Fresh off the heels of Contra Anniversary Collection, Konami has surprised us with the E3 announcement of Contra: Rogue Corps, a new entry in the series set after Contra III: The Alien Wars. Now that the aliens have been defeated, the “Damned City” has risen out of the ruins of war, and there are now demons running around everywhere making people go insane. If it sounds nonsensical, that’s on purpose, as this game does not take itself seriously for a single second. This was a pretty interesting one to preview.
[This E3 preview is based on a pre-gold PlayStation 4 build of the game.]
How to blow up everything
While not a sidescroller like the most famous entries in the series, Contra: Rogue Corps still features oodles of three-dimensional run-and-gun gameplay. The most basic enemy in the game is a decaying red skeleton with a shovel (which, again, is ridiculous for the sake of ridiculous), and I killed probably over a hundred of them in my 45ish minutes of play. The action took place primarily in confined areas that forced me to keep moving around, and the camera was locked in place overhead. There is a dash function for when things get too hectic, but enemies move pretty fast in spite of that.
The game offers four playable characters whose weapon loadouts can be customized and further developed with materials gathered in levels. I mostly played as Kaiser, a super-jacked lunatic with a drill arm. But there is also an assassin named Ms. Harakiri, a sentient panda named Hungry Beast, and a well-mannered bug alien named Gentleman. The game promises a very wide variety of crazy different weapon types. In fact, while talking to a PR rep, he said (paraphrasing) with a level of confidence surpassing simple PR hype, “If you like weapon variety, you are going to love this game.”
That said, I mostly had access to a standard machine gun and homing missiles during my time playing. They functioned well and had unlimited ammo but were subject to cooldowns. A lot of objects in Contra: Rogue Corps explode when shot—even things that make no sense like traffic cones—but blowing up things like cars will cause area-of-effect damage to enemies.
The one peculiar hiccup in all of the action was the jumping. There is a slight delay between pressing the button and your character actually jumping, which makes (albeit rare) platforming segments harder than they need to be. Also, the graphics in general won’t blow your mind.
All in all, the action was entirely serviceable, but it’s too early to tell if it won’t get repetitive with time. Presuming the weapons are as varied as promised and the enemy types graduate to more complicated things than shovel-wielders, we have a really nice game on our hands here. Plus, there is local and online co-op and PVP for up to four players, which spices up practically any game.
The sense of humor makes Contra: Rogue Corps
In actuality, the brunt of my enthusiasm for Contra: Rogue Corps comes from the game’s strong sense of humor. It’s just so stupid in a good way. After his hand-drawn cinematic introduction, Kaiser first appears in the game by falling out of the sky on a missile that explodes. Later, he picks up a tank and throws it. Video games need more characters like Kaiser.
The creativity of the dumbness has useful effects on actual gameplay too. Because in addition to being able to research and develop better weapons, you can also find black market surgeons and get them to swap out your organs for “better” ones. However, if the surgeon sucks, the procedure might fail. I didn’t get a chance to try out this function firsthand, but I love the premise.
Laugh off the concerns
I’m not ready to say that Contra: Rogue Corps will be a resounding slam dunk in its genre; the verdict is still out on if the game can ward off tedium. I am ready to say that the game will be mindless fun for a group of friends though, especially with how many reasons to laugh there are.
Contra: Rogue Corps launches for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam on Sept. 26 for $39.99. Although there will be cosmetic DLC, there will be no in-game microtransactions or “pay-to-win” scenarios.