The original version of my review for ‘One Hell Of A Ride’ was very different to the one you’re reading now. I’d reviewed it very critically, for sure, but it was a review written in good faith. I was going to tell you about where this game succeeds and the very many places it could have been improved. I’d spent a good 4 hours with the game, grinding out wins against a spirited AI, before I noticed something.
I noticed the rarity of one of the trophies that unlocked. “Common”. Having battled through hard fought races and lost many times along that road, I felt confused. Am I bad at this game? Am I missing something? Was there a mechanic that I wasn’t aware of that would make these races easier? No. A quick Google later and I discover One Hell Of A Ride has a cheat mode. Pop in a code on the menu screen and you can skip over most of the grinding, the difficulty and many the game’s issues.
I’ve got nothing against cheat codes. I have many fond memories of spawning in tanks in GTA III, just for the sake of it, or going dncornholio in Duken Nukem 3D. The difference with those games is that the cheats were an optional extra to already excellent games. In ‘One Hell Of A Ride’, they improve the game to such a point that it feels like the game was designed to be played with them on. Played without them, it’s a grating slog.
On A Highway To Hell
One Hell Of A Ride is an arcade racer that would like you to believe it’s in the same vein as Carmageddon or Twisted Metal. It even partially name drops these games in the store description. While the premise is similar, this game is far more like SEGA Rally from the 90’s. It looks and plays like it too.
Being a racing game, you can probably guess the objective of the game. Win races. Start at the finish line, do as many laps as necessary – ranging from 1 to 6 – and finish before anyone else. The kicker here, and why the game wants to compare itself to the likes of Vigilante 8, is that your cars have weapons.
You can use the weapons to shoot out your competition as you ride through the one and only mode in One Hell of A Ride – a single player campaign. There’s no split screen here, or online multiplayer. There’s no leader boards or time trial ghosts either. The single player experience is the entirety of this game.
Grinding Through The Gears
I knew I was going to have an issue with One Hell Of A Ride when it pulled one of my least favourite gaming tropes. In the first race, you get to ride with the best car in the game complete with the best weapon. It’s a flashback of sorts, according to a paragraph of text on the level select menu, to when your player character was a hot shot racer. That was then, however. And this is now. You’re starting from the bottom, with a crapped out car and a poor weapon.
Up, up, down, down, up, up, right, left, left, right, square
Without the cheat codes, the game play cycle of One Hell Of A Ride will be familiar to those who play a lot of kart or arcade racers. You race and the higher you place, the more cash you earn. That cash can then be reinvested in upgrades for your car. Higher top speed, better tyres, more ammo for your weapon, more springy suspension to reduce speed lost on jumps and more can all be improved. This will help you place higher, win the races and progress onto the next.
Without the cheat codes, this whole system is a real grind. A lot of the races in this game are a crapshoot (more on that in a second) so you have to be overpowered to give yourself the best chance at a win. This means that you’ll often have to grind out a few 4th to 2nd places to upgrade before you’ll get that 1st place you need to unlock the next event.
Without the cheat codes, the entire structure of ‘One Hell Of A Ride’ is built around attrition. Every so often, the game will force you to buy a new car. The class of car required to enter a race will increase and your existing car, even with all of its upgrades, will be redundant. Cars increase in price as they increase in class, so again, you might have to grind out a few wins on previous races to afford the next required cars.
But hey, if you use the cheat codes, those codes that are only advertised on trophy/achievement sites, these problems mostly disappear. You can unlock all the cars, gain a fortune in cash to fully upgrade the best car in the game and unlock all of the races. Let’s be honest. This is barely disguised trophy bait.
Burning Rubber Banding
There are some core issues with ‘One Hell Of A Ride’ that the cheat codes can’t fix too. One of those issues is the rubber banding with the rest of the field. The system that is employed here is the most egregious version of rubber banding I’ve ever had the displeasure to experience in a racer. Sure, if you crash in a barrier and get hung up (seriously, the barriers in this game are sticky), you can benefit from the fact that the rest of the AI racers slow down and drive in a serpentine path to allow you to catch up.
