Review – Contra: Rogue Corps

When Contra: Rogue Corps was first unveiled at E3 2019, I felt like I was the only person in the entire LACC who actually enjoyed both the reveal and the demo at my disposal. By no means did I think it was amazing or jaw-dropping, but I had fun with it. It was the revival of a long dormant series with a compilation of classic titles and a brand new twin-stick shooter game for modern systems. I was actually looking forward to the final release of Rogue Corps to see if it had more classic Contra elements scattered throughout it. Thankfully, what I was hoping for ended up being true.

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A panda with a mini-gun. You can’t find a lot of those out there.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Contra: Rogue Corps is not a traditional side-scrolling shooter like Contra is mostly famous for. It’s a twin-stick shooter with a big emphasis on looting and upgrading (thankfully, everything is acquired in-game), as well as being very multiplayer-friendly, both local and online. With that being said, the twin-stick gameplay did remind me a lot of the various top-down levels featured in many Contra games, such as Alien Wars. There are also a handful of sections in which the game shifts from a twin-stick shooter to a more traditional third-person shooter, with the camera positioned behind the player, just like some levels featured in the older Contra arcades. It was certainly an odd choice to focus on these specific perspectives, but they did remind me of Contra way more than expected.

The gameplay itself isn’t bad. It’s a traditional twin-stick control scheme with a Contra seasoning: move with the left analog stick, aim with the right stick, shoot with R2, dash with L2, jump with X, change weapons with Square, use a special attack with R1, and use a screen-clearing bomb with Triangle button. You’ll juggle all of these commands in order to clear the ludicrous amount of enemies that appear onscreen.

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Remember this guy? Well, he’s here.

The controls are fine enough. They didn’t feel clunky nor unresponsive. I could easily aim at any enemy I wanted (there is a bit of aim assist in here). I really liked that I could jump and shoot at the same time with the same classic animation featured in all previous Contra games, by the way. There are only two things that really disappointed me with the overall gameplay, though: momentum and cooldown. I didn’t like that my character stopped after performing a dash attack and I really didn’t like the cooldown mechanic featured in all weapons. Contra is all about shooting everything in sight without ever stopping, so I feel these two elements severely hindered what could have been a much better experience.

I didn’t mind the loot mechanics in Contra: Rogue Corps. This definitely isn’t as lethargic or unfair as Destiny, for instance. For starters, there are no microtransactions: if you want to earn better gear, play the game. The progression system is balanced enough, as you’ll constantly level up, improve your stats, and earn enough money and parts to upgrade your weapons and your cybernetic implants. It’s also way deeper than I was expecting, as each weapon has loads of different stats, such as rate of fire, damage, critical hit ratio, cooldown, and so on.

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Why knock on a door if you can literally explode it?

You may be wondering if there are other classic Contra elements in this game. Don’t worry, there are a few more scattered throughout Rogue Corps. For example, the game features this classic tune whenever you complete a mission, as well as hints of other classic Contra tunes throughout the levels. Some classic enemies make a comeback, as well as revamped versions of classic bosses, like the Big Fuzz from Contra III: The Alien Wars. Even though the game’s weapons feature a cooldown mechanic, some S-shaped powerups scattered throughout the levels allow for you to wield classic weapons such as the scattergun for a brief moment of time, without cooldowns. The overall plot is also directly tied to Contra III.

That doesn’t mean that the game features the same atmosphere as its predecessors. Contra: Rogue Corps is… dumb. Let me be clear, that’s not a negative. I like dumb fun games that don’t take themselves seriously, and thankfully enough, Rogue Corps‘ sense of humor is just occasionally fun enough for me to like it. Although the dialogue is a bit cringy, it did make me chuckle every now and then. The overall presentation is very “dark comedy in a post-apocalyptic setting” in nature. It reminded me of Borderlands and a bit of Fallout. The best way I can describe it is that Contra: Rogue Corps‘ tone is the one RAGE 2 should have adopted.

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Horde levels are by far the most entertaining sections of the game.

When it comes to its presentation, Contra: Rogue Corps is a mixed bag. It’s not bad, but it’s not exactly polished either. The sound design is quite good, with the aforementioned occasionally decent dialogue and some revamped Contra tunes. The problem is that the game is actually a bit too quiet at points, as the music only shows up during certain moments. It’s not that this game features a bad soundtrack, but it barely uses the one it has.

The visuals are the game’s weakest feature, even though they’re not overly terrible. Let’s just say that Rogue Corps isn’t a game that pushes the PS4’s hardware in any shape or form, and I doubt that the Switch version looks too different from this one. With that being said, I do appreciate that the framerate is consistent enough. Even with tons of enemies onscreen, as well as explosions, bullets, particle effects and multiple playable characters sharing the same screen, I couldn’t notice any framerate dips whatsoever.

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You can pick up some classic Contra weapons during certain levels. It feels sooooooo good.

It’s weird for me to say that Contra: Rogue Corps ended up being more Contra than expected. It’s not a mindblowing title, but it’s a well-made and fairly entertaining twin-stick shooter that features more than enough nods to the original games, as well as its unique coat of absurdist paint. If you think this game is a black sheep in the franchise’s history, don’t worry, the Contra collection and Blazing Chrome are here to satiate your hunger. But I can guarantee you that you will have more fun than you’d expect with Rogue Corps.


Graphics: 6.0

It’s not a good-looking game, but it’s not hideous either. It gets extra points for maintaining a very stable framerate even with literal dozens of enemies and explosions onscreen at any given point.

Gameplay: 7.5

Your typical twin-stick shooter gameplay, with some instances of proper third-person shooting that reminded me of Jet Force Gemini. Some questionable gameplay decisions compromise the player’s momentum, though.

Sound: 7.0

The voice acting is charming and some sound clips are reminiscent of classic Contra games. The soundtrack isn’t really that bad, but it barely shows up during gameplay. It’s not that this game features a poor soundtrack, but it barely uses the one it has.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Contra: Rogue Corps might not look like a proper Contra game at first, but it does have its moments. It’s occasionally funny, it’s got some nice set pieces, it features a great couch co-op experience and it’s somewhat replayable. Nothing in it is mindblowing, but it could have been a LOT worse.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Contra: Rogue Corps is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Contra: Rogue Corps was provided by the publisher.