There was a time in the 70s where the British comic scene took a turn for the legendary. The punk rock stylings that were finding their footing threw themselves heavily into producing a rebellious compilation of hardcore, uniquely honestly comic books that influenced generations for years to come. But one defines everything the UK comic scene was about; 2000AD.
2000AD wasn’t for kids, at least the deeper jabs and jives at modern culture certainly weren’t, and funnily enough it resonated with a core audience of grumpy, anti-establishment teens who didn’t fall for the bright and colorful fantasy worlds of other big brands. 2000AD was brash, brutal and had a very, very dark sense of humor that never pulled its punches. But there were two giants that came out of the electric mix of bizzare characters that spilled from the pages; Judge Dredd and The Rouge Trooper.
Dredd is certainly the king of the comic line, and everyone recognizes the sinister helmet and enormous chin that became a walking embodiment of a police state. ‘Judge, Jury and Executioner’ was the chilling motto that followed a character who was always riding the line between an honest, hardworking law enforcer and genocidal, emotionless killing machine. Dredd broke ribs, murdered scores of people for even thinking of crime and he always, always got his man. Old stony chin is a living legend, and was a solemn reminder of the very real threats of a police state in both the UK and US together at the time. Also he’s the only guy to wear skin tight leather and still look like he could kick you face clean in. What a man.
The Rouge Trooper is a lesser know, but none the less vitally important part of 2000AD’s legacy. A genetically engineered super solider fighting on the toxic, nuclear blasted hell-hole of Nu-Earth, a tragic surviving member of a race of cloned superhumans, now doomed to wander the twisted wasteland seeking revenge. With his Vietnam war era design, and the cold war inspired never ending conflict between 2 unstoppable superpowers, he too acted as a grim illustration of the world that could have been.
These two character have one thing in common beyond their similarly minded inspirations; they both got their very own game courtesy of Rebellion Games, a studio that really understood what they were all about.
As a UK developer, Rebellion was founded by a lot of guys who grew up reading the works of John Wagner and Gerry Finley-Day, so they were in love with idea of making the characters come to life within the magic of video games. Dredd vs. Death (2003) and Rouge Trooper (2006) are both criminally underrated gems, that while lacking somewhat from a gameplay perspective, are perfectly crafted in tone.
Dredd vs. Death was a fairly janky, but extremely fun, FPS that let you step into the big green boots of Dredd himself, taking down criminal scum, fighting a genocidal dimension-hopping group of death dealing nasties and arresting those who commit the gravest sin of all in Mega City 1; owning a goldfish without a licence. With a stellar set of voice actors, fantastically jaded comedy and the chance to shoot the bad guys while switching through the ludicrous array of ammo types on Dredd’s iconic Lawgiver pistol, it hits the mark perfectly. It even had an unexpectedly solid multiplayer component ripped straight out of Timesplitters.
Rouge Trooper on the other hand was a third person shooter well ahead of its time, including cover based action, stealth mechanics and a unique upgrade system that encouraged you to scavenge for scrap on the battlefield. It also had an uncharacteristically compelling story for the time, enhanced with a phenomenal musical score and a host of high quality performances to bring it all together. And man, it had style, just check out this intro:
2000AD has always had more to offer with a huge list of different stars, but why don’t we see games from the comic series anymore? Why was there no ABC Warriors or Strontium Dog tie-ins to keep us happy?
Time for some sad truths to be told.
2000AD just isn’t that popular anymore. Even with the release of the critically acclaimed Dredd movie reboot, it just wasn’t enough to stir enough attention back to the original source. Despite the efforts of celebrity campaigners like Simon Pegg and Karl Urban, it doesn’t look like it’ll ever regain the steam it once had. Unless of course, god willing, we get that Dredd sequel everyone has been on the brink of killing for.
But we owe a great deal to 2000AD, even if they just don’t bring in the numbers they used to. The comic is still going and the characters are still there, but the video games have stopped dead in the pipe.
But if you have some time and a curiosity for seeing what all the fuss was about, both games are available on steam for cheap and we heartily recommend you fall in love with the worlds both have on offer.
Your move, creep.