But even when you’ve unlocked the best car in the game and it’s fully upgraded, the rest of the pack will stay with you. Driver expertly and you’ll put maybe a few seconds between yourself and the rest of the cars. Take a corner poorly and they’ll be all over you. Race a perfect race but mess up seconds from the finish line, you might finish dead last. Alternatively, you could do totally crap for 5 laps and then come good on the last few corners to win the whole thing. There’s a lot of luck involved in racing here because being a good racer won’t result in winning races often.
A Short & Ugly Road
There’s 25 events in the entirety of One Hell Of A Ride. These take place across just two locations. The first is a tropical beach area. The other, I think, is supposed to be in Hell, complete with fire and lava waterfalls. While that might sound interesting on the surface, it’s thoroughly bland in practice. There’s a number of repeat tracks within the 25 events, but you won’t really notice because every track in the game feels and looks like the same. It’s corner, straight, ramp, corner, straight, ramp. Over. And over. And over.
Visually, One Hell Of A Ride leans into a retro aesthetic. It’s halfway between SEGA Rally and Crazy Taxi, with the charm of neither. The textures are blurry, there’s intentional scanlines to replicate that ‘on a monitor’ look and while it has some pockets of appeal, it doesn’t quite come together coherently.
The game also has just one song which repeats throughout. It’s cheesy, royalty free, vocal free rock which was pretty toe tapping for the first half an hour. By the end of the 4th hour, it was nothing but an irritating buzz in the background.
Like A Shopping Trolley
Which brings us to the moment to moment gameplay. It’s not just the rubber banding that is a detriment to the racing itself. The handling of the car in One Hell Of A Ride is very arcade-y, floaty with fast acceleration which lacks the feeling of top end speed, similar to what you’d find in coin-op racers. It takes a little time to get used too, for sure.
If you’re playing without the cheats, you’ll have to put yourself through driving through some utter trash vehicles too. There are a lot of jumps on the race tracks in One Hell Of A Ride (and when I say jumps, I mean A shaped obstacles which grant you a little air). The first few cars you’ll have to race in take them like a shopping trolley until they’re heavily upgraded. They come to almost a full stop when they land or touch a barrier.
Those barriers are a killer too because of some truly maddening track design. There’s a number of times where the developers have put ramps shortly before corners. This means you’ll often find yourself slamming into track sides with the only alternative being to slow down for the jump to take the corner, leaving yourself open for rubber banded AI racers to overtake you.
The weaponry could have been the saving grace for One Hell Of A Ride but it’s a very shallow system. When racers get close, a crosshair will appear on them. Press X to fire your weapon and if you do enough damage, they’ll explode and have to reset on the track from a stationary position. The same is true of you – take enough damage and you’ll explode and have to respawn. While the explosions in the game are quite fun to watch, the whole system feels skin deep. There’s only one weapon per car and there’s very little tactical play required to use it. Just drive and press X.
To put it bluntly, One Hell Of A Ride isn’t very nice to play. When playing this game in good faith, I thought it was deeply flawed but with brief flickers of promise. Upon learning that the game has cheat codes that remove most of that grind, I imagine the developers were more concerned with targeting the trophy hunting PlayStation players that ensuring this game was of any quality. It’s a shame too. There was potential here. Instead, this is a lacklustre also-ran in a genre with much, much better entries.
Hell is the most apt word in the title ‘One Hell Of A Ride’. Rubber banding, rough visuals, an abrasive structure full of unnecessary padding, aggressive track design and a lack of modes outside of a single player campaign mean this game struggles to get off the starting line. There was potential here, but it stalls and chalks up a DNF.
One Hell Of A Ride is available now on PS4 (review platform), Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Publisher: ChiliDog Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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