Contra: Rogue Corps is a third-person and isometric arcade action adventure shoot ‘em up available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. The Contra franchise has came a long way and utilised many gameplay mechanics within varying genres on the majority of generations of gaming since the original Contra made its debut in the arcades in 1987 with many Contra games having been released including rarer spin-offs and sequels such as Contra: Shattered Soldier and Neo Contra on PS2, alongside the WiiWare exclusive titled Contra ReBirth and a multi-platform release of Contra Anniversary Collection. Can Contra: Rogue Corps deliver a modern day re-invention of the classic Contra franchise?
The story revolves around the Alien Wars that begun 7 years before the start of gameplay during Contra III: The Alien Wars. Story missions are gradually unlocked as only the first story mission is available at first, while there are a fair few occasions when multiple missions will be unlocked; allowing players to try a different mission in the scenario that a particular mission was tough. Story missions are situated into tiers referred to as mission ranks with the next mission rank only being unlocked after completing every mission within the current mission rank.
Elsewhere, exploration missions are randomly generated in environment design and placing of enemies with the reward of better items for defeating strong enemies the further you progress into an exploration mission. Exploration missions become even more interesting as in-game currency credits can be bet in order to play the challenger mode variant of exploration missions including 200, 500, 1,500, 2,000 or 3,500 credits for easy, normal, hard, very hard or contra difficulty levels respectively. Hardcore missions provide a separate tier of missions with your character only having a single life to complete the mission.
Diversity of mission objectives features some subtle differences such as hunting and destroying alien fiends; destroying all target objects; exterminating multiple waves of fiends; reaching the destination; and more besides. However, there are some common factors between all missions including each mission needing to be completed within the time limit, alongside a scoring method that encompasses points for completing the mission with a substantial period of time remaining and defeating multiple enemy types; resulting in an individual rank and total rank of anywhere between D ascending to S rank.
Character design is quite varied as there are four playable characters including Kaiser, Ms. Harakiri, a panda named Hungry Beast and an alien named Gentleman that each has their own unique loadouts and attributes such as skill cool down period and weapon mastery levels. Playable characters can be upgraded via transplantation of better body parts as each of the four characters begin with a normal brain, eyes, skeleton and organs. Each upgraded body part has a category such as uncommon, rare, legendary or epic; complimented by a variety of perks that improves weapon mastery of a particular weapon, efficiency shield defence, reducing damage from certain elemental attacks such as venom or pyro and more besides. Enemy design includes a wide range of alien creatures, alien humanoids and mechanical turrets that wield varying weapons or abilities such as a creature that hovers close above the ground, albeit with a seemingly expressive human face that is reminiscent of some of the scary enemy design from retro classic Life Force Tenka, alongside gigantic enemy bosses that are a cross between Terminator and mechanical enemies from Wolfenstein.
Every weapon has a unique set of attributes including shot type, base damage, critical rate, cool rate, recovery time, fire rate, affinity damage, status ailment rate, heat-up rate and weapon switching. Weapons can be upgraded by selecting the weapon followed by the appropriate quantity of materials required per upgrade, although a specific weapon level is needed before the upgrade is possible and credits also plays a factor in upgrades. Core parts can be utilised to customise your character’s weaponry in much the same method as upgrades by choosing core parts followed by required materials and credits. Weaponry master levels involves using a weapon in missions to defeat a multitude of enemies that earns weapon XP to gradually improve the weapon mastery level that is maximised at level 10; providing an increase to the damage dealt to enemies by that particular weapon.
Each character has a skill that is specific to their character traits rather than their individual loadout, although there is a cooling period before the skill can be utilised again within the same mission. There are multiple forms of melee combat that are very useful when your character’s weaponry has overheated during a cool down period, especially in the scenario that a few enemies are nearby. Finishing moves can be performed by dodging into a smaller enemy to stun them followed by performing the finishing move as soon as the finishing move prompt appears. Meanwhile, throwing moves can also be performed by dodging into a smaller enemy before picking them up and throwing them into sharp edged machinery.
Environment design is varied as there are darkly lit streets, parks filled with luscious foliage and more besides, while being interactive as destructible environments include vehicles, barrels and more that can be strategically utilised to destroy aliens approaching from further up ahead. There are many areas of environments that see the camera angle zoom in to being much closer to your character in the sense of a third-person view during single player before the dynamic camera eventually pans further back to the usual isometric perspective.
