Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment, Toylogic
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Genre: Twin-stick Shooter
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Rating: M for Mature
Though Contra is a classic series that has been around since the NES days, I have less nostalgia for it. Similar to the original Mega Man games, they were too difficult for me. The most time I’d ever spent with the series was Hardcorps: Uprising, which was developed by Arc System Works. Though it was still tough, I have fond memories of playing it online with my brother.
Hardcorps: Uprising was released in 2011, so it has only been about ten years since a new game in the series. At E3 earlier this year, we learned about Contra: Rogue Corps, and I seemed to be one of the few who was interested in playing it. It was evident that it wasn’t going to be like the Contra that everyone knew and loved, but again, I don’t have that nostalgia. Well, now that I got my backstory out of the way and my hands on the game, I have much to report.
Violence: The violence in Contra: Rogue Corps is excessive. Players will be shooting a variety of guns to kill aliens and mutated zombies in fast-paced combat. Blood splatter effects can be seen when enemies are killed. Some up close finisher moves depict enemies being impaled by a massive drill, slashed by a sword, or blown into pieces. In the still image cutscenes, a character is ripped to shreds by a creature, while in another a creature is shot up into pieces. One particular scene also depicts a human brain being inserted into an animal’s head.
Language: The language in Contra: Rogue Corps is also excessive. The words “f**k,” “Sh*t,” and “a**hole,” can be heard in the dialogue. One of the leading characters (a young girl) is the biggest culprit.
Drug/Alcohol References: One of the characters can be seen lighting a cigar in his mouth numerous times.
Right from the outset it’s clear that this is a much different beast than your traditional Contra. Instead of a sidescroller shoot ’em up, what we got is a twin-stick shooter. The change was to the dismay of many, but I was interested to see something different. On the few occasions that I enjoyed the game, I was reminded of Housemarque’s Dead Nation. Unfortunately, mediocrity seems to be Rogue Corps‘ strongest feature—so the fun didn’t last.
The basic premise takes place after Contra 3, in which the invasion was thought to be stopped until foreign city-like structures began to rise from the ground. Along with the city came a giant spire gate that brought along an army of alien creatures. Known as “The Damned City,” only a select few can enter it without being driven to madness. That is where the Rogue-Corps comes in, a group of mercenaries that are capable of entering the city and take missions for money and rewards.
Players have the option to choose between four different characters: A soldier named Kaiser who fought in the Alien Wars, a woman named Ms. Harakiri who has an Alien living inside her stomach, a giant cyborg Panda with an implanted brain of a scientist, and an alien named Gentleman who was raised by humans and has excellent manners. These characters all have interesting backstories and play somewhat different from one another with unique abilities and finishing moves. While many might consider these characters very outlandish for the Contra universe, I get a sort of Guardians of the Galaxy vibe from this group of scoundrels.
Between each mission there is a hub area in which we can select characters, buy mods/weapons, select missions, and attempt to jump into the online multiplayer that was dead on arrival. The progression of the characters involves equipping mods, which are transplanted enhanced organs that provide various bonuses to your character. Mods also exist to upgrade weapons, and new weapons can be purchased if you choose to change a character’s loadout. These upgrades can be found within missions, bringing loot elements into the fold. I enjoyed preparing for the next mission by equipping and purchasing new upgrades, but I did not stick around long enough to see the true potential of the progression system due to the other issues that plague the game.
The act of aiming, shooting, and maneuvering around the map was fine. Being precise is something I never expect out of a twin-stick shooter since most games in this genre seem to embrace the chaos of each encounter. Rogue Corps does call back to the original series with the jump animation and moments in which the camera pans out to give you multi-directional aiming to take out a wall of turrets. The boss fights were also enjoyable, though their character designs were an extra level of weird.
As I said before, there were plenty of moments in which I did enjoy my time with Contra: Rogue Corps, but a few factors consistently took that way. One of the biggest problems is that the game doesn’t pause when you push start combined with the fact that each mission has a time limit. The inability to pause wouldn’t be so bad without the time limit because I could find a “safe spot” after an enemy encounter if I needed to step away for a minute. Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there.
When I first played the demo of Rogue Corps, I discovered that the game was a blurry mess and wasn’t sure whether it was poor resolution or bad textures. These visual problems returned when I got my hands on the full game and weren’t much better. There were times when the resolution would clear up, but revealed poorly designed models and textures all around. When playing on the Switch, none of it changed whether I was playing on my television or in handheld mode. This game caused a real strain on my eyes—one of the first games I’ve ever played in which my eyes needed to adjust after the first few times I played it.
Even if the Contra brand weren’t attached, Rogue Corps would still be a bad video game. The ties to this franchise make the results more heartbreaking even for someone like me who has less nostalgia for it. I was looking forward to seeing the results of this different direction, but what I found was a disappointment. I believe that Contra: Rogue Corps could have still been a fun experience if it didn’t have so many problems. What we have here is a mess that you should stay far away from on any platform; go check out our review on Blazing Chrome if you want something that will be worth your time and money.
The Bottom Line
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