Rogue Warrior's been keeping to itself for a long time now. The game was originally announced back in 2006 as a tactical team-based first-person shooter with ten multiplayer modes being developed by Zombie Studios for release in 2007. Obviously, that plan went awry at some point. Today, Rogue Warrior is still a first-person shooter, but now it's being made by Rebellion, a company that most recently shipped Shellshock 2: Blood Trails with Eidos and also developed games in the Aliens vs. Predator line. Its multiplayer will consist of deathmatch and team deathmatch. It's being built on a proprietary engine, rather than using Unreal Engine 3. And Bethesda has stated that the game is now more "personality focused" than the previous incarnation.
That personality comes from two locations. The first is Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko. He's a former Navy SEAL who founded the counter-terror-focused SEAL Team Six and Red Cell, a team devoted to invading American targets of opportunity to test their security. Rogue Warrior is, after all, loosely based on Marcinko and his books. Marcinko is described as a "larger than life" character, and you'll play as a 1980s incarnation of "Demo Dick" in the game as you attempt to sneak into Russian territory and disable a Soviet anti-ballistic missile system. And when the game pulls out to a third-person perspective to show you taking cover or executing a stealth kill, you'll see Marcinko, with his big beard and pony tail, doing the dirty work.
But you won't hear Marcinko chatting along with the action. Instead, he's being voiced by Mickey Rourke, who provides the other half of the game's personality. Rourke's voice is unmistakable, to the point where it was a little distracting to hear him speak lines while watching Rebellion representatives play the game. It probably doesn't help that most of the dialogue I heard was a stream of occasional, flatly delivered, curse-heavy one-liners. When you slip into an area with enemies and prepare to open fire, you may hear him say "trigger time." As he looks around and surveys the area, you might hear "this place is goddamn beggin' for party favors." If you start taking fire or getting hit you might hear "Jesus fucking Christ," or "fuck me," or maybe even just "fuck." The demo I was shown in a London office last week was short, but long enough for the voice work to become (perhaps unintentionally) hilarious. The coup de grace was the line "April fool, motherfucker," which is a line from the book, but that didn't make it make any more sense.
The gameplay in Rogue Warrior appears to be fairly standard for a modern first-person shooter. The game has a deliberate cover mechanic, and taking cover causes the game to pull out into a third-person view. You can pop up over cover to take shots, and the enemies do the same. The game appears to be objective-based, at least in part. The demo I saw showed the game's fourth level, and it had the player attempting to plant explosives on a bridge as he snuck from Korean-held territory into Soviet-held territory. Outlines of plastic explosives appear in the spots where you'll plant your devices. The game also has up-close melee kills, and it sounds like you'll only be able to perform these if the enemy hasn't spotted you. While the game doesn't seem like it's going to go out of its way to be a stealth game, there are a few tricks in there. In one sequence, Virtual Marcinko shot out the lights in a room with a silenced weapon, causing an enemy from the next room to come over and investigate.
When asked by a member of the assembled media what sets Rogue Warrior apart from the pack of other first-person shooters, the Rebellion representatives specifically cited the game's melee kill moves. These animations appear to be somewhat contextual, as soldiers standing on a bridge were thrown over the edge, while others were merely stabbed several times. A lot of the multi-stab animations look like they fell directly out of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, which has a similar system in place. 50 Cent, however, doesn't have a pony tail or a bushy beard (yet).
One area of the game that seems promising is that it's set in the 1980s. What I heard out of the game's soundtrack sounded like it would have fit right into some of the great action movies from that period, like Commando or Rambo: First Blood Part II. If the game gets played up to those sorts of extremes, it could be an interesting twist on an otherwise well-worn formula. That said, it sounds like the developers are attempting to reign it in a bit and give the game that '80s vibe without going full-on Stallone in the process.
Trashing a game and starting over can't be easy, and changing developers along the way has brought us to a point where Rogue Warrior only barely resembles the list of features that describe the product that was announced back in 2006. Will it stand out when it attempts to compete in the world's most crowded video game genre this holiday season? I feel like I haven't seen and heard enough about Rogue Warrior to answer that question right now.