Rogue Trooper rocks. You barely need to read this review, just take a look at the screenshots in front of you and the score. A little better than your 'average wargame', right? Kinda giving off that whole Metal Gear Solid/Mercenaries vibe, isn't it?
Okay, so the first couple of levels are a bit rubbish, but bear with it. You'll amble through the usual training nonsense, and be itching to get out there and start blasting, but you know what? These aren't usual training missions. They hint at bigger things to come, so pay attention.
Sure, there are the usual 'learning to calibrate your target' (looking around in other words), and 'learning to calibrate your weapons' (pointing, shooting, blah blah) bits. But what surprised us about Rogue Trooper is how it just keeps layering on the extras, gently unfolding to reveal Rogue's specialist killing skills until you're dispensing mines, mastering the art of holographic manipulation, placing sentry guns, or upgrading weapons like it was second nature. Within ten minutes you'll be armed, primed and in control of one of the most fiercely enjoyable Xbox characters we've encountered in a long, long while.
What makes Rogue Trooper such a joy to play is the constant, shifting nature of gameplay, and how you're persistently forced to use the skills and equipment you've mastered during training. And when all that challenge is presented in an environment so richly detailed as Rogue Trooper's Nu Earth, it adds up to some stellar gaming.
Having been betrayed at the beginning of the game, Rogue's three brothers in arms are slain, and their personalities captured and stored in complex microchips embedded in Rogue's equipment. With one in his gun, another in the backpack and the third in his helmet, each is voice-acted perfectly, offering snippets of information at appropriate times and suggesting the next course of action in Rogue's quest for revenge. But each is also an indispensable part of Rogue's arsenal. Helm (the helmet) can be used to unlock doors and crack codes, Bagman (the backpack) will inject you with medi potions and even invent new weapons, while Gunnar can transform himself into various types of gun depending on what the situation calls for.
If, for example, three enemy choppers are swarming down and raining all manner of hot lead upon you, transforming Gunnar into the Sammy Launcher is just what the doctor ordered. Sending up a screaming trail of flame is hugely satisfying, and when the sky bleaches of all colour and a cascading mass of metal and twisted debris crashes down in front of you, it's clear that Rogue Trooper is just as much about firing guns as enjoying the results.
Bad guys die in wondrous, stupid ways as well. Shoot them in the head and they go down like a bag of bricks, but punch a hole in their gas tanks and they stumble about panicking before disappearing in a stream of smoke. And if you're lucky enough to be inside a flak cannon or mounted gun, look about the scenery as well. Gas canisters, statues or giant neon signs can all be used to squish the enemy. And if interactive scenery is a bit too complex for you, Rogue can lay a sprinkle of itsy black mines - too small to see, too nasty to survive - to explode enemies good and proper. They can be deployed in scatter formation or dropped like breadcrumbs behind you as you flee from an enemy. Or, if Bagman has been fed enough salvage (collected from dead bodies to transform into weapons), he'll produce so many varieties of grenade you're often spoiled for choice about which one to use.