Rogue Company is Hi-Rez Studio’s latest foray into competitive shooters using their new in-house studio First Watch Games. The 4v4 third personal tactical shooter features a motley crew of elite mercenaries teaming up to tackle various missions around the globe to simultaneously save the world and get paid. The game is currently in closed beta on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows via the Epic Games Store. Access can be purchased through a variety of founder packs or snagging a closed beta key during Twitch drops and other giveaways.
Whether you trace the root of the current hero shooter craze to Overwatch or further back to studios experimenting with shooter MOBAs, Hi-Rez Studios has a lengthy resume of shooters, MOBAs, and hybrids of the two. Rogue Company is new, but familiar territory for the developers behind Global Agenda, Tribes: Ascend, Paladins, and Smite. We had the chance to check out their closed beta build that launched alongside paid beta access.
Currently, Rogue Company offers two 4v4 PVP modes. Demolition is deemed their premiere mode and is a riff on the classic one life per round to destroy one of two points rule set popularized by Counter-Strike in 1999. Strikeout is their casual single capture point mode with limited respawns. The game offers a roster of heroes, each with a unique active and passive ability. There is also a Counter-Strike inspired store, though purchases carry over between rounds.
The hero roster is a solid group covering a variety of niches. First Watch Games classifies heroes as Duelists for DPS, Defenders, Breachers for attacking, Intel, Snipers, and Supports. Players lock in their character pick at the beginning of the round and half time in the case of Demolition mode, so teams will need to coordinate their picks. Right now, there is no way to see what types of characters other players are picking besides sheer memorization. While that is doable with a small roster, First Watch Games will need to replace the individual character icons with a role icon or augment them with a separate role icon.
The initial library of maps is solid. There are seven maps for Demolition and six of those are available for Strikeout. The maps are sized well for 4v4, striking the right combination of long alleys for snipers to dominate and tight corners for flankers. The design sticks to the tried and true three lane design with a degree of symmetry to keep things fair for both sides. I particularly like the fact players drop into the map with wingsuits like a battle royale at the beginning of a match. This gives teams a little flexibility on their initial engagement, allowing teams to rush a point or getting a flanker into the enemy backline faster.
Like any beta, Rogue Company still needs some major balancing work. Some character abilities like Saint’s revive and Dallas’ tracking are early standouts. Some characters like Gl1tch may have powerful abilities but are reliant on how gameplay evolves as players become more familiar with the game mechanics. Others need fixes outright, like Scorch’s incendiary rounds. Her activated ability is awkward because it lasts for a short period of time, requires the weapon magazine to be reloaded, and does not reload the weapon. Removing one of the mechanics will likely be a quick and easy fix.
On the weapon side, things are in a usable spot. The game has some tactical elements but are still well outside the realm of a simulation style tactical shooter. The weapons handle well, but the shotguns need attention. Notoriously difficult to balance, the developers have it right with some of them, such as the SKL-6. On the other hand, the automatic Striker 8X10 is a mess. It has too little damage, too little range, too little rate of fire, and a painfully slow reload that makes it too cumbersome to use.
The user experience is decent so far. The worst issue is the lack of ping display, a practically unforgivable sin for an online shooter. On the other hand, the controls are solid. First Watch Games use the basic third person control scheme with only a few extra buttons for abilities, equipment, and rolls. The set up is especially user friendly as many abilities have arc previews. I do find the arc for the quick grenade throw to be painfully short compared to other games.
The audio/visual presentation is solid so far. The sound effects are enjoyable and the soundstage is pretty good. While it is not laser accurate, I could get a very good idea where enemies were based on their footsteps with a pair of headphones and a virtual surround sound processor like Windows Spatial Sound. The voice acting is decent, though there are a few rough spots. The music is limited, so I hope a few more tracks are added for the menus. The visual style is excellent, combining flashy, unique characters with designs paying tribute to their histories with a near future tactical twist. On the technical side, I only ran into a single issue with switching between windows and fullscreen modes using alt-enter. I noticed the game dropped the resolution in windowed mode but does not increase the resolution going into fullscreen mode.
Rogue Company is a solid tactical shooter with a high degree of accessibility right out of the gate, likely a testament to Hi-Rez Studio’s lengthy experience in shooters and hero-based titles. With any early beta, the devs have a long road of balancing ahead of them, but I was pleasantly surprised at the state of the game balance. The real challenge for Rogue Company in the long term will be to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market of hero-based competitor shooters.