Road Redemption has a fun premise - playing as member of a biker gang, your mission is to take out an assassin who is fleeing on a motorcycle in order to claim the bounty on his head. There are three distinct areas you must navigate, each containing a number of rival bikers who are determined to halt your progress by knocking you from your bike and to your demise. Of course, you aren't defenceless and can dish out punishment as well as receive it, with the vehicular combat actually being Road Redemption's major selling point.
There's not much more to expect from this call-back to '90s arcade-style racing. The narrative is hardly complicated, as it never pretends to be anything more than an excuse to violently dispatch enemies whilst hurtling through abandoned highways on a speedy motorcycle. This isn't a problem. We actually admire the developer's decision to downplay story elements and thrust players straight into the action. After all, the appeal of a game like Road Redemption isn't in the plot or the dialogue but in the arcade-like entertainment, so we don't mind the paper-thin plot or characters that, given some minor censorship, wouldn't feel out of place on a Saturday morning cartoon. Sadly, though, while not without its charms, the narrative isn't the only thing lacking in this Kickstarter-funded reinvention of a '90s classic.
Road Redemption is a spiritual successor to the Road Rash games, a series immortalised thanks in part to nostalgic memories of wrapping a metal chain around the face of another biker and sending him hurtling to the asphalt. Thankfully, such violent representations of aggressive motor vehicle behaviour that should never be attempted in real-life are frequent in Redemption. Also like Road Rash, Road Redemption features a series of checkpoint-to-checkpoint races in which the player fends off attackers, outruns police, and aims to cross the finish line having taken as little damage as possible.
While this approach suited the arcade style that was popular in the '90s, modern gamers are used to deeper and more involving racers. To some extent Pixel Dash Studios has succeeded in enhancing the core game by adding new weapons and tasking the player with objectives to achieve in each stage. On the other hand, the added features only reach limited success in expanding a limited experience where the novelty of the racer-combat combo wears a bit too thin a bit too quickly.
There's a good mix of weapons to experiment with as players' arsenals expand the further they progress into the campaign, and included is a nice variety of melee, ranged, and explosive weapons. A heavy pipe and a machete are the basic starter options. Pipes are effective against helmeted foes, who fall with two or three well-placed blows, but upon seeing a rider without a helmet, a quick switch to the machete and an accurate swing results in a gruesome decapitation. Later, players get weapons like uzis, shotguns, and even a grenade launcher to name a few. Perhaps the weapons we found to be most effective were sticky bombs, which make short work of bikes and cars. You ride up close, stick them to your foe, and speed off out of range, cackling maniacally as the explosion blasts your rival to pieces (cackling is entirely optional). However, despite an impressive range of carnage-causing tools, we quickly found that the attack we used the most was also the most basic: kicking.
Regardless of whether the objective is to cross the finish line ahead of your competitors, to outrun the police, or to destroy a designated number of enemies, nothing is as effective as a forceful kick to another bike that sometimes results in them colliding with an obstruction. Part of the reason kicks are so useful is that they keep distance between you and your attackers.
This is incredibly valuable when tackling the campaign in particular, as Road Redemption contains roguelike elements and damage taken accumulates over stages. If you take too much damage, you die and must start the campaign from scratch (unless you unlock a perk that lets you restart from a later stage). At first, this makes the game appear challenging as it's almost impossible to engage in a pipe swinging contest without taking a few knocks, but by kicking away any enemy that dares come too close, and concentrating on the road to avoid crashes, each stage can be completed with minimal damage taken. In many ways it's a shame that the most basic attack is also the most useful, as combat in single-player is a real highlight due to the wide array of possible attacks and the difficult but rewarding twitch-parry defensive system that we ultimately found little use for.
At the end of each area is a boss fight, and kicking doesn't work too well against bosses, as they tend to be big and solid and barely affected by a boot in their side. Instead, pulling up alongside them inevitably allows them to get in a number of heavy hits that inflict significant damage. During these encounters you'll also need to fend off a number of underlings, but a fairly simple strategy works to beat these encounters. If you've not wasted ammo, then sticky bombs and a handful of shotgun blasts to your opponent's back will quickly see you emerge triumphant. That said, it's worth noting that guns are suitably challenging to use, as there's no lock-on aiming and when watching the reticle for the opportunity to pull the trigger there's always the possibility that while distracted you will drive straight into an obstacle, leading to an amusing rag-doll ejection from the bike.
Progress in the game is rewarded with XP and cash. Cash can be spent between levels on items that have different abilities such as to top-up health, modify a weapon, or start with a full nitrous boost, although should you crash-out and die these upgrades die with you. More permanent upgrades can be purchased using XP at the end of every attempt to clear the campaign. These unlockable perks provide a decent sense of progression, and some of the more notable ones include new bikes to ride and the ability to start a new campaign from a more advanced stage.
New campaigns bring new layouts for each level as tracks are randomly generated, although this doesn't quite have the impact that one might expect from such a feature. Every track is fairly similar with the same feel and familiar obstructions to avoid, and they also often feature similar 'not-exactly shortcuts' that involve racing on elevated platforms adjacent to the track that take just as long to navigate as the road does. One stage that does mix things up comes in the form of rooftop races, which make for welcome changes of pace but lack enough variety to significantly diversify the experience. These niggles are compounded by the feel of the bikes themselves. Handling is slippery and the bikes seem to almost levitate above the road, showing no noticeable differences regardless of road surface or damage taken.
As well as the campaign, which took us three attempts and about four hours to beat, there's local and online multiplayer. It's fun to blast through a few quick races with friends and the split-screen campaign mode makes for an enjoyable experience, but sadly the same issues as single-player persist, this time on a much smaller screen that compromises graphical clarity. The online multiplayer also has its faults, and the only online mode is team races, where speed is far more important than combat. Fighting human-controlled motorcyclists can be nigh-on impossible with anything other than a firearm, and this is because, while in single-player, a magnet-like effect pulls racers towards each other and won't let either competitor pull away without using a nitrous-boost, but in online any vehicular combat with melee weapons is awkward as racers inevitably fail to line themselves up appropriately. Instead, they slip past each other or lurch too far sideways to land a hit. A few races online will probably be sufficient for most gamers, who will likely conclude that there are better games for multiplayer racing.
As far as sound and visuals are concerned, adequate was our verdict. The graphics are nothing special but service the experience suitably well. It's definitely a few notches up on the old Road Rash visuals but don't go expecting AAA-level of glossy sheen. We didn't notice any performance issues during our time with Road Redemption but nor would we expect to with this type of game. The sound effects work pretty well too, but they don't immerse the player in a cacophony of engine sounds and Wilhelm-esque screams as we would have liked. As for the music, it's decent enough and certainly gets the adrenaline pumping, though we found it a little distracting and after the first hour or so switched it off in favour of playing some of our own tunes.
Despite some issues, there's fun to be had with Road Redemption. The first few times an enemy falls under your attacks it's immensely satisfying, and the game's roguelike features and unlockables can be a highly motivating reason to keep playing. Unfortunately, we find it difficult to strongly recommend a game where almost every positive feature is countered by a frustration-invoking caveat. Fans of Road Rash will get a kick from the experience on offer but anybody looking for a racing game to keep them enthralled for a decent amount of time would probably do better to look elsewhere.
Loading next content