After the woeful Road Rage last year, my hopes for a modern day successor to Road Rash were at an all time low. Surely that classic gameplay of old can be implemented with the new bells and whistles we’d expect of a current gen game? Enter stage left: Road Redemption. There’s fun to be had here, but it soon becomes clear that there’s more room for improvement. Things start off promising. Heavy, crunching metal plays over the menu, setting the mood. Choosing campaign, you are offered the choice of a couple of bikes and riders (with more unlocked through play that alter difficulty and play-style) then, it’s off you go.
Levels start somewhat abruptly once loaded, but really this just serves to get you in the action faster. One thing I didn’t expect was the inclusion of rogue lite elements however. Levels are generated at the start of a session, with no pre-determined tracks here. While it does at least keep the challenge fresh, after a few play throughs you begin to notice the (limited) building blocks. The visuals are basic at best – bland, generic textures and props do little to hide the repetition in stage geometry and obvious pop in.
The nature of randomly slotting together sections of track leads to a feeling of going in circles, even if your progress meter shows you moving along at a rapid pace. By the time you’ve played a few events, it begins to feel very samey, no matter how hard the algorithm tries to mix it up. Or course, it wouldn’t be much of a rogue lite if perma-death wasn’t featured too. Seems an odd fit for a racing game right? Well, it kinda works, but also, kinda doesn’t. After all the story exposition you could ever want – 2 paragraphs explaining that you are, basically, chasing someone – things kick off.
Levels have randomly assigned objectives ranging from come in the top 3 to simply finishing at all. Failing these thankfully doesn’t cause game over, but rather costs you the bonus reward for successful completion as well as knocking your stats down a bit. This can be recouped in the end of level shop however, with cash earned via racing and killing other bikers put to use, getting temporary upgrades or one-use items to help you along the way. Everything is a tad too expensive in my opinion though, meaning you’ll often go a few races without any help as you save up for something worthwhile. And you’ll need all the help you can get too.
If you’ve ever played Road Rash, you’ll get the gist of the gameplay here in no time. Race along, fulfilling the aforementioned objectives if you can, and fight other racers along the way. Using blunt weapons, swords, explosives or even firearms, cash and boost/HP can be earned by taking down anyone in your path. Every race has plenty of generic bikers and cars to take down, which are your garden variety fodder. Most of the time, rival gangs will be present too, and these can take a bit more abuse before falling.
Riding along, you need to get along side them (which seems to have some sort of lock-on: you’ll speed up to a racer but slow to match their speed if you engage in combat) and swing with your weapon of choice. Helmets will need smacking off before a sword swing will be of any use, sending the rider tumbling separate from their head, C4 will give you a few seconds to move away before it detonates and the firearms will give you some range to attack, though these are very unwieldy to use. No auto target is used, so you must manually aim with RS, which swings the camera around so you can no longer see where you are going. Unless you’re coming directly behind a racer, it’s best off leaving the guns alone.
But, as well as taking extra punishment, rival gangs (and the bosses at the end of each section) will dish out their fair share too. If you’re not careful, you’ll get taken down quickly by a rival racer, even more so if a couple surround you. Attacks feel a little weightless and wimpy too. A lack of real heavy hitting sound or visual effects can make what should be hard hitting combat look more like a fight in a playground, two people flailing at one another until one falls down. A parry is available to defend yourself, and is essential for tougher foes, but can be difficult to time, especially with you concentrating on not crashing the bike.
Handling does you no favors here, with bikes feeling incredibly floaty. At standard speed, things are not too bad, but add boosting or combat in and you’ll find yourself careening off course with stunning regularity. Dips in the course or ramps see an almost E.T effect of the bike, it sailing through the air with the greatest of ease. So, getting killed at any stage will see you heading back to the start line, no matter how far you get in a run. With the ease of which you can be taken down in later levels, either in combat of crashing your bike, it can get frustratingly repetitive having to grind through it all again.
Thankfully a small bone is thrown our way in permanent upgrades, unlockable via XP at the end of a failed run. It’s fairly bog-standard stuff here, health and boost increases, better chance for improved items in the shop etc. One option to work towards quickly is the ability to start from a further stage – either 3,6 or 9. Sounds good? Well, it cuts out a lot of the early grind, but stage six is still within the first area, so don’t expect to skip to the final level by any means. The permanent upgrades are a good idea, but the earn rate for XP is very stingy – one half decent run will maybe get enough for one upgrade out of about 30, and, any unused XP is lost so you can’t even save up to help out.
Despite the somewhat negative tone thus far though, there is fun to be had here. The whole campaign can be played in 4 player co-op, and as long as one of you finishes a race, you can all come back for the next round. The same core loop that made Road Rash such a classic is just about present here: it’s fun to have a duel with weapons, on a bike, as you tear along the road. But with such weightless impact, floaty physics and a reliance on randomly generated tracks and objectives, it just falls short. As a foundation, this is on the right track, but it definitely needed more time in the oven.
The core loop that made Road Rash such a classic is just about present here. However, it doesn’t come without problems. Whilst it’s fun to have a vehicular duel as you tear along the road, such weightless impact, its floaty physics, and the heavy reliance on randomly generated tracks and objectives, massively pulls the game short in the long run. The foundation is on the right track, but it definitely needed more time in the oven.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.