For those that don’t know, rental-by-mail service Gamefly has a PC client sort of like Steam. You can purchase games, manage your queue, and if you’re a paying member, download and play a wide variety of PC games. By wide variety I mean mostly crap—those awful WalMart PC games with generic titles and even more generic art. But there are a few gems, like Prince of Persia 2008, Tomb Raider Legends and Anniversary, and all three seasons of Sam and Max.
If you’re like me and you own all the systems and have been a Gamefly member for years, you’ve probably played all those games, which is why I don’t check in on the service often. I do like to peruse it for games I missed; last generation titles that I always thought about playing but never got around to. Stuff like XIII or Red Faction 2. So that’s what lead me to Rogue Trooper, a 2006 third person shooter that was among the last crop of games on the PS2 and Xbox. I downloaded it the other day and played an hour or so.
I won’t be playing more.
Rogue Trooper is not terrible. In fact, it has some impressive elements considering when it came out. There’s a nice upgrade system to the weapons, a pre-Gears of War cover system that works 65 percent of the time, and some slick (for the time) cutscene animations. Unfortunately it’s just not fun to play. The gameplay design is uninspired, filled with stuff we’ve all seen before in shooters.
At first I thought this was because it was a six year old game (six years! I feel old) and I’ve seen the tricks Rogue Trooper used in other, better games since then. But then I looked up some reviews. Check out this bit from the 1Up review:
“But more often, you're having garden-variety gun battles, garnished with a handful of repeating tricks: "Hold off waves of attackers while your helmet hacks a door," "Put bombs in the appropriately shaped sockets, usually to unlock a door, but sometimes to prevent aircraft from landing with reinforcements," and the old favorite, "Man the turret while you ride a vehicle on rails."
Other reviewers had similar thoughts, labeling the game as “capable” and “average” a solid, mediocre 6.5. So if we were tired of those boring mission designs and combat scenarios then, why are we still playing them now? Every one of those scenarios in the quote above has made their way into most modern shooters. Last year I made a list of game tropes that need to die. It was sort of tongue-in-cheek, sort of serious. I didn’t realize at the time just how old some of those tropes were.
Can those tropes even be avoided? Has the game industry run out of ideas? How much can you add or change in a shooter before it stops being a shooter? For example, what if instead of manning the turret in the plane, you fly the plane? What if instead of waiting for your computer-controlled ally to hack a terminal, you hack the terminal (with a clever mini-game, not the “press X to hack” thing—that’s a poor attempt at varied interaction)? What if instead of being the muscled escorter, you were the weaponless escortee, trying to avoid getting shot?
Would placing those mini-games and non-shooting scenarios in a shooter break the genre label? Do shooter fans even want that stuff? I’d be willing to give it a shot (zing). I definitely don’t need more Rogue Trooper in my life.