You have the right to remain boring
Surprise, surprise—a licensed mobile game conveniently released to coincide with the near-future opening of the film on which it’s based has proven to be subpar. Such is RoboCop from Glu Games. You are Alex Murphy, a good cop and even better lover who was terribly injured and then six-million-dollar-man’d into a futuristic cyborg cop ready to police a world in which robot violence has become commonplace. And though it would probably be sweet if the city of Detroit just let you out on your own to, y’know, slay criminals, you’re going to have to train via a series of incredibly lifelike simulations to hone your coppin’ and killin’ skills before you do any of that.
For a film series that is, for all intents and purposes, over the top and god-awful, RoboCop is oddly beloved. As such, most of the buzz we’ve heard about the upcoming reboot has been negative and/or bewildered, but despite this and the obvious B-movie air with which the films carry themselves, trailers for the upcoming action flick look pretty damn cool. Sadly, this level of high-quality action set-pieces meets bazonkers plot doesn’t translate so well into a game so clearly rushed to release in order to capitalize on the possible success of the film.
Admittedly, the gritty, urban environments found within RoboCop are not bad. Certainly there are more beautiful games to behold, but for its stand-and-shoot mechanics, the look and feel of each area serves its purpose well. These are some of the better lighting effects and detailed character models to be found within the App Store’s 3D shooter stable, and it is undeniably satisfying to line up and execute a headshot on some bespectacled (seriously, a lot of these dudes have glasses) enemies. RoboCop himself looks pretty detailed, but what kind of world are we living in when the hero of a game seems to have had more development attention than gameplay? I guess that this is actually not all that uncommon, but still…it’s weird.
Controls are mapped to two virtual buttons, though even this is a generous statement. You’re always passively snapped to some form of cover utilizing a swipe and hold of the left side of the screen to survey the area, and a swipe and hold of the right to aim and shoot. Shooting is accomplished automatically once you’ve aimed the crosshair over an enemy, and the lack of a dedicated means by which to choose when to shoot is appalling. This sloppy mechanic is made even worse by adding the bane of any gamer’s existence into the mix: guns that overheat.
So picture, if you will: RoboCop crouches behind cover until standing up and motionlessly firing a gun that quickly overheats at some truly weak AI. Yikes. From time to time, arrows pop up on the sides of the screen that allow for transition to other cover, but given the lore behind the franchise, a control scheme that provides minimal movement is kind of sad. RoboCopis supposed to be nearly indestructible, and it would have been cool to run into the fray at will and unleash his badassery. You’ll be given access to focus mode which allows you to slow time and mark up to three targets for a one-shot kill, as well as an unmanned drone for thinning out crowds, but traversal options would have gone a long way to proving this game is more than a cash grab.
Fortunately, through a system of surprisingly deep upgrades you can augment just about everything from gun type, firing time and cooldown, armor, and more. If we think of these skill trees as a sort of a meta game, the overall package becomes a bit more acceptable. Yes, this is where microtransactions come in as certain upgrade “nodes” that are only accessible through an in-game auxiliary form of currency, where the player is given a percentage-based chance of unlocking the next node. The percentage is higher the more you bet, and don’t worry about it if you lose the gamble, because you can totally pay real money for more of this currency.
Between missions, one of two talking heads who we can only assume are actors from the upcoming movie will pop up to talk with you about what you’re doing and what kinds of simulations/missions you can expect. The woman is nice and totally believes in you, RoboCop. The dude, on the other hand, is kind of a jerk, and given his tone he probably doesn’t believe in cyborg police projects and totally wants you to fail so he can then tell the president of the company or the mayor of Detroit or whoever else that the whole thing just needs to be scrapped.
This dynamic gets old so fast, and lengthy dialog just gets in the way of blasting fools. As bad as this is, it’s nothing compared to the utterly forgettable music that wouldn’t be out of place on a compilation album called something like, “Action Movie Music That Won’t Get in the Way.” Certainly there was someone somewhere who demanded that the game’s soundtrack be the same as the film, and while we’re no strangers to synergy and don’t really have a better suggestion, we think it’s only fair to give you a heads up that there will be no Grammys awarded.
The F2P part certainly doesn’t hurt RoboCop‘s chances, but unless you’re a mega-fan, it’s hard to justify even spending the time. Everything from the boring shooting to the lack of any real control just reeks of a rush job. RoboCop might be a great time-killer, but even its eerily addictive upgrade system can’t save it from the sheer mediocrity at play. Checking out the upcoming film might be something fun to do; playing the game, however, is not.