I Actually Played This - Rogue Warrior
Welcome to I Actually Played This, the place were I play the video games that most gamers have, out of caution, ignorance, or common sense, never played. Please do not attempt to play any of these games yourself. Remember that actually playing these games may undermine your health, well being, consumer confidence, and belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. I am a professional, and as such have already lost my soul. Don't try this at home.
We here at IAPT Inc. have very high, and ergo very low, standards. It is not enough that a video game simply be bad. Ugly graphics? Bah! A clumsy interface? I thumb my nose at you sir! A moronic, incoherent plot? Child's play, my good man, child's play. To qualify for attention from our seasoned connoisseurs of incompetence, a bad game must have something special, a certain je ne sais crap. With this in mind, imagine the rapture that swept through the IAPT offices like holy fire when we received Richard "Demo Dick" Marcinko's Rogue Warrior. Metascore: 28 out of 100. Userscore: 2.8 out of 10. I Actually Played This score: Fantastically awful.
If Rogue Warrior's designers had made it this bad on purpose, I sincerely believe it would be a masterwork of satire approaching the rarefied heights of Network and Dr. Strangelove—however, as its twisted development process attests, there was nothing deliberate about this game. Rogue Warrior was born for no reason, carried on through weakness, and landed on my doorstep by accident. It shares its pedigree with other accidental triumphs by Ed Wood, Tommy Wiseau, and Amanda McKittrick Ros, but it will never attract a devoted cult following of the likes of, say, Troll 2. “Suck my balls, my hairy fucking big balls, wrap 'em around your fucking mouth.” will never hold the same camp cache as “You're tearing me apart, Lisa!” or “You can't piss on hospitality!”
As broken as they are, movies like The Room and Birdemic are passion projects, they're acts of love. Rogue Warrior is the product of cold calculation. If The Room and Birdemic are examples of people caring too much, Rogue Warrior resides at the opposite end of the spectrum, a complete lack of oversight and initiative from any party involved resulting in a product that barely exists at all. You couldn't make a video game this blandly yet flamboyantly terrible if you tried, and the publisher clearly did not. This was a cash grab, plain and simple, only the project was so mismanaged they grabbed nothing but air. In a boldly cynical attempt to cash in on a name, they ended up dragging that selfsame name through the mud.
Richard Marcinko, aka Demo Dick, aka Rogue Warrior, aka Shark Man of the Delta, aka Nut n' Honey, aka Kludge McSlapdash, aka The Iron Muffin, (I made up those last three) is an author, inspirational speaker, and consultant who has parlayed his intrepid work in the military into a career as a go-to personality in corporate, military, and conservative circles. Marcinko joined the Navy in 1958 and eventually joined an Underwater Demolition Team, the same organization Jesse Ventura was a part of and that would eventually be turned into Special Operations SEAL teams. Marcinko completed two tours of duty in Vietnam, causing Charlie such a headache that, according to his website, the Viet Cong offered a reward of 50,000 Piasters for his death, a unit of currency Indochina stopped using in the 50's. In 1973 he served as an adviser to the Cambodian government in its war with the Khmer Rouge (to mixed results) then left to take command of SEAL Team Two. After the Iranian hostage crisis Marcinko founded the Navy counter-terrorist force Seal Team Six, the group now famous for assassinating Osama Bin Laden. Marcinko's other claim to fame is founding and commanding Red Cell, a team tasked with testing the Navy's security by breaking into secure sites that might prove targets for terrorists. They were highly successful, managing to infiltrate naval bases, nuclear submarines, and even Air Force One, humiliating many of the officials in command in the process. He retired from the Navy in 1989 and embarked on a prodigious writing career, producing the New York Times Bestselling autobiography Rogue Warrior and over a dozen fictional sequels with John Weisman and Jim DeFelice, as well as a three part self-help series on corporate leadership.
In the years since his return to civilian life Richard Marcinko has done an incredible job growing the Rogue Warrior brand. The biography on dickmarcinko.com identifies him as the president of Richard Marcinko Incorporated and SOS Temps Incorporated, a spokesman for Zodiac Boats Maritime Training Academy and Oakley Sunglasses, a designer for Strider Knives, the chairman of private security firm Red Cell International Corporation, and a radio host. In a profile that includes every achievement of Marcinko's save he kilt him a bar when he was only three, the absence of any mention of the fact that there's a video game bearing his brand and likeness is strange, at least until you sit down and play it.
