|CONTRA: ROGUE CORPS
|September 24th, 2019
|Action, Multiplayer, Twin-stick
|Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
CONTRA has never really been a franchise that I’ve played before. Sure I’ve known it has existed throughout the generations and it always seemed like a good time, shooting endless bullets at endless enemies. Graphically the games were always charming too, as I recall all of them having a more stylized approach to their character designs and super flashy animations. It’s one of those games that passed me by. ROGUE CORPS is my first foray into the series and as an introduction, it’s… interesting.
ROGUE CORPS’ story is kinda crazy, accompanied by pretty sick graphic drawings. It takes place on an earth that, after being struck with a cataclysmic meteor, gave rise to the “Alien Wars”. After that all hell breaks loose, as monsters and creatures kill millions. The remaining inhabitants of earth, not willing to accept defeat, decide to fight back by creating the titular organization that you fight for, the ROGUE CORPS. So they gather any crazy mercenary who’s willing to fight the Fiends that infect the planet and get a paycheck along the way.
Your smorgasbord of characters consists of four choices. There’s Kaiser, a former leader in the CONTRA Wars, and what could be considered the main character seeing as you start the game with him. He specializes in assault weapons. Next is Ms. Harakiri, a laser-blasting human/demon warp hybrid with a blade she routinely shoves into her creature occupant. (Get it?) Then you have Gentleman, another hybrid mutant creature that used to be a person who was experimented on during the Alien Wars. He specializes in vaporization, but stays cool and calculated as he mows down enemies. Lastly, you have Hungry Beast, often stylized as HB, a cybernetically enhanced super panda with the brain of a scientist who wields a huge gatling gun. They really went all out in the name game with this one, huh?
Controls in ROGUE CORPS are what one would expect from the twin-stick genre, top down down with you in the center and you use the control sticks to maneuver. However, unlike others in the genre, you need to press your fire button to actually fire your weapon, but if you use it too much you’ll have a cool down meter where you won’t be able to fire your weapon again until it cools down. I’m assuming this is to get you to use your other means of attack more, such as a sub weapon or dash, or enter in a temporary bug state were you’re faster and hit harder. However, nothing really feels as good as firing your main weapon, so you usually just end up sticking to those. You can gather material and upgrades to help alleviate the cool downs and make them stronger, but it never really feels impactful or necessary, really. You’ll most likely never reach a point with said weapons where they’ll be enough to justify all the time it takes to upgrade in order to be somewhat more effective. Also there are little seconds-long shooting gallery moments that feel like they take the control away from you, only to give it back within a couple seconds.
Graphically the game is very muddy. Everything is very muted with bleak colors and not aesthetically cohesive environments, which is weird because with all the trouble the art department must’ve gone through to make the cinematics as cool looking and stylized as possible, the murkiness and lack of detail of the models and surroundings really make all the work superfluous. This even applies to the boss fights, as even the first boss you fight is so unmemorable that the game reuses them pretty consistently throughout the rest of the game. Guns fire how you expect them to fire with not a lot of flare and the super attacks are weirdly quiet and ineffectual. Ms. Harakiri was my favorite character to use throughout the main campaign and every time I used her super, I never really got the “oomph” feeling I think I was supposed to get. It also doesn’t help that most of the time the game takes place at night, which compounds the negatives of the visuals, unfortunately. I wish I could say the same with the music, but it’s so quiet and minimal that it barely makes an appearance throughout the entirety of the game. I had to look up the soundtrack on YouTube to remember one of the tunes because they were so underutilized.
The way you go throughout the game game is through a hub base system, where it acts as a menu. While hub worlds are neat and I always appreciate the extra flavor they can give to games, this one doesn’t really do that as the choices by themselves aren’t really representative of what the option is supposed to mean. For example, you need to go to the VTOL to start whatever mission you’re going to play (Or play online, which I never got to as matchmaking never found a game), but then across from that there’s the Surgery Room, which again, by itself, has a very nebulous meaning. It’s actually where you go to upgrade your character as they undergo surgical enhancements. The APC is where you go to play others online, which CONTRAdicts the VTOL options. The difference here is that this is PVP and you can compete in Carnage League, which again, I unfortunately never got to because it found no matches. It did have selections for regions to search for but it proved ineffectual.
After around 10 hours, ROGUE CORPS ultimately feels like it was made by a rushed studio with limited resources, not a lot of production weight behind it and, quite frankly, not a lot of time. For $40, I’d say if you’re very VERY thirsty for more CONTRA after the $20 CONTRA Anniversary Collection earlier this year, you could look at this and find some things acceptable, after a price drop, of course. As stated at the beginning, this is indeed my first foray into this franchise. It is possible that I’m viewing this game through a lens it wasn’t intended to be looked through, and a lens that possibly a longtime CONTRA fan could view very differently. There were times that I found myself kinda zoning out while playing it, just shooting and killing hundreds and hundreds of mutants as time goes by. So if nothing else, it’s a great time waster. However, there’s a season pass available for it, so there is a very small light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully it can get better with a multitude of potential update patches. My heart goes out to developer Toylogic, as their work is more than likely far from done.
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