Rogue Company Review – IGNOctober 10, 2020
From the very first moment its main menu loads, Rogue Company radiates bold personality. You’re immediately punched in the ears by a surprisingly catchy hip hop-infused soundtrack playing alongside a raucous cast of unique characters. This free-to-play, team-based shooter combines facets from many of the most successful FPSes already out there, from Overwatch to Counter-Strike, to deliver a fun package that requires skill, patience, and an appreciation for teamwork to succeed – even if that also means it’s lacking in originality.
Rogue Company is a multiplayer-only third-person shooter with a gallery of interesting characters called Rogues, each with their own distinct abilities, loadouts, and perks to choose from. Moment-to-moment gunplay is snappy and responsive, but movement is a little light and floaty. You eventually get used to it, but at first it feels a bit like characters are skating around the map. Since everyone can dodge roll, fire fights can get very tense and erratic quickly, which helps combat stand out (in a good way) from the other games Rogue Company was clearly inspired by. Just because you get the drop on someone doesn’t mean you’ll down them necessarily since time-to-kill varies wildly depending on your Rogue and the weapon you’re using.
Even though it only has three 4v4 game modes that have all been seen before for the most part – a Counter-Strike-style bomb mode, a variation on a capture point format, and what is basically team deathmatch with a twist – there’s enough variety in the nine maps and the play styles they require to avoid boredom. Teamwork is crucial, so thankfully Rogue Company is the latest in a long line of games to borrow the incredibly smart ping system popularized by Apex Legends. That allows players not on voice chat to still easily communicate with their squad using quick scripted callouts and contextual map markers.
Firing from the Hip
The first mode listed is Demolition, which has no respawns and is structured a lot like Counter-Strike – it’s also my least favorite mode. One team has a bomb and must plant and detonate it at either one of two points on a map, or take out all enemies. The defenders can win by killing the attackers or preventing the bomb from going off, but in my experience it almost always ends in a team wipe rather than actually coming down to a detonation. Despite being a staple of similar modes in other games, splitting your attention between two points is relatively meaningless in Rogue Company since they’re usually so close together. Maps are small enough that you can travel from one to the other in a matter of seconds, which undercuts a big part of the mode’s usual strategy here.
The Extraction mode is basically a better version of Demolition since it also has no respawns, but only has a single objectivepoint that both teams fight over. If you activate a terminal on that point a timer starts to tick down, and if the other team doesn’t kill your entire team and/or capture the point before the timer is done, you win. The point moves each round and it’s always a frontline battle over a mutual interest, keeping it more focused and tense. The size of the maps feel better suited to this style and matches are more dynamic since you’re technically both the attacker and defender at all times.
The final mode is Strikeout, which is the least demanding of the bunch but also the most original of them all. It works similar to the Survival game mode from Destiny in which each team only has a limited number of shared respawns. However, the catch here is that there is also a single control point that will drain respawns from the enemy team if you hold it. This addition makes Strikeout feel like more than just a slight variation on team deathmatch, incentivizing a defensive play style to hold the control point in a mode otherwise driven solely by kills.
No matter the map or mode, there is a satisfying variety of weapons to choose from. There’s an assortment of pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, shotguns, and snipers, but they’re mostly locked to specific characters similar to other hero shooters like Overwatch – albeit with a little more choice since these heroes aren’t stuck with a single option. Each Rogue has two primaries to pick from in a mid-match Buy Station, typically something like a sniper and SMG or assault rifle and shotgun, as well as a secondary pistol, melee attack, gadgets, primary ability, and assortment of perks. You accrue money for your actions during a match that’s used to buy and upgrade these tools of destruction between rounds, but all you start with is a pistol. This will sound familiar to Counter-Strike or Valorant fans, but in practice Rogue Company’s in-game progression works like a MOBA, basically lifted right from developer Hi-Rez’s own game SMITE.
The gun diversity would be more exciting if characters had additional ones to unlock or could customize their options more impactfully, but you’re limited to the predetermined loadouts given. Additionally, all the guns have a tinny sound when shot and lack the oomph you’d expect from a game that’s otherwise full of edgy characters and in-your-face personality. Explosives, gadgets, and abilities all feel and sound great though, which helps those powerful offensive characters stick out even more.
I also constantly found myself wishing for a proper cover mechanic. Dodge rolling is a helpful evasive tactic, but control points are so littered with waist-high cover it feels like a foregone conclusion that you’d be able to stick to walls and blind fire, but instead that feature is inexplicably missing. You can crouch at least, but having to then stand at full height to shoot over walls is a bit annoying – especially considering that two of the three game modes don’t have respawns and require a more considered, careful approach to fire fights. Maybe I’m spoiled from the precedent set by other third-person shooters like Uncharted, Gears of War, or The Division, but a cover system would have complemented everything about Rogue Company so well.
A Rogues’ Gallery
There are 14 Rogues in Rogue Company, six of which are available for free. Getting nearly half the roster for no cost at all is surprising, especially considering three of them are among the best in the entire game. Ronin, the confident sword-wielding mascot in most of Rogue Company’s marketing, is an excellent offense-focused character with a great exploding throwing-knife ability and a collection of perks focused on awareness and speed. She’s stylish and badass in a way that makes her a great introductory character and is probably the default option in the tutorial for that reason.
There’s also Dima, whose voice is gravelly with a thick accent and plenty of one-liners. He gets a nasty cluster grenade launcher and perks focused on health and ammo regen, along with a solid assault rifle and capable SMG to pick from as primary weapons. Despite being one of the basic options, Dima is strong and fun enough that it’s rare to play a match and not see one of him on both teams.
Finally, my favorite free Rogue is Dallas. He’s snarky and very well-rounded since his ability reveals a red silhouette of where the closest enemy is located, which is useful in any and all situations. Plus, that ability fully recharges any time he downs an enemy and he has powerful perks focused on health regen and durability to keep him going. Dallas has a cool, suave look that’s almost the polar opposite of most of the rough-around-the-edges cast. His voice is arrogant with a sophisticated air, so you know enemies get frustrated hearing his mocking lines.
Of the paid Rogues, I found myself playing as Talon the most since his ability is a radar that can be planted anywhere and pings your map if an enemy steps within its radius. And instead of typical grenades, he gets C4 – combined together, you can spring an explosive trap on enemies just by watching your minimap and without revealing yourself at all. There are other great paid Rogues as well, but it didn’t feel like I was at a power disadvantage for not having any of them. That said, if for no reason other than increased diversity and options, it’s definitely worth working towards unlocking them through regular play, or even just dropping some cash to get them all right away.
Unfortunately, performance is a lingering issue on PC even now that Rogue Company is out of Closed Beta. I’ve had two crashes to desktop, and once my pre-game lobby with a friend mysteriously merged with another lobby and we could talk to two strangers before even being matched for a game. I also ran into two back-to-back sessions where my team began the match with only three players against four players. Luckily, matches themselves play smoothly enough.