Game Reviews

RoboCop

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RoboCop
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There's a reboot of RoboCop coming out in 2014, and so video game companies have scrambled to capitalise on everybody's nostalgia for the one and a half good outings in the RoboCop franchise.

Because, let's be honest, most RoboCop stuff is pretty awful.

Glu Mobile has won the scrum on mobile, which inevitably means that the iOS version of RoboCop is a free-to-play cover-based shooter.

So is this new RoboCop game worth your time? That's what I'm going to find out over the coming week.

First impressions

RoboCop is a simple shooter in which you play as the eponymous tin man, shooting lots of generic thugs with your gun. You can choose which cover to hide behind, and sometimes you need to move to another waist-high wall or burning car because a sniper has his sights fixed on you.

Aiming and shooting the gun is easy: just swipe about on the left side of the screen, then hold the right side to fire. Bullets find their target and health bars drop, though you can also scan the surroundings to find that some baddies can be wounded rather then killed.

I haven't seen much of either the original or new movie, so I don't know how faithful the setting or story is, but the visuals are fine. It's all a bit generic near-future, and RoboCop wears a permanantly puckered "duck face" look, but it runs smoothly and light reflects off his metal bonce well.

Photos of actors who I assume are in the film are used to add authenticity. The story so far is that you're doing simulator training for the OCP (a big security company), and two people - Jae Kim and Mattox - have divided opinions on whether or not you're up to the task of shooting things in the face.

It's uninspiring stuff so far, then, but not particularly offensive.

Day 3: Law-ngerie

Over the weekend I was in a department store, waiting for my partner as she tried on clothes. Because I didn't want to look like a creep who hung around the women's clothing section, I took out my phone and pretended to look busy.

There are plenty of games on my device, but most just aren't the same without audio, or need to be played in long sessions, or require your full concentration to appreciate them. So I wound up playing RoboCop to pass the time.

And that sums encapsulates the game nicely: if you've got nothing else appropriate to play, and you're looking for something to play in short sessions that you don't mind being interrupted, then RoboCop is fine.

After three days I find myself playing it while the kettle boils, or while a home console game is loading.

Since it's such a casual game there isn't a whole heap to do or learn, and that works in RoboCop's favour - it's quick to understand, and simple to play.

However, each encounter with a group of enemies winds up feeling very similar, and stage settings repeat often. Sometimes I shoot explosive barrels or cars when I don't need to, just for a bit of variety (and because I'm a sucker for slo-mo effects).

You can't move and shoot at the same time, you're limited to just the one weapon in a round, and the story is non-existent in most levels you play.

When not mowing down villains, you're upgrading your armour and weaponry along a tech tree comprising many Nodes. Each upgrade is cheap enough to purchase, but also takes time to research. There are also Breakthrough Nodes, which it's possible to fail at unlocking after you've spent the virtual cash, which seems unfair.

The upgrades don't seem to have much visual impact in the game, but rather the upgrade path just serves to restrict the kinds of events you can enter and hope to win, and players of CSR Racing will be at home with this kind of tiered structure.

Day 7: A game that you can play

Yesterday I was put on hold by Bristol City Council's housing department for a few minutes. Guess which game I played to pass the time.

By the end of my week with RoboCop, I remain wholly unchanged as a human being for having played it. I don't hate it, I don't love it - I simply like it enough to switch it on when I'm bored, ready to drop it again as soon as something more interesting comes along.

It has a few odd quirks to it, but they're endearing rather than annoying.

Some enemies will run to shelter behind previously destroyed cover, leaving them open to attack. Sometimes you can't aim at a certain spot in a level if you've barricaded yourself on one side of the screen, but you can if you switch to the other.

On one occasion this meant that I was shooting over the head of a nearby enemy and couldn't adjust my sights downwards by a few inches to achieve the necessary goal of killing him.

Our robotic law enforcer will also say "thank you for your co-operation" after every other mission finishes. It's meant to be a dry and sarcastic put-down aimed at the enemies you've just vanquished, but he says it so often that you start to wonder whether his gratitude is sincere, perhaps as the result of malfunctioning circuitry.

Each time he says it, I crack a faint smile, and that's always the most powerful emotional response I experience while playing RoboCop.

If for some reason I am reminded that this game exists in a year's time, these accidental moments of mild amusement will be all I remember about this competent but forgettable product.

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RoboCop

RoboCop is an inoffensive target shooter very loosely based on the movie of the same name
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