Publisher Bethesda clearly intended to turn Richard Marcinko into the next Tom Clancey, or at least have Rogue Warrior serve as the Transmorphers to Splinter Cell's Transformers, but the resulting product was too terrible, even by mockbuster standards. This is partially due to the game's demented design process. Bethesda originally assigned the development of Rogue Warrior to I Actually Played This alumnus Zombie Studios, which developed the torture themed Saw video games as well as the actual torture device Blackwater: The Game. Bethesda wasn't happy with what Zombie Studios produced, leading them to completely scuttle Zombie's work and hire Rebellion Developments to make a new game from scratch. I know, having played the final product, it's hard to imagine how Zombie Studios could have possibly made something worse than what Rebellion produced, but I've played Blackwater. If anyone could do it, Zombie could. Rogue Warrior is bad in a silly way. Blackwater is bad in a disturbing way. Trust me; I'm a professional. I just used a semicolon, what further proof do you need?!
For the purposes of this article I'm forced to assume that the Rogue Warrior video game has a story, like a theoretical physicist who isn't certain that a particular molecule exists, but has to assume it does in order for their model to work. Please keep in mind that while I may say 'this or that happens in Rogue Warrior' I'm speaking in purely theoretical terms, and cannot be certain what does or does not happen in this twisted fever dream of a video game. I played it through to the end, yet I'm still not positive it's real. Even the developers themselves weren't certain what Rogue Warrior is about. I mean that literally. This is what happens according to the Gamefly sleeve the game arrived in: “The unthinkable has happened. War has erupted between North and South Korea. And you're caught behind enemy lines. Lead your team back over the South Korean border without alerting your North Korean enemy.” It appears it really was unthinkable, since absolutely none of that happens in the game. What does happen? I'm not certain. I'll put it together as best I can, but keep in mind, by writing a few paragraphs about it I'm putting much more work into Rogue Warrior's story than the developers themselves did, and I may be crafting a narrative that isn't really there. I feign no hypotheses.
One last thing before we dive into the murky waters of Rogue Warrior. I have to warn you, there's a lot of swearing in this game. I mean A LOT. I don't think I exaggerate when I say it constitutes the majority of the game's spoken dialogue. Richard Marcinko is played by actual actor & implausible human being Mickey Rourke, and I think they just plopped him down in the recording booth and let him say whatever popped into the scrambled remnants of his mind, though he bears no blame for this trainwreck. Rogue Warrior Executive Producer Todd Vaughn has been quoted in a press release saying "Mickey Rourke was our first choice to play Marcinko. He absolutely, one-hundred percent captures Marcinko's raw and gritty personality." I personally find it hard to believe Richard Marcinko calls people “Goddamn cockbreath commie motherfuckers.” in real life as often as he does in this game, but it's an aesthetic Rebellion Developments and by extension Bethesda Softworks embrace wholeheartedly. When you start the game the difficulty screen reads as follows.
Recruits————If you're a pussy, select this one.
Regulars————Bring it on, motherfucker.
Elites————Think you're fucking special, huh?
There's a productive and meaningful debate to be had over when and where obscenity should be used in art, but it won't happen here. Suffice to say you can get away with pretty much anything as long as you're clever and put a modicum of thought into it, instead of simply using cherished idioms like “goat-fuck” to distract from the fact that you've made a terrible product. Despite all this, Rebellion Developments did accomplish something. In their flailing desperation to polish—or at least obscure—the turd they concocted, they created a flamboyant, hysterical, and ultimately telling portrayal of the kind of person who would actually rack up the kind of body count we see in video games. The Richard Marcinko of Rogue Warrior is a caricature, but he's a familiar one, and only a slight exaggeration of the swaggering heaps of meat that haunt our popular media.
When the game begins Marcinko, who is only referred to as Dick in the game, is approaching North Korea on a helicopter with two other other soldiers. Though Mickey Rourke says in his opening narration that he trained them in the SEAL program, he never mentions what organization they're in now. Presumably something American, but that's just a guess on my part. Mickey Rourke narrates “There's a thin line between a simple op and a [unintelligible] goat-fuck.” Then Marcinko leaps out of the helicopter, which I presume is flying through the air even though there's nothing on the screen to substantiate that, and the screen cuts to black. I assume they had some way of getting to the ground alive even though it's very clear none of them were wearing parachutes, because in the next scene they're silently walking through an incredibly crude forest whose trees and grass look like the cardboard scenery produced for an elementary school play. Marcinko then makes some hand signals to his two companions which, judging by the general tenor of the game, mean something incredibly obscene, but they take it to mean 'kill those guys', which they proceed to do. They kill four North Korean soldiers, one of whom is an officer in full uniform. It's not explained why there are four soldiers out guarding the woods at night, or why one of them is an officer in full parade dress. Before such matters can be addressed one of the dying Koreans pulls a pin on a grenade and blows himself up along with Marcinko's two partners, killing the game's only black guy and leaving Marcinko alone. When informed via radio of the demise of his teammates Marcinko's handler tells him to abort the mission, to which Mickey Rourke responds with a curt “Fuck, no!” that must be far more convincing than it sounds, because that marks the end of their conversation and the beginning of the gameplay proper, as Marcinko sneaks into town to rendezvous with a CIA mole who has info on new missile technology being developed.
