Perhaps inevitably, there's also an element of stealth in Rogue Trooper, with the ability to sneak up behind careless enemies and kill them in one, swift motion (particularly cool against giant mechs), but it's no Splinter Cell, so don't fret if you're already cringing at the mere mention of the 'S' word.
Despite the niggles, the game does feel indelibly accessible for the most part. This does mean, though that the game treads a fine line between huge user-friendliness and being plain easy to the more experienced among us. Not only does Rogue Trooper make it a breeze to shoot from behind cover, but also makes the enemies relatively weak and yielding for the most part, and lends the player a hand with other hand-holding ideas such as a semi-auto-targeting system which, to be frank, doesn't exactly demand much in the way of accuracy to score a kill. Whether you use the basic pistol, the machine gun, shotgun, mortar or beam rifle (which has a nifty chain attack), clusters of enemies just fall like nine pins. It's fun when there's a degree of strategy to the proceedings (such as when you're pinned down by a rocket-firing mech and you've got two snipers trained on your position), but such incidents are all-too rare. For 95 per cent of the time, Rogue Trooper is a fairly standard procession through dozens of almost identical enemies, each with standard AI routines that are as transparent as they come.
Throw in a pretty generous checkpointing system, the ability to buy an infinite amount of ammo and medipaks and you'll easily clear most of the levels in half an hour or less (some clock in at 10 to 15 minutes). For those of you that want your games to last a little longer than seven hours, we'd suggest giving the normal difficulty a miss (there is no easy setting) and plump straight for hard. If anything, Rebellion should have called normal 'easy', and hard 'normal' because that's what it felt like to us, but even then it's never exactly the most challenging game ever made.
Norts and ones
Whereas most shooters make it important to conserve ammo and health, Rogue Trooper makes you feel like you're romping through with all the cheats switched on, and it's frustrating that after a game as demanding as Sniper Elite that Rebellion felt the need to dumb down the experience almost the entire way through. Who is the audience, exactly? Old school Rogue Trooper fans in their 30s, who'll be schooled in similar harder games and find it too easy? Or is it focused on the masses, the attention-deficit teens, who have all the time in the world to throw at games, and therefore also whizz through it? We realise most games are focused far too much at the hardcore minority, but it seems Rogue Trooper may end up pleasing neither camp by being much more accommodating than it needed to be. The sense of tension and achievement is lost in a blizzard of fallen Norts.
In its favour, it helps that Rebellion regularly changes the emphasis between on-foot genocide and the occasional explosive on-rails section, or the chance to man emplacements or grapple with super-powerful weaponry. Being able to dish out explosive death to enormous futuristic aircraft is not something you'll tire of in a hurry. In fact, one of the more impressive parts of an on-rails shooting section reminds us of the Halo 2 E3 teaser trailer from 2003, and hints at the potential of future Rogue Trooper/2000AD games if someone throws more resources at Rebellion (checking out the end credits, it's pretty apparent how few people actually worked on the game compared to some other developers out there).
In fact, on a purely technical level, Rogue Trooper's not bad at all Apart from the occasional evidence of slowdown when the explosions get a little too ambitious (such as when the EMP Trooper starts wiping out your comms system temporarily) the game looks pretty impressive. Certainly, fans of the comic should feel gratified that the Rogue Trooper universe has come to live in such a vibrant fashion. Although the location types arguably don't change often enough (red planet rocky, futuristic urban... you get the picture), when they do, it's a pleasantly unpleasant dystopian vision of the future that should sit well with the fans - and if it doesn't, you can make your feelings known to the same people behind the comic. The rest of us will just admire the smoky vibrancy of Nu-Earth and the ability to shoot holes in the Norts' gas tanks, guffawing as they flee and explode in a mass of flaming death.
In fact, some of the set-piece animations are worth the price of admission alone, such as the stealth kills on what can only be described as Dalek-alikes, ripping wires asunder in the pursuit of valuable salvage. Better still are the finishing moves on the mechs, complete with full machine-gun-toting blasts of death into their escape hatch. In terms of the art and animation, it's a damned fine effort, really.
Multiplayer wise, there's not much to it, sadly, with five co-op maps on offer. Online it supports up to four players, but doesn't exactly help that no-one in the entire world is playing it right now (despite it being on sale), but if you can rustle up some like-minded friend (two-player split-screen offline, four-player online/System Link), then there are a five objective-based maps. A couple of 'Progressive' maps task you with taking control of a landing pad at the top of a Nort base before your lives are depleted (16 by default, customisable), and the timer expires. Others task you with legging it out of the map alive before the timer runs out or there are another couple of 'Stronghold' maps where you have to defend the injured GI against the Nort forces within the time limit. Things are certainly a tad more challenging and fast-paced, but the maps are fairly small and you'll quickly hunger for more substantial multiplayer thrills. Still, as a freebie extra, you can't grumble.
The best thing you can say about Rogue Trooper is that (despite some clunky control decisions) is almost always good fun. Thanks to well-paced design you'll certainly never feel like downing the pad in abject frustration, or out of plain boredom: it's the gaming equivalent of popcorn sci-fi action movie fodder. It's technically on the money, has all the right plot twists, but is never that demanding, plays things safe and stays too firmly encamped within the boundaries of the formula to be deemed a classic. Still, for the price of a rental it's well worth checking out over the course of a weekend.