If browsing digital storefronts for a new game this week, chances are you’ve come across Rogue Company. Having just entered early access on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC (via the Epic Games Store), this is the latest multiplayer experience from Hi-Rez Studios, the company behind SMITE, Paladins, and Realm Royale.
The Hi-Rez name comes with pedigree, though it’s fair to say that its trio of live multiplayer games are often overshadowed by more popular alternatives, despite offering some refreshing takes on their respective genres. SMITE is no League of Legends beater, but while Paladins and Realm Royale trail behind Overwatch and Fortnite, they still enjoy a loyal following.
So where does Rogue Company fit in? At a glance it may look like another attempt by Hi-Rez (and new studio First Watch Games) to dethrone Overwatch, but it quickly becomes clear that Counter-Strike is the primary target. And now, by extension, Riot’s own CS rival, Valorant.
Having played Rogue Company since the game went live, we have some quickfire impressions coming from the beta. But first, you may be wanting to know how to get your hands on the game. Well, you can buy one of the three founder’s packs to get immediate access or you can simply wait until Rogue Company hits version 1.0 when the game will be made free-to-play.
In this tactical 4 versus 4 shooter, you choose from a lineup of playable Rogues before dropping into the battlefield, competing across multiple rounds. There are currently three modes available including Extraction, which has you fighting over a random control point, and Strikeout, a more casual variant that allows for respawns. Then there’s Demolition, in which the attacking team must plant a bomb with defenders attempting to counter them.
Demolition is the same simple mode popularised by Counter-Strike all those years ago, but few games having come anywhere near replicating Valve’s success. Earlier this year, League developer Riot Games unleashed Valorant which has more or less stolen the spotlight from Rogue Company. You see, both games take that incredibly tense shooter template and then pep it up with addition of hero characters equipped with unique loadouts and special powers.
It has to be said that Rogue Company is the most accessible take on this subgenre, mainly thanks to its more generous TTK (time to kill). Characters can soak up slightly more damage than in Valorant or Counter-Strike though a well-placed headshot or stream of bullets is still more than enough to kill off a player.
There are a few other twists, including a dodge roll mechanic and Rogue Company featuring a behind the shoulder perspective as opposed to going first person. You can also revive downed teammates, though there’s just a short window to do so which often leaves both players exposed.
The gunplay is tight and snappy, though Rogue Company will take some getting used to, remembering to shoulder swap, crouch, and roll. Weapon feedback has a good amount of crunch no matter which guns you choose from the Rogue Company arsenal.
That’s another feature worth mentioning – the loadout system. Again, like Counter-Strike, you begin each match with nothing but a pistol, a melee attack, and your Rogue’s special power. In the prep phase before diving from the dropship you have several seconds to open the shop menu, selecting weapons, guns, upgrades, and perks from your Rogue’s unique loadout. This adds some tactical nuance, allowing players to mould their character depending on the map as well as the composition of both their team and the opponents they face.
As for the Rogues themselves, there’s a surprisingly broad roster at this point in the game’s life cycle. Although not as striking as the Overwatch cast, there’s still a distinct flare in their visual design, echoing their chosen loadout and gadgets. For instance, the brutish Anvil can lay down a defensive barricade to zone off control points, whereas sniper Phantom can ping enemy locations using her smoke grenade. Needless to say, Rogue Company offers plenty of tactical depth and it will be interesting to see which heroes rise to prominence as the game meta shifts over time.
In short, Rogue Company should definitely be on your radar. It offers a slightly more accessible gateway into this brutal shooter subgenre, but manages to do so without losing any of its strategic depth. Early access is now available when purchasing one of the three founder’s packs though Hi-Rez have confirmed that Rogue Company will be free-to-play at launch.