Did I mention this game takes place in 1986? Yeah, it takes place in 1986, the year of Iran-Contra, the year of the Challenger Disaster, and the year when a spry 55 year old named Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was introducing reforms called Perestroika and Glasnost into the USSR, last ditch attempts to reform the Soviet system that would ultimately destroy the very thing they were struggling to preserve, with a little help from Boris Yeltsin. Rogue Warrior doesn't care about any of that, it only wants you to know that Russians are still communists, and therefore okay to kill en masse when Marcinko follows the missiles across the border, though I get the feeling he would've maintained his killing spree if the missiles had instead gone to China, or South Korea, or Cleavland.
When the game starts the first person view has a nauseating motion blur that kicks in any time Marcinko moves more than a few inches. I turned it off immediately, which was a relief for my stomach but a burden for my eyes, which could now see the oppressively crude, ugly world of Rogue Warrior in all its grayscale glory. Games like World of Warcraft and Fallout have problems with character animations, but 'have' is the operative word in this particular scenario. Rogue Warrior's character animations don't have problems. They are problems. The figures in Rogue Warrior move with a slow, syrupy glide like they're underwater. Everything happens a quarter speed slower than it should. Either Marcinko's lips don't move at all when he spouts his stupid one liners or his entire jaw moves in one solid piece like that of a ventriloquist's dummy, with is legitimately horrifying. The enemy AI is as awful as you'd expect, but behavior that would otherwise be merely inane is rendered much worse when tethered to crappy animations. There's nothing quite like watching two enemies reacting to being shot in exactly the same way at exactly the same time, as if they'd choreographed it beforehand. When enemies move between cover they do it with the eerie weightlessness of ducks in a carnival shooting gallery, their legs acting independently from the torsos they're attached to. There are several points in the game where Marcinko has to use 'fast rope'. I don't know why they replaced the word rappel or abseil with a term that sounds like it was coined by a four year old, the point is when Marcinko's massive slab of a body slides down the hair-thin rope it remains completely still and it is friggin' disconcerting, though not as bad as the line Marcinko spouts the first time he uses a fast rope: “As the ex-wife used to say: if I go down, I'll get in.” a line so flagrantly stupid it effectively distracts the player from the fact that 250 pounds of commando are sliding down a thin rope with all the dynamism of a bead sliding across an abacus. This is the hero of our story, a man who, in the middle of a covert op deep inside enemy territory, pauses in between killings to offhandedly remark on the fact that the woman he used to be married to refused to submit to vaginal intercourse until he performed cunnilingus, and that is far from the most outstanding non sequitur of Mickey Rourke's many utterances. There's “Get dead, fuckbag!” and “Fucking retard, dead piece of shit.” and “I fucking hate hedge mazes.” and “Drop dead motherfucker, you fucking amateurs.” all lines delivered in the most flat, perfunctory tone possible, a tone devoid of inflection of any kind even by Mickey Rourke's dramatically lowered standards. Here's a link to the Rogue Warrior soundboard in case if you want to experience Mickey Rourke's profound apathy for yourself, though the one line that stood out for me isn't on there. At the beginning of the third level, when Marcinko is sneaking up on a North Korean mechanic, he says “Well, hello Francis.” There's no one named Francis in the game. I've given this a lot of thought, and I think Francis is the name of Marcinko's ex-wife. Rogue Warrior is the story of an angry man wandering around North Korea and Russia, pretending every man he kills is his ex-wife, the woman who left him despite all the oral sex he provided, probably for someone who said “The Soviet fucking Union can fondle my hairy nut.” less often, and was still in possession of both his testicles.
