Contra: Rogue Corps E3 2019 Preview — An Altered Take on the Contra Experience
First shown during the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct, Contra: Rogue Corps is a brand-new entry in the Contra series that has some pretty big differences from what fans might usually expect.
Despite these differences, and having been directed by Nobuya Nakazato (Contra III: The Alien Wars and Contra: Hard Corps), it aims to be a worthy entry in the returning series.
A Mad, Mad World
Rogue Corps takes place after Contra III: The Alien Wars; after the aliens have seemingly been defeated, a mysterious alien-infested city appears. Known to many as the Damned City, anyone who ventures into it goes insane.
The game's four playable characters include Kaiser, a soldier who participated in the Alien Wars and now has cybernetic enhancements including an arm that can turn into a massive drill.
Ms. Harakiri is a stealthy former assassin who avoided death by fusing herself with an alien, and as a result, has to stab her midsection to prevent the alien from taking over. Weirdly enough, it also happens to be another way to attack her enemies.
Hungry Beast is a former scientist named Kurt Steiner whose brain was implanted into a cyborg panda, and Gentleman is a brain bug alien who was raised by humans and acts like an Englishman.
Burn It to the Ground
Contra: Rogue Corps is a three dimensional, top-down experience, although some sections are on a 2D plane and feel more like the Contra players are familiar with.
While directional movement feels fine, aiming feels looser than it should, especially considering that enemies can be on several levels of the same area, high, low, and mid.
This also doesn't help much if the appropriate weapon isn't being used. The machine gun seemed to be much harder to aim upward than the missile launcher, but even after switching, it's hard to determine when exactly you'll be in the right spot to hit an enemy that's above you, which, unfortunately, may take a few tries of unnecessary trial and error.
After taking down a number of enemies, weapons will overheat and switching to another equipped weapon is required to keep the bullet storm going. That's particularly true if the environment can't be utilized to your advantage; throughout each area, you can pick up barrels and crates to throw at enemies or shoot at explosive containers to get rid of several enemies at once. However, these must be used strategically or you might be left scrambling.
One peculiar thing to note is that if explosive barrels are in close proximity to each other, it takes a second or two for each following explosive barrel to explode, causing fewer enemies to be taken out over time. Perhaps it's just a quirk of the current build, but it is an odd mechanic that may make it into the final product.
In addition to just shooting enemies, you can also take them out with finishing moves and special attacks. To execute flashy finishing moves, you must dodge a close-range attack from an enemy with a low health at the correct time. This staggers them, allowing you to brutally finish them off.
Special attacks are charged up over time and vary by character. Kaiser uses his giant drill to plow through enemies, and Hungry Beast, who I played as, calls in four mini panda robots to continuously shoot in the same selected direction, letting players lead aggressive enemies to their doom.
Once all enemies in an area have been dealt with, players can proceed to the next area; however, these areas are sometimes locked behind a door. So what are you supposed to do? Find a password? Hack into it with some kind of cybernetic technology? No, just shoot the heck out of it and the door will be destroyed. It might not be sophisticated, but it's par for the course in a Contra game.
Between levels, you can customize your equipment and characters. New weapons and items can either be developed or purchased at base camp, and there's a shooting range for you to try them out before bringing them along on a mission.
Additionally, playable characters can be upgraded and given cybernetic enhancements, which grant them new abilities to more successfully take out the alien menace for good.
Our demo was only single-player/co-op. so none of the announced PvP gameplay was shown. But from what we've seen so far, it's sure to be an interesting take on the gameplay mode and the classic Contra experience.
Contra: Rogue Corps is a strange game, but it's not nearly as bad as many first impressions expected it to be. It's somewhat of a departure from what Contra fans have come to expect from the franchise, but the same Contra spirit is still there. Hopefully, the full game will have a lot more to offer once we finally get our hands on it.
Contra: Rogue Corps launches on September 26 for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.