US: 1 Dec 2009
Rogue Warrior is an FPS loosely based on Richard Marcinko’s book of the same title. While the book is the story of how he founded SEAL Team Six and Red Cell along with their infiltration exploits, the game is a fictional story of Marcinko infiltrating North Korea during the 1980s. The game itself is terrible, like going through a laundry list of every bad thing a game can have. However, due to a couple of weird decisions about the story, it’s also the funniest game that I’ve played in 2009.
It’s hard to think of anything redeeming about the actual game design itself. All of the levels are warehouses, hallways, long factories, or eclectic arena spaces where you will systematically kill everyone before the next area opens up. The grenades throw like they are wiffle balls and fall to the ground as soon as they hit anything. Hit detection is spotty, clipping issues abound, and bodies will often just lean against walls. Weapon choice is essentially pistol, machine gun, shotgun, and sniper rifle. Basic tactics for every map is to pray that there is a Dragonov sniper rifle tucked away somewhere so that you can just clear the rooms with it. A sniper shot landing anywhere on an enemy will kill them instantly. There are no bosses to speak of. There’s not even a room with lots of bad guys in it. You can instantly kill people by pressing A, which is pretty game breaking except it does help make everything be over faster. A lot of reviews complained about the campaign being too short but I’m inclined to consider that a positive here. I don’t know why you’d want to drag the game out any longer than it already is.
By being overly macho, the game’s entire plot feels like a homage to corny 80s action movies. When picking difficulties, the game insults you. Every other word is fuck, shit, etc. Your companions die in the opening cut scene and Marcinko dutifully swears vengeance. It all turns into some elaborate plot about nuclear missiles and the Star Wars missile defense system. What’s redeeming about the game is Mickey Rourke. He’s the voice of Marcinko and, with the exception of your commanding officer, is the only person who talks in the game. I think that the Russians and North Koreans shout “American!” a few times but that’s about it. The entire game’s story, status updates, and characterization comes from Rourke. This effect is magnified because the game is so bare bones that there is nothing else to focus on except Rourke’s strange rambling. The levels are boring, the AI is about as sharp as a marble, and nothing happens the entire game. There’s nothing else to really do but focus on him.
At this point you can write off my praise to my warped sense of humor, but I found the entire setup hysterical. It’s like listening to Mickey Rourke mutter to himself about being trapped in a video game for four hours. Rourke radios in to HQ, “It’s a goat fuck admiral. Your intel was bullshit!” When you plant C4 on a bridge support he mutters, “Shoddy fucking commie engineering.” After sneaking onto a train and riding it into Russia he explains in the briefing, “The wind is so cold it would freeze the balls off a fucking polar bear.” The thing is that it keeps going. When you break into a Soviet mansion’s garden he whispers, “I fucking hate hedge mazes.” The only time I heard him say something that didn’t have an expletive in it was when you throw a grenade, “President Reagan sends his regards!” Each level has Rourke saying something new and absurd, so that there isn’t even a problem of repetitive phrases. Each level is about you unlocking Rourke saying something insane.
I think a lot of why this is hilarious is that the game is so boldly stereotypical and asinine. The only real comparison I can think of is that it’s the equivalent of a B-movie. A couple of different games have attempted to create something like this but often the humor is too self-conscious to really pull it off. By having the entire game just be Rourke swearing, it actually hits that balance of being unintentionally funny. The bare bones presentation and the fact that this is a genuinely bad game combine with the insane voice-over to create a game experience that was actually pretty entertaining. Rourke swears when he gets shot, he swears when you reload, when the missions starts, and sometimes he’ll just do it at random. I would never advise anyone to pay full price for this game or do anything besides set it to “Easy” and play it once. But I was dying laughing the whole game.