When the writers and Mickey Rourke were crafting Richard Marcinko's personality for Rogue Warrior they were apparently aiming for guff but lovable. They missed. The Shark Man of the Delta is not gruff but lovable. He is not even gruff but gruff. His personality is a black sucking chest wound of profound human misery, and I don't mean that in a good way. In Rogue Warrior Demo Dick has the attitude of a skeevy middle aged biker who's finally managed to get drunk enough to believe he's earthy instead of tasteless and charming instead of repulsive. He thinks he's the suave character Tom Cruise portrays in his movies, but in reality he's more like Tom Cruise the person: insecure, disturbing, and insane by any practical definition of the term. In the end it's for the best that Marcinko's teammates were killed in the opening cinematic, since he likely would have ended up killing them himself. As I shambled through Rogue Warrior it occurred to me if I were watching these events unfold in a movie instead of a video game I'd be rooting for the people trying to kill Marcinko, the Koreans and Russians who are ostensibly the bad guys. Sure, the USSR would have some fancy new missiles, but it was on its last legs in 1986 anyway. If that were the price for shutting Mickey Rourke as Richard “Demo Dick” Marcinko up for good, I'd gladly pay it. This is what I mean when I say this game could have been weapons-grade satire, if only its execution weren't incompetent on every level. Rogue Warrior is not just bad, (though it certainly is at that) it is everything that's bad about mainstream video games, turned up to 11. Usually video games have a strong undercurrent of American Exceptionalism and contempt for the value of human life, but in Rogue Warrior it's out in the open, exposed for all to see, and it ain't pretty, or even legitimately amusing.
Moral ambiguity is all the rage these days, but few creators have the courage and/or indifference to commercial success to show us a protagonist that's genuinely despicable. Popular culture has taught us that villains are intelligent, ambitious, and darkly charismatic, but in real life most wholesale evil is the product of pious ignorance (the Iraq War) naked self interest (ditto) and impotent rage (ditto again). Marcinko in Rogue Warrior embodies all these characteristics in different ways and is thus an obnoxious, stupid, vicious beast of a man, though none of that takes him very far from the characters our culture lauds as heroes: your Stallones, your Schwarzeneggers, and to a lesser extent your Van Dammes. It's only too bad all of this was done unintentionally, and there's nothing in the game to encourage players to think critically about the character they've seen. I don't even recommend playing this game at all. It sucks. It's no fun. They did a bad job.
The mechanics in Rogue Warrior are crap. There is no close-up melee move, which I thought was standard issue, even in 2009 when it was released. Every close-up attack triggers a kill animation that involves stabbing the enemy in the brain, cutting their throat, breaking their neck, pushing them over a high ledge, slamming their head against a wall, shooting them with their own gun, or just punching them so hard that they die. The perspective switches from first to third person when Marcinko moves into cover, Deus Ex: Human Revolution style, so you can watch his face either not move or move very poorly when he says something hateful. He automatically stops reloading when he moves in or out of cover, which is incredibly annoying. When he's moving along a wall and comes to a window he stops instead of crouching under it. He can't aim downwards while in cover, so you're screwed if you're above an enemy, though the difficulty is low enough that it doesn't make much difference either way. There are never more than a handful of enemies on-screen at one time, and parts of some levels are eerily empty, as if the programmers just forgot to include bad guys. The game is supposed to offer the player a choice between stealth and run & gun, but in practice the mechanics are so bad there's no tangible difference. The game tells you to shoot fuse boxes to confuse enemies and then don your night vision goggles to give yourself an edge, yet shooting the box prompts Marcinko to yell “Chew on this, fuckhead.” which defeats the point, or at least it would if the AI were less terrible. Also, it doesn't 'confuse' enemies so much as prompt them to just stand there, which I suspect they would've done anyway. If you shoot a fire extinguisher it will spit opaque white gas, but enemies will hit you when you move out of cover anyway. Enemies keep talking calmly to one another as they're gunned down. Cover sometimes just doesn't work, as does aiming down the sights. Shotguns are worse than useless. The Russians keep yelling “attackoo” again and again, which I am 99% sure is not Russian for “attack”. One guy was wearing a welding mask in a library for no discernible reason. The game contains some of the worst looking fire I have ever seen, it looks like orange lard. The whole enterprise is infamously or mercifully short depending on your perspective, clocking in at two and a half hours, though it sure feels longer.
I don't mean to condemn Rebellion Developments and Bethesda Softworks here. Well, I kind of do, but I curse the organizations, not the individuals. This was clearly a fiasco on all sides, with Bethesda taking the radical step of starting over in a desperate attempt to publish something presentable, and Rebellion not having enough time or resources to make the game they wanted to. Ironically, you'll have a much better opinion of the real Richard Marcinko if you actually play the game, since he'll strike you as infinitely superior to his electronic counterpart if he does anything short of eating your children. If you don't play it, all you'll know is that he thoughtlessly lent his name to an inferior product for a quick buck. Is there anything more American?
How Long I Could Make Myself Play: 2 1/2 Hours
How Bad Is It As Described By A Film On IMDB's Bottom 100 List: Turks In Space In the movie Turks criticizes themselves if what would happen when they will be at space.
Redeeming Factors(if any): Seal Team Six didn't kill Osama Bin Laden until after Rogue Warrior was released. Coincidence? Absolutely.