The Troubled History of "RoboCop" Video Games

The "RoboCop" gaming series started out with a huge hit and fell far from there, can it come back?

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Complex Original

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A new RoboCop is on the horizon and whatever your feelings towards the big man's new suit or armor with its new flexibility, it opens up the possibility of jump-starting a new round of RoboCop games.

Ahead of the film's release, a mobile RoboCop movie tie-in, complete with obligatory microtransactions, featured a cyborg cop who has to wait behind blocks for his weapons to cool down, was dropped on the public. I wouldn't buy that for a dollar! Luckily it was free-to-play (pay-to-win).

Fans want to see RoboCop reclaim some of his video game glory. Way back in 1988 RoboCop the cabinet arcade won game of the year, leading to 1990's RoboCop2 which also won several game of the year prizes. The Super NES also saw RoboCop3 in 1993 but this was the last playable entry into the series until 2003. A decade after the last real game that may have sealed the fate of the series.

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Your Move Creep

The original RoboCop console arcade dropped in 1988 to record fan-fair. The beat-em-up gave players control of the tank-like cyborg to march across a side scrolling world to one-two punch punks in the face and throw out that steady left arm while dealing machine gun pistol death sprays. The game captured the spirit of the movie and of one half-man half-machine marching across the Detroit wastes battling against an army of generic thugs and depraved drug addled lady murders.

The arcade was ported to every platform of its day; the ancient ZX Spectrum home consoles, Atari, Game Boy, Commodore 64, DOS PC, TRS-80 and more. Where it remained a chart topper for nearly 3 years.

RoboCop 2 and 3 also made it to grandfather consoles and arcades with nearly as much success and even featuring a third-person combat view in some levels. Both games got great reviews even netting a few more game of the year awards but much like a good hit of Nuke the high doesn't last.

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So why, if RoboCop has such an epic legacy in classic video games, has no developer attempted to reboot the once great series? It's time to talk about RoboCop 3D and RoboCop 2003.

RoboCop 3D took the side-scrolling beat-em-up action and moved it into a first-person shooter view. But being early days in the 3D graphics and engines, 1992, the game was missing some distinct features of what most gamers would consider must-haves in a playable shooter. For instance on the PC version it had no keyboard controls. Players moved by holding down the right mouse button in the direction they wanted to go and firing by hitting the left with absolutely no strafe buttons. Which left players spinning in circles getting shot in the back of the head. While the graphics were breakthrough at the time, pushing the limits of consoles and ancient PCs the playability is debatable.

RoboCop 2003 on the other hand, simply was not. This first-person shooter released nearly a decade after RoboCop 3D for GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC and while improving upon the 3D representation of the cyborg cop – players could sorta strafe now – the actual gameplay was more akin to a motion sickness simulator. While having official licensing from MGM Studios, developer Titus Software was driven to bankruptcy after the game was universally panned. RoboCop 2003 was even unlucky enough to be branded “the worst video game in a decade” by Gamereactor. Check out the clip below:

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Dead or Alive Your Coming With Me

It remains to be seen just how popular the new re-boot of RoboCop will be received. With his new flexible armor and drones on command. For fans of the original Alex Murphy, he will always be the Cold War-era battle tank with stiff limbs and a penchant for driving off overpasses, casually walking out of recently razed buildings, cars, etc. What would be amazing though, if a renewed interest in Paul Verhoeven's classic could spur the creation of a brand new triple-A title. Something that hasn't happened in over 10 years.

It's possible that the gaming brand of RoboCop is just too tarnished to touch. With a troubled history that squandered its early successes it may be relegated to mobile free-to-plays. But with Murphy on the street protecting innocents from Splatterpunks who's going to protect us, the gamers, from microtransaction laden one-offs of our favorite Detroit hero?

RoboCop is a story of redemption and overcoming the sprawling powers of corporatization, dystopian sprawl, and the gred inherent in human nature. Hopefully some developer will see the redemptive powers of putting out a new RoboCop game to capture the classic's aging glory.

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