Contra: Rogue Corps will not be ported to Vita; despite the quantity of quality portable Contra games that began as early as 1991 including Operation C on Game Boy and Contra 4 on Nintendo DS, although remote play is a consolation. Contra: Rogue Corps’ remote play performance retains the graphical qualities, audio and general performance from the PS4 version in single player and multiplayer. Meanwhile, there is a fair attempt at remote play control optimisation, although firing is remapped to the top right of the touch screen instead of R and dodging is mapped to the top left of the touch screen rather than L. Contra: Rogue Corps provides an entertaining remote play experience, but it will take a little getting used to the emphasis on the touch screen beforehand.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to fire; pressing R1 to use a skill; pressing L2 to dodge; pressing X or L1 to jump; pressing square to switch weapons; pressing O to perform an action such as throwing a stunned enemy; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to aim; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. However, there are two further control schemes that involve remapping the action of what is mapped to R1. Vibration reflects the recoil of the weapon your character is firing, although there is no touch pad implementation that could have had a skill or melee combat ability mapped to it, alongside no light bar support that could have provided an alternative HUD to represent your character’s health bar.
Graphically, Contra: Rogue Corps is as impressive as an isometric arcade shoot ‘em up could be with excellent character and enemy models and animations, alongside great lighting and shadows, destructible environments and explosions.
Contra: Rogue Corps’ presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the title menu, main menu, missions menus, character upgrade menus, loadout and upgrades menus, local multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, guide menus, options menus and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds showcase the base camp that your character situated at before and after missions.
Voice-overs provide more of a unique personality with a voice-over cast including Michael Silberblatt voices Kaiser that has previously been an advisor for America’s Scholar Program and has been an assistant teacher at the American theatre La Jolla Playhouse, alongside Sam Black voicing Hungry Beast having voiced characters in Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series and a variety of other equally talented voice-over artists. Sound effects includes your character firing or performing melee combat moves against enemies, enemies being aggressive towards your character and destructible elements within environments; complimented by instrumental rock and climactic music composed by Michael Brady that has previously composed or produced music for multiple Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced voice-overs or particular sound effects.
The trophy list includes 36 trophies with 18 bronze trophies, 14 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Drill Instructor bronze trophy for using a finishing move with Kaiser 50 times and the Super Engineer bronze trophy for developing or upgrading weapons a total of 50 times, while harder trophies include the Turkey Shoot bronze trophy for performing a combo exceeding 3,000 points. There are at least 7 online multiplayer trophies including a bronze trophy, 5 silver trophies and a gold trophy for defeating the referee in a ranked or quick match; playing any mission or carnage league after having played for a total of over 24 hours; getting a team score of 40,000 points in ranked or quick match; getting 15,000 points in a ranked or quick match; getting 10,000 technical points in a ranked or quick match; and completing a mission with 4 players when each player is using a different character. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 35 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including newbie, moderate and hardcore with the major differences being that newbie mode starts out your character only having slightly powerful equipment, while moderate mode provides moderately powerful equipment and hardcore mode includes tricky equipment. However, rather oddly; there are no changes to the aggressiveness of enemy A.I. during gameplay, while items are unchanged. There is still an air of difficulty based upon the time limit set on each mission and the vast quantity of enemies in the near vicinity at any given moment.
Local co-operative multiplayer supports 2 to 4 players; providing fun gameplay with the same quality of graphical fidelity and performance as during single player. However, only exploration missions are playable rather than story missions or hardcore missions, while the second player cannot customise their loadout for their chosen character or appear anywhere in base camp and both players must remain on the same screen during gameplay. Meanwhile, there is also online co-operative multiplayer that supports 2 to 4 players, alongside the ability to revive allies in local or online co-operative multiplayer.
Online competitive multiplayer supports 2 to 8 players in a player vs. player mode referred to as carnage league. Ranked matches utilise specific rules with match results progressing your global ranking, while quick match changes things up with randomly selected rules, although match results does not improve your global ranking, alongside private match has fully customisable rules and a spectator mode exclusive to private matches, but match results does not elevate your global ranking or carnage coins. Meanwhile, barbarian shop is an in-game item store where players can purchase items to upgrade your respective character’s loadout for online competitive multiplayer. However, despite there being local co-operative multiplayer; there is no local competitive player vs. player mode that would certainly have provided a massive expansion to the local multiplayer gameplay.
Contra: Rogue Corps’ replayability stems from multiple tiers of missions such as story, exploration and hardcore missions, returning to previously completed missions to earn higher scores resulting in any of five ranks ranging from D to S rank, four playable characters, upgradeable characters and weapon loadouts, local and online co-operative multiplayer and player vs. player mode online competitive multiplayer that will collectively have players coming back for many dozens of hours.
• Title: Contra: Rogue Corps
• Developer: Toylogic
• Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Local Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-4 (Online Co-operative Multiplayer)/2-8 (Player vs. Player Online Competitive Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
• Hard Drive Space Required: 11.99GB (Version 1.02)