With 1980s movie tie-in wizards Teyon bringing everybody’s favourite tin-plated copper back for the forthcoming RoboCop: Rogue City, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back at how the law enforcing cyborg has fared in video games up until now. From the arcades to home computers and consoles, here is every RoboCop game ranked from worst to best.
Inspired by the films rather than directly based upon any of them and whispered in the same company as such fantastically terrible offerings as Superman 64, RoboCop’s 2003 release was a travesty of epic proportions that ensured it remained at the absolute nadir of RoboCop video game tie-ins. Released for PS2, Xbox and Gamecube home consoles, 2003’s RoboCop was an innovation bereft first-person shooter summarily undone by terribly slow movement (I know RoboCop is a plodding chap, but this was beyond silly), sluggish targeting, too many bullet sponge enemies, a lack of ammo and little or no cover to use. With nothing else to recommend this absolute stinker of a genre effort, RoboCop’s 2003 incarnation is widely recognised as one of the worst video game tie-ins of all-time.
Coded in Java for the mobile phones of the early to mid 2000s, RoboCop’s 2004 offering was pretty terrible, even for the time. A side-scrolling blaster that looked to evoke fond memories of the first two games from 1988 and 1990 respectively while channelling the story beats of the first movie, RoboCop’s mobile debut was a sluggish and audio-visually ugly take on the franchise. From the incredibly slow moving sprites, to the glitchy animations, unresponsive controls and ear-clawingly terrible sound effects where gunshots sounded like musical instruments going off rather than anything approximating actual gunfire, RoboCop’s mobile debut is weapons grade awful and should be avoided like a fast moving van filled with barrels of corrosive acid.
A tie-in of sorts to that risible remake of the original movie which nobody asked for, 2014’s RoboCop was developed exclusively for mobile platforms and, well, the overzealous approach to squeezing your wallet for all its worth with a range of costly microtransactions that don’t so much compliment the game but rather exist at its core, was emblematic of similar offerings from that period of time. No better way to steal money than free enterprise, I guess. Anyway, beyond its ultra-grabby and cynical pay-to-win sensibilities, 2014’s RoboCop also happened to be a resolutely dull, third-person cover shooter where its titular protagonist would blast through waves of machines and other such enemies in a holographic training simulation. That said, the quality of the character models was actually pretty decent for the time, so that’s something, eh?
RoboCop 3 (1991-1993)
While the truth is that quite honestly there are no good versions of RoboCop 3 simply because all of them represent varying degrees of mediocrity and awfulness, what is intriguing is just how vastly different the home console versions were from the home computer iterations of the game. While the 8-bit and 16-bit versions of RoboCop 3 were depressingly terrible side-scrolling blasters that weren’t a patch on either of its two predecessors, the Amiga, Atari ST and PC versions of the same game were an entirely different proposition altogether. Taking place entirely from a first-person perspective, RoboCop 3 had you driving around Detroit shooting up fully polygonal, three-dimensional enemies in a way that felt oddly cutting edge – at least on the surface. Sure, both the driving and the shooting were nowhere near as satisfying as they needed to be, but by the same token it’s difficult to not be impressed by what was wrought here given the limitations of the platforms involved. Another neat fact about RoboCop 3 was that it was a tie-in to a movie that wouldn’t be released until more than two years later – essentially spoiling the plot of the third RoboCop film a good twenty-four months before it would finally end up in cinemas. Yikes.
RoboCop Versus The Terminator (1993)
Despite a rather sniffy reception from critics, I think it’s fair to say that the RoboCop Versus The Terminator certainly held a place in the hearts and minds of console players who were able to get their grubby paws on it. A mashup of two of the 1980s most recognisable sci-fi face shooters, Robocop Versus The Terminator was another side-scroller, albeit one that had a chunk of style. This is thanks in no small part to the amped up violence which resulted in some seriously gory kills, while some surprisingly satisfying gunplay underpinned the story as players once more took on the role of the resurrected Officer Murphy, who found himself tasked with stopping SkyNet from destroying the human race. Just a regular day on the beat, then.
A direct tie-in to the events chronicled in the 1987 blockbuster, RoboCop stormed into the arcades a year later in 1988 and would go on to release on basically every home computer and a handful of 8-bit consoles from the same era. A side-scrolling shooter that hewed closely to the events of the movie while chucking in first-person shooting gallery sections to break things up, RoboCop impressed players the world over with its detailed sprite work, satisfying side-scroller shooter action and most surprisingly, story interludes that were fully voiced by the actual actors from the 1987 flick. Clocking in at well over a million copies sold worldwide on home platforms, RoboCop also had the rare distinction of being really rather good no matter which platform you bought it for, with both console and home computer ports of the game giving roundly decent accounts of themselves.
RoboCop 2 (1990-1991)
Imagine for a second that some bright spark decided to marry RoboCop to Final Fight and now imagine that it actually happened, because that’s essentially what the arcade version of RoboCop 2 is. A completely different offering from the wildly inconsistent home versions of RoboCop 2, the arcade version of RoboCop’s second videogame outing was a whole lot of fun, loosely translating the plot of the 1990 sequel movie into a side-scrolling, effort that combined beat em up and shooter elements to create one of the better movie tie-ins of the day. Not only did RoboCop 2’s arcade incarnation allow players to fully explore both the X and Y axis of any given stage, much as you would in a side-scrolling brawler such as Double Dragon or Final Fight, but so too were there an impressive assortment of different weapons for RoboCop to pick up and some pleasingly challenging bosses to tangle with too. I’d (still) buy that for a dollar, certainly.
RoboCop 2 on the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles and home computers of the day however, was a markedly different beast when compared to its coin-popping counterpart. A side-scrolling shooter akin to its immediate predecessor, RoboCop 2 not only brought back the first-person shooting bonus sections that punctuated the original games, but also introduced new puzzle sections where you had to match up various computer chip layouts in order to proceed. The less said about those, the better. Interestingly, RoboCop 2’s release on home platforms typically fared better on the 16-bit machines than it did on the earlier NES, Amstrad and ZX Spectrum machines of the day, with ports to the latter formats often described as being too sluggish to play versus the 16-bit versions of that era.
With RoboCop: Rogue City aiming to recreate the look and feel of the original film, why not head over to our store and check it out. We don’t know about you, but we’d buy that for (more) than a dollar.
If you’re looking for something similar but different, our list of the best cyberpunk indie games you can play should help you get ready for RoboCop.