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The new RoboCop game rules, now do Judge Dredd

With new impetus and new technology, it's time to revisit Judge Dredd.

On the left, Judge Dredd glowers at the camera, while on the right RoboCop steps out of his patrol car
Image credit: Rebellion/Teyon

Is it deeply ironic to gleefully participate in ultraviolence that’s supposed to lampoon police brutality and the callousness of Reaganomics?

To that I say, “shut it slimeball, I’m smokin’ punks!”

The new RoboCop game rules. While it looked to all the world like a run-of-the-mill licensed game, RoboCop: Rogue City actually turns out to be an exciting and varied RPG. Packed with gruesome combat and kooky side missions, it provides a faithful and warranted update to the skewering satire of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 classic.

It’s a “AA” game that’s brave in its mechanical direction, ditching the gameplay soup of some modern open-world games and focusing on implementing play that feels authentic to the character. It tells stories that aren’t just grounded in the franchise’s world but, crucially, have enough engaging twists to feel like they’re more than filler.

RoboCop: Rogue City is more than the sum of its parts, and you can tell that a lot of careful thought and effort has gone into much of its design. As you ploddingly clump around the streets of Old Detroit, questioning suspects in just the sassiest monotone and collecting clues with your ersatz Batman vision, it’s tough not to compare Rogue City to recent, massive-budget “AAA” RPGs where most of the quests felt like ticking boxes. You’d be sent to a place, where exactly what you were told was going to happen happens, and then you go back to the quest-giver and it ends. RoboCop: Rogue City has more to offer than that.

Whether it’s helping a newbie officer rescue a missing cat, tracking down a double-crossing dealer or passing a get well soon card around the office, Rogue City rarely plays out as you’d expect and manages to make pedestrian police work memorable.

Does everyone’s hair wiggle like a wacky waving arm flailing inflatable tube man in cutscenes? Yes. Does it briefly fall to pieces during a rubbish sniper mission with awful checkpoints about half way through? Also, yes. But the original movies weren’t haute cinema either. So, for all its foibles, Rogue City is a worthy addition to the RoboCop canon.

Then all this got me thinking, what other underserved characters could do with a similar gaming reboot? And really there’s no better answer than the thematically similar and similarly badass, Judge Dredd; who obviously served as a big source of inspiration for RoboCop, even if the recent behind-the-scenes “RoboDoc” gave differing opinions on the matter.

Here’s the scenario for this dream Judge Dredd game: You make it a soft sequel to Dredd - the 2012 film with Karl Urban which got me banned from picking date night films after I’d also made my wife go and see Prometheus a couple of months prior - and get Urban to return in the title role, just as Peter Weller came back as Alex Murphy in RoboCop: Rogue City.

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Karl is reportedly up for the job of starring as Dredd again, and even specifically said he’d love to see some stories featuring Judge Death, who you have to admit would make a mean unkillable stalker enemy in the vein of Mr X in Resident Evil 2: Remake.

Taking inspiration from Rogue City, you can limit the sprawling scope of Mega City One either by setting the action within a single tower, just like Dredd did, or by keeping things within a few blocks like the RoboCop game, densely packing the streets with a few thematic activities and side stories to uncover. That way, with a mix of more open, exploration-focused areas and curated story beats, you can then get the same role-playing mix as you stomp around dispensing justice however you see fit before breaking off into more linear and directed sections.

Despite their reputations, loud and ultraviolent action has always provided the spectacle for both Judge Dredd and RoboCop, but was never the point. With a similar, narrative-led direction, a refreshed take on Dredd could be an excellent addition to a storied series, just as Rogue City is.

While a lot of these fancasts are pure speculation, I genuinely feel like this could actually happen at some point. As far as I know, Rebellion, makers of Sniper Elite and Evil Genius, still hold the rights to 2000AD and Judge Dredd, and the elephant in the room is that they already made a Dredd vs Death game 20 years ago.

It was panned pretty hard back in 2003. But with new impetus from new technology and new gameplay ideas, it’s time to dig up that grave. The announced TV show, Judge Dredd: Mega City One, has also been quiet for a long, long time, so they could easily coexist.

Either way, the legendary lawbringer needs to make a gaming comeback.

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