Just a few days ago, I was lamenting my mortality by referring to a video game series older than many while I was reviewing The Bug Butcher. The 1990s were a catch-all decade of video game wonderment with a wide spectrum of titles between ironic series in their sophomore seasons and, well, shameless displays of product propaganda… I’m looking at you, Chex Quest, Yo! Noid, and Cool Spot. Yet, somewhere in the middle was a series that took the highway combat of the arcade hit Spy Hunter and grounded it in the street level beat’em up stylings of Streets of Rage. That series was called Road Rash – and it was glorious mayhem on two wheels. Today, we are reviewing the closest thing to a successor the franchise has seen in a while. This is our review of Road Redemption on PlayStation 4.
Road Redemption jumps you into the Jackels, a motorcycle gang in a land overrun by motorcycle gangs. There was, at one point in time, a fragile sense of peace between gangs. That is, until the leader of Ironsight Weapons Cartel was bumped off by a masked assassin. With $15 Million on the line as a reward to deliver whatever sense of justice fitting to the deliverer, peace was cheap and gangs pursued the reward with their own interests in mind. Even the police are trying to get their cut.
Your journey will take you through the territories of three different gangs in pursuit of riches… I mean, to serve justice and restore peace. Armed with your carbon-fueled steed and a length of pipe, you will trade blows with everyone else after that cool $15 Mil. But, before you get too far ahead of yourself, we need to talk: you are possibly the worst biker in the history of bikers… and you will die.
Thems the breaks, kid.
That is because Road Redemption is not only a racing beat’em up, it is a rogue-like. You will carry your health, nitro boost, and cash between races. As long as your health bar stays on the right side of empty, you are free to continue your pursuit, even if you fail a race’s objective. You will, however, be penalized for your failure. Failure results in the loss of 25% of your maximum health pool.
Once your health is depleted, your game will be over. Any cash gathered and upgrades purchased along the way will be lost. But not all is doom and gloom: there is still experience.
Experience gained throughout a session will be applied to a skills tree at the end. This tree contains places to increase your health, attack and critical hit damage, unlock new bikes, start in advanced stages, and more. Sometimes it’s ok to count your losses and start over fresh.
If this was not a crazy combination already, there is one more layer of ridiculous that we need to pile in here. Road Redemption’s levels are procedurally generated. That means that every track is going to be slightly different with different enemies, weapons, and cars. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as boss battles, but you will, more often than not, be left guessing as to what is next. You could have a simple race or you could have hallucinogenic toxins in the area causing cars to fall out of the sky – Road Redemption’s idea of what Tuesdays feel like.
And to help you get through those “Tuesdays,” Road Redemption gives you access to a handful of weapons to cut down the competition. You have blunt weapons like pipes, wrenched, and shovels as well as swords, because… swords. You will also find explosives and guns with limited ammunition. Aiming with guns is pretty wonky and typically led to me driving into oncoming traffic, causing me to be the projectile. It would have been nice to have an aim-assist mechanic to make them more viable.
When you mix this madcap misadventure with ragdoll physics and random bugs that send you flying off into the distance, Road Redemption can be just as unpredictable as its randomized levels. There is a certain kind of bugginess in video games that can take an otherwise serious game and turn it into the comical. While bugs aren’t funny to software programmers, mind you, and they can occasionally be game breaking, this is the place where Road Redemption finds itself.
There are moments where the game’s A.I. behaves in a way that makes progressing through the game comically impossible. There are others where terrain causes inconsistent vehicle crashing, sending your flapping arms flailing through desert skies. However, these bugs lend to some of the charms of the game.
For a successor in the vain of the oft-forgotten Road Rage series, I’ll take those goofy, left field bugs for the laughter they provided. It is a violent game that sprinkles a touch of Borderlands in with the rogue-like stylings of Rogue Legacy. It’s imperfect in its bugs, but humorous in the way that it tries to take itself so seriously, while randomly generating biker names that may contain bawdy innuendo. Oh yeah, and it has a pretty great punk and metal inspired soundtrack.
Road Redemption is $19.99 USD on the PlayStation Store. It is also available on PC, Xbox One, and Wii U.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by PR.
COMPARE TO: Road Rash meets Rogue Legacy