'Contra' has a long legacy of classic arcade and home console releases, but 'Contra: Rogue Corps' never once lives up to it.
Aside from feeling like a hangover from the ‘90s, and looking like what ‘00s film and TV depicted videogames as; the gameplay is simply not enjoyable. Numerous times on the playthrough, you find yourself idly playing with barely any difficulty or effort involved. One could fall asleep playing 'Contra: Rogue Corps' and still finish it to completion.
Amongst the myriad of problems with this game, at its most basic level, even the control scheme feels odd and unintuitive. Rather than being a twin-stick shooter á la 'Dead Ops Arcade' from 'Call of Duty: Black Ops', 'Contra: Rogue Corps' instead requires you to fire your weapon with R2. With top-down and isometric camera views where you already use both sticks in a similar fashion to a twin-stick, it doesn’t make sense not to fire with the right joystick along with aiming.
Even in the seldom 3rd person perspective parts of the game, or the “shooting gallery” mode, there’s something odd about how your avatar moves and aims. This distracts from becoming immersed in the world, which probably isn’t a bad thing given how dreary that world is.
Of course, not everything about the game is inherently terrible. While the graphics aren’t the sharpest, the art style is appealing, and having a dead body randomly flash on-screen during large skirmishes satisfies the blood-lust of many an internal teenager. Animated comic-book style cinematics introduces the characters, and break up the action post mission to offer some great moments that share visual similarities to 'Deadpool' and other mature comics.
While there are four different characters to play as, each with their own upgradable weapons, abilities, and character designs, there are similarities that make them all feel like almost the same. There was never a time that one particular character’s skill stood out as being original or changed in any meaningful way.
Furthermore, the lack of multiple animations for special action moves gets old soon, and the player will find themselves waiting for the extended non-playable scene they’ve watched over and over to finish.
The AI is woeful, and the seldom times you do die will either be due to being stuck in a horde of enemies with a quickly overheated weapon, or random spawns of NPCs during mission ending boss battles. Another point of contention around the AI is how the NPCs spawn, not from a door or a window, a crack in the wall, or any reasonably fathomable entry point, instead your foes appear from thin air. Perhaps if this game were a PS1 title, that would be acceptable.
However, for a current-generation title, on a system as powerful as the PS4, it seems plain lazy. Worse again are the long stretches of area you must walk (slowly, so … slowly) through without an enemy in sight at all.
One saving grace for the game is the inclusion of couch co-op play, a beloved feature of many gamers without an internet connection. It's a feature every game should have but gets ignored time and time again by developers. The pity here is that the game isn’t fun enough to entice a friend to play with you, and the only enjoyment you’d both get would derive from cracking jokes at its awfulness.
It’s so annoying when a franchise that has brought so much enjoyment to players for decades messes up this abysmally. There is a solid piece of groundwork for a quick and snappy mobile game here. Although for the €50 price tag on PS4, 'Contra: Rogue Corps' - which took me no longer than 15 soul-sucking hours to complete – is not worth your hard-earned cash.
With any luck, the franchise hasn’t been wholly murdered by this entry, and Konami can pull back to reformulate a better sequel more deserving of the name.
Words: Ciarán Busby