The Dark Steam Hunt Volume Ten: Contra: Rogue Corps
Contra: Rogue Corps is bad. It an exponentially terrible game that creates unpleasant emotions whenever I get into contact with it. Nevertheless, what can one expect from a company like Konami? The company has been systemically burning bridges with the gaming world and its customer base for a long, long time. Let us take a dive into the sh*t heap and get this over with.
Set two years after the events of Contra 3. A strange alien city (one that looks like stock ruined western European city but whatever) has arisen out of the earth. Extremely lame monsters are pouring out of it and there is treasure somewhere. The city that looks like an abandoned human settlement causes madness to ordinary humans. But as you never play as a vulnerable member of the team it never affects you so why is this aspect is even worth mentioning is beyond me.
But in any case, the story isn't much of a presence after the opening cut scene, a classic example of non-plot typically found in MMOs and Online Services. Where there is no end. And setting that is just dangerous enough to be a threat but the status quo never evolves. Not a bad idea in theory but with so little to offer in quality, having no story only exacerbates all the other problems.
Contra: Rogue Corps desperately wants to be a fun wacky game. From the opening cut scene which wants to evoke nostalgia for those who grew up watching Saturday Morning Cartoons, to the use of magenta (a strange staple of modern wacky games) to the inclusion of a Panda. The four crazy mercenaries are as following, the standard Contra guy, complete with no shirt and drill for an arm.
Then there is standard anime girl with an alien in her belly that will only shut up when a Katana is rammed in its mouth. A posh British sounding alien called the “The Gentleman”. Lastly, a giant panda with a machine gun. If all of this sounds exceedingly boring to you then you would be correct. What I listed were all of the standard tropes that come to mind when you think "wacky". The lowest effort to create a silly atmosphere, which ultimately falls flat because of how unremarkable it all is.
A failed Saturday morning cartoon
Saints Row 4 had you knocking Shakespeare quoting aliens into orbit with a candy-striped dildo bat. Devil May Cry 5 had a man dressed like this and had lines like “For a second there I thought you were going to shish kabob me”. Moreover, Yakuza 0 has the very serious-faced Kazuma Kiryu disco stomping people and teaching a dominatrix how to be better at her job. All of these games have better claims to being a Saturday morning cartoon than Contra: Rogue Corps.
Partly as they have actual plots and characters as opposed to archetypes and magenta, mostly because they are fun products with enjoyably ridiculous characters. V was more than just an emo pretty boy with a love for William Blake poems. The Boss was cool and wild but also had a lot of heart. None of the characters in Rogue Corps have any heart or soul, they are one-dimensional ideas of fun characters. Dreamt up and finalized within the same hour.
This Contra is an isometric twin-stick looter shooter with an online co-op focus. Contra being an isometric twin-stick shooter is not new. Neo Contra in 2002 already did that, according to Metacritic it is a perfectly okay title. So maybe Toylogic wanted to try that style again but worse (we will get to that). The online servers are deader than my Hinge profile so I cannot say if the four kooky idiots work well together or not or if the PvP is good or not.
What is generic damage?
The crafting system is supposedly good. The problem is a lack of tutorial and the sheer different kinds of damage are poorly defined at best. Take so-called generic damage. What the f*ck is generic damage? I have no idea and the game does not bother to explain itself. The upgrades one can do to your weird characters only really increase your damage and resistance. Nothing changes in regards to the gameplay. Just raw number changes, typically resulting in you forced to grind in the Contra slave pits until your number is high enough for the next level. It is utterly boring and by the numbers, you could find a better upgrade and crafting system in WoW!
The Contra game where your gun overheats
In a Contra game, you normally shoot anything that is you until the target stops moving. The only time when you are not shooting is when there is nothing on the screen. So whose bright idea was it to have the guns overheat unless you stop using them for a bit? A baffling game mechanic only serves to make everything feel worse. Considering how fast it overheats and how many enemies there are on the screen at any given time.
The game has practically hobbled the player. You stop and start your shooting, getting swarmed or shot at from multiple angles or you have to run around until your gun is useable. It is a lose-lose situation that rears it’s ugly head whenever you want to have fun. Because the gunplay itself is (at least for Contra meat boy more on that later) feels good- until you are rudely interrupted by the overheating. The characters also move remarkably slowly. A factor made all the more jarring in how fast-paced the opening cut scene is. Controlling your silly character when being swarmed is a process of irritation and jank.
One out of four are useful
I have tried all four members of the cringe kook squad and the only one that is moderately enjoyable is Kaiser (buff Contra dude). That is because he has a machine gun. I know what his special does and it isn’t a pain in the ass to implement. The Gentleman’s special is a black hole with all the suction power of a handheld vacuum cleaner from the 80s and requires a small channel to fire. A channel that the player doesn’t need and only serves to make the gameplay as frustrating as possible. As the player is always getting swarmed and shot at no matter where they are. The Panda sets down turrets that can’t rotate and as a result, can be outmaneuvered by moving out of the way.
Anime girl with a katana in her belly can run faster with her special, and that is it. Useful in a way, considering that everyone normally moves like their shoes are made of concrete. But it also demands a small channel. I don’t get why you have to stop and load up your special when an instant activation would be smoother and more enjoyable. I got the farthest with Kaiser. But the constant slow movement, overheating gun, and the game forces you to stop moving whenever it could. My patience ran dry. Even with the best hero, it’s too clunky an experience.
Art style and Graphics:
Contra: Rogue Corps is a visually repulsive game. The equivalent of a Fisher-Price toy left out in the sun for too long in a scrapyard. The visuals are washed out and feel like plastic. The environment is an ugly mess of browns and greys with the odd bit of dark magenta. The latter only seems to make everything even less appealing. Bosses turn up as ordinary minions, which suggest either a lack of a budget or laziness on the part of the devs (going to be charitable and pick the former). The models themselves are blank, lifeless dolls with all the expression or character of rejected action figures.
Konami’s descent is a frustrating tragedy. They have some of the best IPs in all of gaming. But these IPs are either abused for pachinko machines or sh*t like this. I dread what they are going to do to Silent Hill soon. Please, do not buy Konami games. Don’t support them until they treat their workers better. Until they deliver better products, or at least until another company has brought the IPs. Anything would be better than having to see such a great game series become disgraced by entries like Contra: Rogue Corps.
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