Road Redemption – Xbox One Review
Those of us with a gaming pedigree that stretches back to the last century will have fond memories of Road Rash, the series of games that had you speeding down the highway on a powerful motorbike, while avoiding arrest and smashing rivals off their metal steeds with a variety of weapons. It was visceral high octane fun that hasn’t been replicated since. Last year, we thought we might have a successor, but Road Rage turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Over the horizon comes Road Redemption from Saber Interactive, and from the off things look promising.
Straight into the menu screen and you hear the satisfyingly gritty heavy metal guitars on the soundtrack, giving a statement of intent for the action to come. Pick the campaign mode and you’re given a choice of two starting bikes and riders, with the promise of more choices being unlocked as you progress. The choices aren’t just cosmetic either, they’ll have a discernible effect on speed, acceleration and handling, so pick one that sits comfortably with the way you want to play. Personally, I found the increased handling was more important than the higher top speed.
One you’ve got your bike, its straight into the action, where levels are randomly generated, so no memorising the tracks, theres the added tension of a rogue like mechanic, where you’re aiming to get as far as you can before sustaining enough damage to kill you. The graphics were a bit underwhelming, unless you think the developers were trying to recreate a more authentic homage to Road Rash but I’m not buying that. The animation is fine but not spectacular, but other than the the action on the road, the graphics are spartan to say the least, more akin to an old 360 game. You really do expect more from an Xbox One game, even in an indie title. The levels may have the random generation element, but after a while the levels show the same familiar features, a bit like when Scooby Doo and Shaggy flee down a corridor, running past the same furniture and paintings over and over again. The only random element keeping you on your toes is not knowing which way the road is going to wind, so making you react to the road rather than being able to pre-empt anything.
The racing environments have a nice diversity about them however, with differences in terrain not just being for aesthetic value, but letting you feel the difference in grip and handling on your bike. I particularly enjoyed the rooftop racing which I can guess took inspiration from some of the races in GTA Online, such was the similarity.
A nice feature is the objective will change on different run throughs, which adds some variety. The same basic story has you chasing the baddies, but one level may have you racing to finish as high up the placings as possible or as fast as possible, whereas another level might tell you to eliminate a certain number of enemies within the time limit. Because of the perma-death element, if you fail the objective, you don’t die, but may incur penalties such as a reduction in your maximum health. That penalty makes it harder to complete the next level, and death a more likely possibility. You can take a few hits from enemies or a few crashes before your demise, so the game still lasts a decent length of time before your inevitable demise. You might be asking how you can progress if you can’t respawn, but the way in which the rogue like element works is that any rewards you gain on your run through, you get to keep, so building up your health and power, and earning the experience and cash to buy upgrades. Fulfil the objectives on each stage and you get a cash reward as well as improved stats, and you can spend that cash on upgrades in the shop before starting the next level. Well I say you can spend it, but in reality you need to build up a fair bit of cash before anything worthwhile can be purchased, so you have to grind a few games if you want the decent upgrades.
The gameplay is nice and simple, which is great as you don’t have to learn tricky controls before you can get stuck into the action. Just accelerate along on your bike, and either pass other bikes or take them out. You have a variety of melee weapons, from steel pipes to swords and machetes, which you swing at the enemies as you pull up alongside them. If the other rider is wearing a helmet, the bladed weapons will be less effective, but knock that helmet off, swing that sword and you could be wincing as you literally execute a nice clean decapitation! You can only swing the weapon on one side effectively, so if you’re attacking on the other side, the boot is the preferred attack as you try and kick your enemy off the road. The variety of other riders to take out is impressive, and you get more as you progress deeper into the game. As well as single enemies, you will come up against well armed gangs who are usually also well armoured, so taking them off their bikes takes a bit more effort. There are also motorcycle cops that generally turn a blind eye to your misdemeanours, unless they get directly caught up in the action, then they can cause you problems. There are also other riders with specific icons above their heads, so take them out for bonuses such as cash or extra health. On some levels there are cars or jeeps that you need to dispose of, and the best way (or at least the most fun way) to do this is to collect sticky bombs, pull up alongside them, attach the explosive and then get clear before it detonates. You have a few seconds to move out fo the way, and even then just be wary of the wreaking landing in you path as you make your escape.
There are also a variety of guns you can unlock, purchase and them unleash on enemies. They lack a target lock on however so are very tricky to use effectively. Pull up alongside your intended victim and you have to switch your view sideways to get him in the sights, but of course that means you cant see where youre going, so the only way I could use them was to be behind the enemy and fire, but that reduced the accuracy somewhat.
The game physics works quite well during melee attacks as the sideways momentum of your attack will see you move across the road, more so if you swing and miss, so you need to keep an eye what is coming up in the road, as you could end up missing a bridge, landing in a gully or hitting oncoming traffic head on. Where the physics is far less realistic in the rest of the action. Steering seemed pretty twitchy so just basic racing was difficult with the twists in the road and the bike always felt too light. There was no real feel of downforce on the road, and any jumps launch you into the air in a far too exaggerated manner as if in a low gravity environment. To create an illusion of speed, the bikes need a weight to them, rather than the lightweight floaty feel I experienced a lot of the time.
One way to possibly get further in the game is to play it co-op, with up to 4 of your making a team. As long as one of you finishes the stage, you’re all still in and come back for the next stage, so increasing the chances of success. There is also an online race mode with up to 10 players, but during my play for this review, I wasn’t able to get a connection with another player. That just left me to ride alone, as you don’t get any AI enemies, only your multiplayer rivals. That of course is the drawback of any multiplayer game where there is only a small player base.
Road Redemption deserves praise for staying faithful to the core game play of Road Rash, but doesn’t have enough polish or weight (quite literally when handling the bikes) to make it a worthy successor to the old classic. That said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had if you play in short bursts, and it still had me whooping with delight when I timed my attacks to perfection, separating my enemies violently and spectacularly off their bikes, and sometimes even their heads from their shoulders!
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Huge Thanks to One PR Studio for the review copy.