Duke finds himself waltzing into a TV Studio and taking part in its live Game Show. The grand prize is a once in a life opportunity to stay inside a local castle and to win he must gather six keys scattered around town and bring them all back in one piece.
ROCH4 doesn’t waste any time introducing players to a different form of progressing through this instalment than usual, now five levels deep into the series it’s only a fitting that a return to experimenting with gameplay took priority. Hunting for key cards is a district wide waltz. Three blues and three red are required for completion, of which are scattered within a small playing area, like a simple game of hide and seek. An example of general flow has players finding both a blue and red key, placing them into the showroom access panels and then heading back outside to repeat that process twice more. This overarching game show concept is further strengthened by additional motifs to immerse players into their role. For every successful milestone a crowd will cheer Duke on from somewhere in the void, be it from a studio soundboard or perhaps ghostly echoes of those once sat here previously. Secondly, there are smaller prizes offered up on podiums after each card is used, a chance to stock up on extra supplies and new weapons, before leaving to deal with a fresh wave of enemies getting ready to guard.
Locating every card wasn’t too cumbersome of a task, if anything looks suspicious I take a peek, be it a possible building entrance or a dark niche. Only one key had me stumped for a short while, more so how I should reach its position. I didn’t mind those return trips to bank my findings either, as the trek back wasn’t too long and some re-spawning foes ensured those quiet streets were kept alive. Combat during this portion primarily consists of minor skirmishes taking place outdoors, following a fairly standard ROCH affair up to this point in terms of balance albeit a little tamer than normal, as enemies behave as a mere nuisance beside the driving objective. Pascal really pulls out a lot of mileage during this level’s first half despite holding back in terms of scale compared to earlier releases. There’s a simple O shaped road layout surrounded with buildings to shape the scene and a towering estate beyond a gate, beckoning players to hurry up and see what’s inside. Yet, while this district does indeed share a surface level urban aesthetic, its an unnatural simplicity that leans closer toward this being an artificial construct, as if a stage prop, built solely for the game show’s purposes rather than an actual community people could live in.
ROCH4’s second half resides inside our much awaited castle, a locale seemingly inspired by the architecture of Château de Cheverny in France. After constantly being teased as it looms nearby, running back and forth, there’s a sense of relief to finally have free reign exploring it from top to bottom. By contrast, progression then switches over to a linear path getting from goal to goal while not forgetting to including your typical ROCH indoor shenanigans and point blank Commanders. The finale cellar conflict can be quite a viscous one, with up to three Battlelords on CGS amongst other enemies, all bee-lining down a long hall blocking an important item by their firepower alone. It’s a tense onslaught to get this fight over with before that gap closes and cover is overtaken, forcing players backward into unfavourable positions. The mansion itself always made an impression on me in the past mainly from a mechanical perspective in terms of design, because not only could you see the rooftop, but to enter and explore an interior too was like magic on a first time ever playthrough. Even now having a deeper understanding working with BUILD Engine, I appreciate all the effort working with these overlapping sectors potentially getting in the way of mapping and debugging, just to craft a space that could likely exist all while pulling off the whole effect without causing any major rendering issues. That’s not even mentioning the rich ornate décor tying it all together, from wood panelled walls to its dense, warm furnishings.
Pascal’s fourth ROCH consists of two core components, each one dictating their own halves, a highlight in there own right. A non-linear key card hunt dominates its first portion, which has players rummaging every corner and getting the most out of a small zone as aliens constant push back. The castle then takes centre stage during its second portion, linear in focus but a worthwhile prize to explore a gorgeous piece of work.
This is a re-review. The old review has been archived here.