Contra is back from the dead! What a surprise it was when Konami announced that they were releasing a game for a series nearly forgotten to most new and even older gamers. Being one of the best 2D shooters in the genre from yesteryear. It falls hard on us to say that this reincarnation is not the return we were hoping for.
Contra: Rogue Corps is the newest entry in the series, fifteen years after the last Contra release. The funny thing is that Contra: Rogue Corps takes place after Contra III: The Alien Wars, which was released in 1992 for the Super Nintendo. Speaking of this part, by the way: in our opinion this is still the best of the series. In any case, these were the golden times of Konami and I was hopeful that the producer of this part, Nobuya Nakazato, came to take the helm of Rogue Corps to bring it to the current times of 2019. The intro is nice with the comic form data clips and you seem to welcome a great old school shooter. It is still remarkable that Konami made this game, since they only wanted to focus on successful franchises and especially mobile.
For most people it is well known, but Contra has always been a shooter. Rogue Corps is set in The Damned City. This city was erected two years after the events from The Alien Wars and brings nothing but shit with it. Rogue Corps is the unit that you are part of and Kaiser is the cross-eyed Schwarzenegger, Ms. Harakiri is a politically correct Krang (Turtles fans at Konami?). Well. The series is known for its high level of difficulty, very tight gameplay, balanced placement of enemies and really thinking about how to fly through the levels. This makes the game a favorite shooter for many, since the days of the SNES. In the past you only controlled the game with a four-point push button and later also with a second analog stick for more precision. You shoot through different levels and defeat hordes of enemies such as aliens, monsters and crooks. With today’s computing power, you can conjure up larger levels, smoother controls, and multiple enemies on a screen to give huge Contra fans among us a blast. Unfortunately, this is not all good and Contra: Rogue Corps is more often an empty case than having to do some sharpshooting. And that is mainly because the controls do not always work well.
The controls are in general well placed; the button layout is adequate and in a certain sense just logical. For a game like this this also has to be, but more important is accuracy. And here I find the game disappointing. You walk through a 3D level with the left stick. The camera is then directed from above, sometimes asymmetrical perspective, from behind the player or just old-fashioned sideways. But in none of the camera perspectives does the focusing work really well. You aim (as you can expect) with the right analog stick, but it lacks the smoothness and accuracy such as a Geometry Wars, Gatling Gears or Iron Brigade of the past years. It sometimes feels like there is an aim-assist in it, combined with a (standard) low speed to aim. You want more speed for a game like this, especially when it gets hectic in the midst of all the bullets, explosions and chaos on the screen. In general it is sufficient, but because there is also a variety of weapons, it gave me the idea that the game was hardly tested. And to make matters worse: you cannot pause. A pity, because this really makes the game less enjoyable.
Releasing the game in 2019 could be amazong for a game like Contra with increased chaos, gore and amazing hand crafted visuals. And although the colors generally splash off your screen, it is somewhat simplistic. It seems as if simple objects and textures have been used to keep the game fast. haing a fast game is necessary for a game like Contra, but the game is not exactly big or heavy. On the other hand, the frame rate is fine and I couldn’t spot a framedrop anywhere. In terms of sound, I think the dialogs were most successful. No, do not expect in-depth conversations or music from Hans Zimmer, but rather rude and simple humor. I like it, especially if the story does not have a serious tone. The sound effects are fine, but I have really heard better, so the game certainly does not get higher then the average. And this is a shame, because Contra has (almost) always been about quality.
In my opinion, it is also unfortunate that the videos (which look great), the hub and characters first give the impression that Konami has indeed managed to lift the game to 2019. To ultimately not reaching its former heights. First the characters. In itself, they’re pretty good. Sure, you play Contra for the frantic shooting, but the characters are certainly a worthy addition to the story. Hungry Beast is just cool. I just hoped there would be a noticeable difference in the way you play with them, but there sadly isn’t. Some other weapons and specials perhaps, but it doesn’t let you play the game differently. The hub is a well designed place and is your base from where you choose your game modes. You choose the story or side missions to make your characters better, which you do bye buying your upgrades in the shop. Then you can practice your upgrades in the shooting range (you get bored of it anyway) and then the multiplayer. But this soon turns out to be a bare environment in which you hardly spend any time. To do something like Destiny or Anthem now goes too far. But there could have been more in it.
Contra is engraved in our memory like a really cool shooter. Unfortunately Contra: Rogue Corps is not coming near it – in no way – and it is actually a mediocre game. Additions such as the co-op and online multiplayer are great, but you have to unlock them. Why? Just give that option and let the world enjoy the game immediately. Fortunately you get a complete game, but nowhere does it really feel complete. And that is all the more frustrating, because you can be sweet for a few hours with the game. The enemies are fairly varied, the side missions are pretty cool and the bosses are real “bosses”. So it can really be Contra at some moments, including the level of difficulty. Because, if you take the aim into account, then it is best to keep pointing at those enemies at all times. In addition, Konami promises more content, which is going to be especially cool for die-hard fans. So there is more in the barrel to make the game more complete.
The most annoying thing we all expected was a true Contra game. Was this a game with a different name, we would have been less critical. Because the game isn’t that bad; it’s just not all that special. The gameplay could have been made just that little bit better by making the targeting a bit better and the graphics could atleast have seen a bit more snuff. The price is forty euros/dollars on release and my expectation is that Contra: Rogue Corps will quickly end up in the budget bins or quickly on sale in the online shops. A price drop makes it a better deal in my opinion. The future content can therefore be better for free, otherwise this is a typical game that you simply overlook, because there are better games releasing in these crowded times.
Contra Rogue Corps is sadly but a vague shadow of its past self. It can still become quite decent with dlc, but the pricetag is a hard one to look over.