Let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room: Yes, this game is essentially a spiritual successor to Road Rash.
If you’ve ever played anything like the above, or Outrun, or Skitchin’, or any other vertically scrolling racer, you know the drill. The real question then, is can this stand up on its own, or is it just held up by nostalgia and good intentions? Let’s explore…
Ride or Die
Whilst unabashedly wearing its inspiration on its sleeve, Road Redemption does put a new spin on the racing campaign. Set in a world of warring bike gangs and such, that in itself is nothing new.
It’s the way the campaign is set out that took my interest. Much like recent side-scroller Dead Cells, RR features a replay mechanic upon death. You have one life bar to get you as far as you can; once that’s gone, you start again. Unlike Dead Cells though, any skills you’ve unlocked will stay with you when you start again.
I make no exaggeration when I say that you will need them. Not every mission in the campaign is a race, either. Some require you to take out a certain number of bikers before they flee the area, or you reach the level end. Early bike and character stats won’t allow you to catch up with them easily, so it actively encourages you to fail and restart.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How long until I tout the “like Dark Souls but…” line, as is so endemic in games with a hint of challenge. On this occasion, however, I’m not going to.
It’s not a difficult game, per se. You can accomplish these early levels, if you persevere. It doesn’t carry that Dark Souls/paywall style of gameplay that forces you back to redo everything. It’s all down to how well you can handle your crotch rocket, and that is the game’s inherant problem…
Burn rubber, not your soul
Being an arcade racer at heart, RR treats riding with a degree of fantasy. The bikes don’t feel like they have any real weight to them, as the focus is more on nitro boosting and drifting around corners. There’s no notion of racing lines or slipstream, it is purely speed and coming out on top.
There are shortcuts available, should you find yourself veering off course, but I found that they were merely aesthetic, as more often than not you’d appear right beside the group you’d split from.
Not that losing a group is an easy feat. Redemption features quite possibly the worst rubber banding in a racing game since Mario Kart. For those unaware, “rubber banding” is the term that racers use when the game/AI makes it so either you catch up to others easier if you’re behind, or vice versa. It almost makes the stats on the several types of bike redundant, as you’re never guaranteed to hold a lead.
Were this strictly a racing game, you’d be justifiably annoyed if that always happened. With Road Redemption though, it actively encourages you to be rubbing elbows, as the game shines with its combat. Weapons ranging from pipes and machetes, to pistols and timed explosives serve up the action part of this rowdy racer. Directional combat and deflection allow you to hold your own as you strike, decapitate or push your rivals into oncoming traffic. The police join in the fray too, but as far as you’re concerned, they’re fair game.
They see me rollin’, they hatin’…
On paper, the concept should work. A thrilling campaign sees you as a member of the Jackals, taking on the forces of the Reaper gang across country. Battling and racing your way through, building up your level and skills to become a veritable tour de force.
In reality though, it’s a sloppy nightmare. Collision detection is erratic, which can see you either hurtling sideways off track or grinding to a halt. Nitro works well, but with such poor draw distance you’ll be veering off corners before you know it. Whilst combat is satisfying, it just becomes overwhelming when you want to try winning by racing properly.
Even its online mode is pretty bare bones. Simply called Online Mode, it pits two teams in a best of five deathrace scenario. There’s no map selection, and each match is on the same route of the map each time. Weapon pickups and a bit of variety, as well as different bikes and variety having negligible variations in health or starting weapons.
In a rare instance of having all of team Fingerguns online at one time, we did have a bit of fun with it. It was fun with duress though, as many races became more of a battle with the surroundings than each other.
A shame, then, that Road Redemption falls a bit flat for this generation. Boasting graphics that wouldn’t challenge Motorcross Madness in any beauty pageants, combined with some flaky controls and handling, it becomes more of a challenge than enjoyment.
A decent take on an otherwise generic racer campaign, and a minimal online mode don’t do anything to save this from being just another imitator to the glory days of Road Rash.
Road Redemption is available on PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Linux and OS X.
Developer: Pixel Dash Studios
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a promotional copy from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.