Review: Rogue Ops: Phoenix Unleashed

A stealth game with a saucy lady in the lead, you can almost hear the marketing guys at Bits Studios talking to each other:
"Hey I just got a great idea, how about we make a game with stealth in it!"
"Stealth? Hasn't that been done before?"
"Yeah but we'll use a female main character, you know, one with a great body so every teen boy'll want to play our game!"
"Won't that be a little too much like that Tomb Raider girl? Lara something?"
"Nah, don't worry, we'll dye her hair blonde, nobody will notice!"

It's true that Rogue Ops' female lead Nikki Conners resembles Lara Croft quite a bit, that Rogue Ops' story is filled with cliches and that stealth based gameplay isn't very original however Rogue Ops is pretty nice to play. Showing us that you don't need anything but gameplay (not even originality!) to make a fun title. You guide Nikki through eight missions filled with sneaking around, hanging from ledges, cracking locks and ofcourse shooting down unsuspecting guards. The reason Nikki does all this is because a terrorist group has killed her family, she wants to get revenge by joining the anti-terrorist organisation her husband was working for when he got killed. Needless to say this organisation is ruthless and has no regard whatsoever for human live, so Nikki gets more than enough chances to argue with her superiors over her handy communications thingy. Combined with a more arcade-like aproach to stealth gameplay, this pretty cheesy story could make Rogue Ops the gaming equivalent of a spy B-movie. Find out how it works out in this review.



Graphically Rogue Ops wouldn't stand a chance if you'd compare it to Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, the two other big stealth games on the Cube. It has some nice lighting effects and details, but the framerate is far from solid and the textures are pretty bland in places. Rogue Ops does have a lot of variation, all of the game's eight missions are set in a different environment. They're not the most original surroundings for a spy to sneak around in (James Bond has been in places like these multiple times), but it's nice to walk around in a different place every mission. It's not that Rogue Ops looks bad, the character models are okay and the gadget effects are pretty nice, it just picked a genre where it has to compete with two great looking games. The darker areas don't match up against Splinter Cell's pitch blackness and the character models can't beat Metal Gear's incredibly detailed characters.


Like you'd expect in a stealth game, the sound in Rogue Ops is very important. Luckily it's more polished than the graphics. Most traps in the game make sounds so you can hear them before you set of any alarms, and guards often talk to each other. The bits where you hear your enemies talk are done very nicely, you often get hints about locked doors and holes in the security system. Sometimes they're just talking about everyday human things like their wives cheating on them though, making you a little more hesitant to fire a bullet into the back of their head. Just a little ofcourse. Sadly the storyline voice bits are not as good, Nikki and her colleagues aren't voiced by the best actors in the business. The cutscenes are filled with overacting and bad jokes, it's not a big problem though, this fits the spy B-movie feel of the game quite well. The music also strengthens the experience, it makes the sneaking around more exciting and the shootouts more hectic. Good Job.



After going through the obligatory training mission the fun starts right away. You're dropped of at the at a mansion to steal a document, typical spy stuff. To get to the document you have to solve quite a few puzzles that help you familiarize with the way Rogue Ops works much better than the tutorial. You learn pretty quickly that there are multiple ways to solve almost every puzzle. The first guard you encounter for instance has a keycard you need. To get it you can either kill him and search his body or sneak up to him silently and pick his pocket. The fact that you can use different ways to deal with guards and alarm systems doesn't mean that you can use the same method every time you come across them. The game forces you to think differently in places by changing the mission requirements. In one mission for instance you have to steal a little statue from a museum, the guards in there are just museum guards so you can't kill them like you did with most of the terrorists that crossed your path in earlier missions.

In another mission nobody is allowed to know about your intrusion, so you have to kill each guard in the building. Little touches like these make the missions varied enough to prevent boredom. The gadgets you gradually recieve to complete the missions are fun too, you'll need to use nifty (and often completely unrealistic) tools like nightvision goggles that can peek through walls, a retina scanner and a robotic fly equiped with a minicamera. All of these are used in often very clever puzzles. The weapons you get to use are rewarding too, even though it's just the typical spy game assortment. Zooming in between a guard's eyes with your sniper rifle while he's smoking a cigarette never gets old though, and you'll get enough chances to do so. The only places where the game really disappoints is when you're fighting a boss character. Shooting someone in the head just doesn't feel the same if he just runs on because you didn't empy his health meter yet.



In stealth games you often moves very slowly, so if the controls aren't to tight you won't be in too much trouble. Rogue Ops also requires you too run every now and then though, and occasionally you'll even find yourself in gunfights with multiple opponents. During situations like these there's a good chance you'll die a few times because you're holding the wrong weapon or because you holster your weapon instead of shooting it. This is because you can use the R button to take out or holster your current weapon by pressing it down a little, you shoot your weapon by pressing it down untill it clicks. So if you try to shoot but don't press the R down far enough you'll end up holstering your gun in front of the enemy and generally looking very stupid. Also the sensitivity of the control stick feels a bit off. It feels a bit unfair if a guard hears you walk behind him when you could swear you didn't push forward too hard on the control stick. Aside from issues like these that only bother you in a few places there's not much wrong with the controls.

Like most 3rd person games you use the control stick to walk and strafe, and the C-stick to look around. If you have a weapon ready you can hold L to aim it and move the control stick to zoom in and out. Weapons and items can be selected with the D-pad, weapons are used with X or R, items with Y. B is used for crouching and getting up again. The A button is a context sensitive action button, it can do everything from grabbing ledges to pickpocket guards if you crouch behind them. If you stand behind a guard a meter starts slowly filling up, press A and you're required to press the control stick in a few directions shown on screen. Press the correct ones in time Nikki does a stealth kill move on the poor guard. The more you've let the meter fill up, the easier the combinations you have to press are, so you're rewarded for following a guard quietly.



With just eight missions, Rogue Ops isn't the longest game around. It'll probably take you a few days to complete because the missions are quite lenghty, but the end still comes a bit too soon. You can play the game again on a higher difficulty, but the excitement you got when you first solved the puzzles is gone the second time around. The game could probably have been a lot more enjoyable with a few extra levels that would follow a different storyline, now you just do missions where Nikki fights against the terrorists that killed her family, you would think she'd do more work than just these missions.

Final Say:

Rogue Ops is a lot of fun to play, it's filled with good puzzles and because of the varied levels you'll have a good time right untill the end. Too bad that end comes a bit too soon though. The controls and the framerate are a bit sloppy in places, but never so bad you'll stop playing. If you're a stealth fan and can't wait for The Twin Snakes and the new Splinter Cell, Rogue Ops is a fun game to try in the meantime. Don't expect it to be as detailed as those two titles though, think of Rogue Ops as a less serious take on stealth gaming. If you've never played a stealth game yet and are not sure if you'll like it, Rogue Ops is a good game to begin with. It's not as unforgiving as Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid, so you'll have a better chance at getting used to sneaking around unseen.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Great fun while it lasts. A fairly good stealth game.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals4
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



Creative levels
Nice guns & gadgets


Controls can be awkward
It's over pretty soon

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