Streets of Rogue Review: A Delightful, Ultra-Violent Sandbox

by David Sanchez August 6, 2019 @ 3:58 pm

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

There was a time when Grand Theft Auto wasn’t a sprawling landscape for you to deal out unhinged destruction, but rather a top-down, more-confined-yet-still-open-ended sandbox… for you to deal out unhinged destruction. Those were simpler times — not necessarily better than what we have now because the current GTA playground is a sheer joy to visit, but great in their own right. Streets of Rogue is almost like a mix of both worlds with a bunch of other stuff thrown in to really dial up the insanity.

It’s so much fun!

Urban Playground

Don’t let the initial tutorial put you off. Admittedly, it’s not much fun to learn how to play when the game is giving you text boxes and making you perform all the minor actions that progress the game. But once you get through those initial 20-ish minutes, you’re left to your own devices, and that’s when you discover just how grand the possibilities in this rogue-lite really are.

Streets of Rogue drops you into medium-sized levels with multiple objectives to fulfill. These include eliminating specific baddies (usually protected by bodyguards), retrieving special items (through bribery, violence, or intimidation), and rescuing friendly NPCs. From time to time, you’ll also discover quest givers that offer optional missions. Clearing missions rewards you with health, weapons, money, or key items. Most missions can be completed in multiple ways, so you can approach the same mission using different methods.

There are more than 20 class types in Streets of Rogue including soldiers, hackers, medics, zombies, cannibals, jocks, and even a big-ass ape. These characters each have their own abilities and allow you to take on objectives in different ways. Certain class types have instant access to firearms, while others, like the cannibal, can feast on fallen foes.

In addition to the different character abilities, each class type has its own exclusive optional missions. The solider, for example, is tasked with destroying all generators in every level. Meanwhile the hacker has to install malware on computers in each stage. These missions are optional, but again, you’re rewarded for taking the time — and the risk — to complete them.

The top-down action in Streets of Rogue is fast and fun. The controls work really well, though they do have a slightly float-y feel to them. This usually wasn’t a problem for me, but I did accidentally toss a few grenades a bit too far or too short from my targets from time to time. Thankfully, wanton destruction is all a part of the game’s charm.

Play, Play, Play!

Though the premise is simple, Streets of Rogue is one of those games that rewards you the more you play. There are five areas to explore, but you’ll only have access to the first area initially. You can unlock new areas by clearing existing levels with multiple characters. Surprisingly, this never feels repetitive thanks in large part to the sheer amount of fun it is experimenting and playing around with all the different classes. Even after playing through the first stages a couple dozen times, I never grew tired of revisiting the same environments.

Remember when games used to include a cheats menu? Streets of Rogue features a similar menu — before you jump into the game, you can set various options that will make the game as crazy as you want it to be. Want to send fools flying with your fists? Maybe you want your bullets to be bigger and more accurate. Or perhaps you want to really break the game by filling it with hostile enemies, killer robots, and disasters such as atomic bomb drops. You can do all of that.

Some of the options to tweak the game are locked at first, but you can unlock them with Chicken Nuggets, a currency you obtain as you complete missions. Even if you factor out the locked options, there’s still so much stuff unlocked right from the get-go to let you truly customize your experience in Streets of Rogue. I’m not kidding when I call this game a big ol’ playground.

Play Your Way

The reason Streets of Rogue works so well is because it encourages you to play however you like. Aside from the various customization options, there are a few different modes available, though they’re all slight variations on the same basic component. Quick-Start drops you right into a level with a set of objectives. Home Base allows you to set options before you jump in. Daily Run gives you a pre-set world with pre-set attributes. Finally, Online lets you join or create an online co-op game — which is handy if you don’t have a local co-op buddy to get in on all the chaos with you.

The world of Streets of Rogue is pixelated, colorful, and cute. I’m serious. Those thugs, mobsters, drug dealers, and zombies are super adorable. The whole game has this quirky look to it, and its ultra-violence is stylistically contrasted by the intense visual charm.

The music is also good, with synth-y awesomeness thumping away in each of the game’s stages. You’ll hear these songs a lot, so it’s great that they’re all pretty catchy.

I’ll be the first to admit that the tutorial in Streets of Rogue made me groan. But once I was given free reign, I was all too excited to visit and revisit the game. Even after having spent so much time with it already, I’m still itching to return to it in my free time. Whether you’re playing in short bursts or making a day of it, Streets of Rogue is one of the most addictive and entertaining action games of the year, either solo or with a group of buddies.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

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