One of the surprise reveals during Nintendo’s E3 presentation was a new entry in the Contra series. But fans quickly realized that the gameplay was a radical departure for the series. We got our hands on Contra: Rogue Corps at E3 this year, with a nearly complete build of the game.
Rogue Corps takes place after the alien wars of Contra 3, in a demon-infested City of the Damned that sprung up out of the Earth. Everyone who enters the city becomes insane, with the exception of our group of four heroes. They’re an odd bunch: Kaiser is a musclebound badass, Hungry Beast is a scientist’s brain in a giant panda’s body, Harakiri is a fighter who’s fused with a foul-mouthed alien, and the Gentleman is an alien himself, who developed the personality of a stereotypical British gent. The story is told through some very well-made motion comics, but the story itself seems very silly, in a gory, vulgar way.
The game controls like a twin-stick shooter rather than the series’ typical run-n-gun affair. After selecting missions from the menu, your character must make their way through a linear path through the city, clearing room after room of dozens and dozens of demons. Weapons can overheat so you’re constantly switching between your upgradable guns to unleash a constant stream of bullets. If you get cornered, you can “dash” through enemies to stun them and make your escape. Bombs are a common power-up, that unleash a unique animation and destroy every enemy in the blast radius.
Upgrading your characters and guns seems to be a core part of the gameplay loop. By grabbing loot throughout the stages, you’ll earn weapon parts, and even body parts like new eyes or guts that can be surgically grafted on to your character. These body parts offer all kinds of perks, and depending on which surgeon you pay to modify your body, new random effects might be added as well.
We played through the tutorial and the first three missions of the build, and walked away with mixed impressions. It was fun to run through the city, leaving behind carnage as you go. But it also seemed just a little bit tedious. The difficulty level was also lower than what you’d expect from the Contra brand. The boss fights, however, were a highlight of our time with the game. The one in the tutorial was a bit easy, but a later fight was a test of endurance. Dodging attacks, dealing with adds, and chipping away at its health by shooting its weak points made for a fun battle, and the most memorable part of our time with the game.
We were not able to try the local or online multiplayer in our brief hands-on, but we suspect that conquering the Damned City with a friend will be the most enjoyable way to play Rogue Corps.
Contra: Rogue Corps releases for Switch on September 24, 2019.