS you should count yourself lucky. Thanks to the poor update rate, there's also some pretty horrible input lag from the controller, to the point where aiming the weapon in the direction of your assailant is often a challenge simply due to the lack of visual feedback from the game itself.
Game development has evolved to the point where it's pretty rare that a PS3 or Xbox 360 release is actually anything worse than mediocre, but Rogue Warrior is easily the worst game I've played on either platform for a long, long time. You could call it cheap, exploitative trash, but it's not actually that cheap, and the exploitation elements are probably the best thing it's got going for it. Trash though? Absolutely.
2 / 10