It’s been well over a decade since we’ve seen a new game in the Contra series, but Konami shook things up a bit when it announced a 3D entry in the series during E3 with Contra: Rogue Corps. But that left a few people worried, considering that the 3D side of the series has been…less than well received.
And then came the first reviews of the game, which dropped earlier this week. One outlet felt that the game was so bad, they didn’t even finish their review. Others felt it was just a bad idea that didn’t go anywhere.
But here’s the thing…it’s not that bad. Granted, people aren’t going to jump to the rooftops and proclaim this as the greatest Contra game ever made. But Rogue Corps literally sticks to its guns and delivers frantic, fast-paced twin-stick shooting action with a touch of inventiveness and a bunch of crass dialogue. It’s like a B-movie in a field of AAA shooters – and there’s nothing entirely wrong with that.
Not that the game’s perfect, mind you. It has its flaws, and they’re a little tough to overlook. But is the game bad? Nah, it’s more like bad-but-sort-of-good, depending on your point of view.
The game ties in with the main Contra storyline, following Bill and Lance’s previous destruction of Red Falcon. But a devastating location called the Damned City has risen up, filled with all kinds of nasty creatures. That’s where the Rogue Corps comes in. These soldiers set out to destroy them and earn their keep in the process, with everyone from a disgruntled, cigar-chomping merc to a panda (!) with a chaingun to a converted alien with a surprisingly gentleman-ish approach. (In fact, he’s even called the Gentleman.)
Players will start as Kaiser as they learn the ropes. But soon they’ll be introduced to the home hub, where they can get a lot done. This includes modifying and developing new weapons, allowing them to change their loadout; selecting a new character; and even getting some time in on the firing range. There are selectable modes here as well, with single and multiplayer.
The main campaign is actually a blast, with a lot of bosses to take down and some fun twin-stick thrills. That said, it’s strange how you can’t play with your buddies locally in this mode. Others can hop in online, but this is an odd little limitation. Fortunately, it’s still somewhat enjoyable enough (save for a really tough boss or two) to overlook.
And the multiplayer stuff still works out. You can play local co-op in specialized missions that unlock during the game, and the online stuff is smooth enough to manage. And then there’s the PvP multiplayer, a first for the series. Here, you’ll shoot and dash aliens into shredder goals to score points. It’s like Rocket League, but a bit more gross and with a lot more bullets.
Overall, the package has a great mixture of stuff to choose from, even with the slight limitations. Some folks may have missed this while simply talking about how bad the game looks. And, well, let’s talk about that.
The graphics…aren’t the best. Some of the textures do look a little ugly at times (particularly during the finishing moves) and the level selection isn’t exactly the most inspired. But, it does have that Contra-esque appearance to it; the characters are mostly wonderfully designed (especially the Hungry Beast, aka the Panda); and the frame rate is smooth, even with co-op.
Then there’s the music. It’s got some dramatic stuff that seems a little out of place with the corny dialogue (“Let me just blast open this fucker!”), but there are also odes to the classic Contra soundtrack littered throughout. So overall, it’s not bad. The dialogue has its moments as well, but you really shouldn’t take it seriously. Throw some decent sound effects on top and you’re golden.
Finally, let’s get to the gameplay. It’s here that a lot of fans felt turned off by Contra, probably because of its 3D nature. But this is probably the most capable 3D entry in the series since Neo Contra on the PS2. It does away with bad memories of the PS1 games (yikes, C: The Contra Adventure) and instead presents a capable, and mostly fun, shooting experience. The controls are accurate for the most part, and some of these weapons, like the drill gun and the Dragon Gun – I’ll let you discover that last one for yourself – are a good time. I just wish they were a little more balanced. The laser is practically useless due to its recharge time, and the shotgun, while powerful, has very limited range.
There’s the ability to drop a super bomb, which is a nice touch and gives each character the chance to shine in their own special way. And some enemies even allow you to complete a lavish finishing maneuver. These aren’t bad, but I would’ve liked a little more variety in how they kill foes. Look at Doom Eternal and the ways you can eviscerate someone up close. Contra: Rogue Corps should’ve had a few more to choose from.
So, yes, Contra: Rogue Corps has its problems. A little more polish with the visuals would’ve gone a long way, especially to match with the excellent digital comic sequences. And co-op should’ve been unlocked all around, instead of making players work through so many things. But does that make the game bad? Not really. In fact, it’s a romp, provided you’re in the right frame of mind for it.
Keep in mind that Rogue Corps ties in with a franchise that got its start from the 80’s. So Konami and its team opted to allow that mindset to keep going, with crass jokes and over-the-top chaos. It works, even if the gameplay’s changed in its own little ways.
In the end, Contra: Rogue Corps is more fun than most critics seem to let on. It is 3D, so if that isn’t your speed and you want a 2D adventure of old, Blazing Chrome and Contra Anniversary Collection are waiting. But there’s more to this game than a lot of folks give it credit for, and if it’s a gutsy, hilarious and challenging shooter you’re after, it’s really not a bad way to go.
Besides, we need Contra to stick around. This is one series that doesn’t need another ten-year hiatus.
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