Rogue Warrior Impressions

Bethesda shows off its personality-driven revamp of its upcoming action game, now with a whole lot more Mickey Rourke.

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It has been quite a while since we saw much on Bethesda's Rogue Warrior. When we saw it in 2006, the game was set to be a tactical shooter developed by Zombie. Flash-forward to April 2009 and Bethesda's London press event, where a totally revamped version of the game was shown off. Developer Rebellion was on hand to demo some of the game and talk about its new direction.

Rogue Warrior is now a "personality focused" shooter, which is the result of Bethesda's thinking about the best way to showcase former Navy SEAL Richard "Dick" Marcinko. The decorated officer has since gone on to be an author, whose work includes an autobiography, penned with John Weismann, and a series of fictional novels. Although Marcinko's autobiography is titled Rogue Warrior, the game is not based on his life--though it was suggested that there are some grains of truth in the story as well as in Dick's brutal fighting style. Instead, the game sticks to the spirit of his fiction novels, although using an updated setting of North Korea, and it relies on Marcinko's experience to give the action a layer of authenticity and, of course, personality.

The demo we saw showed off the game's personality focus quickly, thanks to the inclusion of expletive-laden quips from Dick--voiced by veteran actor Mickey Rourke--which pop up at almost every opportunity. The demo, intended to show off the different styles of gameplay in Rogue Warrior, featured highlights from the fourth level of the game, which finds Dick heading to the Korean-Russian border to prevent missiles from being shipped to Russia.

While there was the expected sneaking around and aggressive shooting, the game will also emphasize "quiet kills," which are essentially context-sensitive stealth kills inspired by Marcinko's experience in the field and, more often than not, delivered with a quip. It was mentioned that the game will feature roughly 25 of the stealth kills. The ones we saw seemed to fixate on knifeplay and stabbing, and the brutality of some of them--stabbings to the face and crotch--was particularly noteworthy. In addition, we saw some third-person cover-style shooting that required Dick to take cover while dealing with enemies. The focus of the level revolves around setting C4 in a complex while either avoiding or dealing with enemy forces.

Some of the "stealth" kills are somewhat lacking in subtlety.

The level then shifted to a slower pace of gameplay that focused on sneaking as Dick slipped into the complex interior. To deal with the enemies, Dick took out overhead lights, which brought guards over. He then switched to night vision to better take the guards out. Unfortunately, one of the problems you'll encounter in the game is Murphy's Law, which will ensure that no matter how smoothly a mission is going, something will go wrong, forcing you out of stealth mode to take swift, decisive, and invariably bloody action to save yourself and complete the mission. At the moment, the specific timing of when things fall apart on you will vary based on your performance, but the team is still tweaking balance. The demo ended with Dick decoupling the train cars with missiles and detonating his C4 before heading off with a quip.

A Q&A session following the demo let us get more info on the upcoming game. The quiet kills will be a context-sensitive action assigned to a button and randomized. The key to them is ensuring that you're within the proper range without being spotted. The game will take place in Korea and Russia in the late 1980s and will send Dick to a variety of locations both under US military command and after he has gone rogue. In addition to the single-player game, Rogue Warrior will feature a multiplayer mode with deathmatch and team deathmatch on six unique maps for up to 16 people. The quiet kills will be usable during multiplayer matches to ensure maximum humiliation of your enemies. The team is aiming for an '80s action-movie feel, which is pretty clear thanks to Dick's Rambo-esque appearance and swinging ponytail. The multiplayer mode will feature a ranking system that will offer rewards to the highest-ranked player in a match: while other players will use skins based on supporting characters in the game, the top-ranked player will use a special skin based on Marcinko.

Brutality looks set to be the game's shibboleth.

The game's presentation is coming along. The audio, using Mickey Rourke, was working in the version we saw, and it should go without saying that Rourke does a fine job of selling Dick's lines. In terms of visuals, there are still some rough spots that need polishing up, but they're to be expected in a work-in-progress game.

Based on what we saw, Rogue Warrior looks like it's set in the personality department. Marcinko's quips and Rourke's delivery appear to be a potent combo. As far as the actual game goes, what we saw was still pretty rough around the edges. The basics you'd expect seem to be covered well--third-person shooting, cover, and so on--but we're waiting to play the game to see how it all works together. Rogue Warrior is slated to ship toward the end of the year for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

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