Saying the words “Road Rash,” in that order, will likely bring back a flood of arcade racing memories to a lot of raging gamers. Road Redemption may not be doing exactly the same for the bike-driving, pipe-wielding maniac, but it sure as hell is trying to be the next best thing.
While this vehicular combat title obviously wants to be the spiritual successor to the Mega Drive classic from 1991, it does also want to be much more than that. So, while there is your average, never-ending road strip filled with cars and other motorcyclists and the goal is to literally beat them to the finish, more factors are thrown in than just gore gameplay.
These modifiers ramp up dangerously high to gimmick territory over solid driving action, but it serves its flippant tone midst the violence and destruction. It is, however, slim in what it delivers right now, as opposed to the many boasting words of where it wants to be.
If it manages to cash in half those mouthed checks, this could be an enjoyable romp, but having them laid out beforehand may pan out differently. Bloated titles are a risky venture.
So, right now, Road Redemption is a loop of different missions in just a few tracks, where it wants a procedural world with a dozen wacky environments. It wants rooftops and cities, but it has a desert track and a mountain. Baby steps.
Characters have been given the priority, so their animation and modeling are already up to code with brisk attack cycles, but also fine bike and suit details. Environments don’t receive the same care, but extremely well-handled blurring not only obscures a lot of that, but also enhances the motion and sensation of speed in the game.
The destruction though; that’s the sweet spot in Road Redemption. When paired with the added effects of the visual design, carnage can become absolutely overwhelming. Cars explode and splinter into dozens of pieces, scattering all over the road.
With ragdoll physics, there is also an impactful consequence to crashes, where bikers veer off into the horizon, wildly flailing as they should be from an head-on collision. This is the basic mixture that shows that Road Redemption has the right idea. It’s definitely not there yet, but it’s noticeable that the team behind it wants it to have the same crunch that highway rage would have.
This is also apparent in the weapon variety. Melee items each have a different weight that needs their own time to swing. So, charging other motorists requires a distinct ramp up to really have a payoff and knock people right the hell off their bike. What makes this rewarding is that sound effects have that slightly hollow but heavy tone that really make it seem like a hit connected. When a shovel makes it all the way to someone’s face, that person will have felt the blow.
Variety is set in items as well, since not only pipes and bats act differently, but there are also sticky bombs or dynamite sticks. Those produce quite the pop on the road. Everything will become hell for a brief second and watching that unfold is just incredibly satisfying.
It’s apparent that Road Redemption wants to show its creative side here, but it might be taking it too far already. Different missions go into “crazy” levels. It’s entertaining, powerful even, but a rain cloud of cars is not exactly something that should systematically reproduce during a country drive. Hopefully, these wacky modes won’t be hardcoded into the core experience, but taken to a more party variety of the game. There, it will be an absolute blast.
Don’t misunderstand, the absolute illogical modes crank up the excitement even further, but they’re to be enjoyed in bite sizes, not gorged down. Especially when playing with some other people, unexpected modifiers will make for humorous situations.
At the moment though, multiplayer sinks the framerate, which in turn upsets the fine balance of speed, blurring and unavoidable mayhem. It’s still giggly fun, but not qualitatively as fluid as the main game.
At the same time, content is rather limited, outside of these little oddball trinkets being thrown about. Tracks quickly feel similar and only the sheer level of destruction keeps the enthusiasm going for a few hours more, but it will need a lot more of it to keep that momentum going indefinitely.
Perhaps the biggest tweak necessary in Road Redemption right now is that the general controls are slightly too loose. It’s functional, quite so, but it has the easy flow of a Tron bike, more than that of a grizzled Mad Max fighter. Where Road Rash had a serious weight to it, this project sweeps across the road and shoots straight up over hills. Seriously, the physics make bikes pop dozens of feet in the air over as much as a traffic bump.
With the proper gravitas, it could solidify its cohesion with other impactful elements. That would change Road Redemption from a visually overwhelming title to a teeth-gnashing experience, where every hit exudes a sense of empathic pain.
As far as words go, Road Redemption wants to bring a lot more to the title. It wants a roguelike playthrough on a procedural world. It’s planning to make wildly different missions, from following factions on the road to taking down convoys. More gimmicks, like grappling hooks and jetpacks, want to step in as well. There’s talk of a first-person shooter model, statistics boosts, stores with items and so on.
It’s may not be brimming with content right now, but Road Redemption is hungry. Some of its finer gameplay details are a bit too fast and loose at the moment, but there’s a tangible sense of enthusiasm for total destruction when it comes to vehicular combat.
Connecting with enemies leaves a sense of awe, car crashes turn the road into a warzone and missions can be good for quite a bit of laughs. It may want to divert some of the craziest ideas to other game modes, but at least it’s getting points for effort. There’s still quite of bit of effort to go though.
Road Redemption will be entering Early Access through Steam in September. It’s likely that a whack of these promises will form quickly once it’s there.