Road Redemption – Roguelike Road Rash!

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I am familiar with racing games with an emphasis on violence, so this game is right up my alley. To an extend, I am also familiar but no expert with one of the main inspirations, Road Rash. Of course, I may use this game as an example but Road Redemption is judged on its own merits. Before I started writing this review, I have obtained all achievements. This means playing through the game at least 20 times in 2 different modes, with pretty much every racer. Suffice to say, I’ve pretty much explored everything the game has to offer. I have played very shortly with mouse and keyboard and while I think it works fairly well, I just prefer playing racing games with a controller so keep that in mind when reading the review. I’ve played the game on Steam, but it’s also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Multiplayer aspects won’t be covered in this review.

One of my beloved games from my childhood is one that I couldn’t remember for the longest of times. We used to have a PlayStation 1 back in the day, but my mother forced kindly asked if I would tone it down with the consoles and I had to choose between my SNES, PlayStation 1 and 2 and Xbox 360. Being the dumb kid that I was, I sold the PlayStation 1 and 2 because I thought I would have access to most of the games on the Xbox 360 anyway. That decision surely was one I regret quite harshly but oh well, I wasn’t given much choice. I have most of the games back now anyway, and I also finally remembered what that game was: Road Rash Jailbreak. And while I certainly will give these games their own review in due time, I remember that game specifically thanks to a more recent game that we’re covering today: Road Redemption.

The gameplay looked so familiar to me, and looking at what game series was used as the main inspiration, it flooded back to me. Though of course, we’re here for a review of this game and not how I rediscovered my old love. Quickly after discovering the existence of Road Redemption, I went out of my way to buy it and store it somewhere in my endless list of Steam games to be played someday. That day ended up being pretty recently, as I was really in the mood for a non-conventional racing game with an emphasis on combat. Was this game able to refuel my lost love for classic Road Rash, or something else entirely? Let’s find out!

It’s no surprise that Road Rash gets named so often when talking about this game specifically. This is because developer- and fan of the series, Ian Fisch, has made it loud and clear that he wants the franchise he loves to be revived. With the rights belonging to Electronic Arts–who didn’t have the best successes with their combat racing games at the start of last decade–everything looked very grim. So if the owners aren’t going to make a new game, then the best option is… to do it yourself. Ian Fisch and his team went to Kickstarter and came back with a rather successful campaign. Not all of the goals were met, but many Kickstarters don’t even reach their lowest goal so it could have been worse. I couldn’t find much on development but it looks like it didn’t go as planned, having an initial release window of late 2014 but ending up being officially released in 2017. There was an alpha version released in 2014 through Steam Early Access, but that got its own set of complaints for being released at 40 bucks retail price. All’s well that ends well fortunately, as the game has been met with a positive reception and has also had a few crossovers with other games, including Shovel Knight.

Note: The trailer down below is from the Kickstarter campaign, and is not representative of the final game. I have merely included it here as a fun throwback on the game’s history.

Upon trying to start a campaign, I saw the game gave me the choice to start from the first level onwards, or later levels that were of course greyed out at that moment. Keep in mind that when I started up this game, I went in with zero knowledge and expected a Road Rash-inspired game. But with a loading screen pretty much right after stating that it was ”going to randomize the world”, my suspicions were indeed confirmed: The game I was going to play wasn’t simply a vehicular combat game, but a roguelike vehicular combat game. Never thought I’d say these three words consecutively but here we are!

Before starting the campaign, you can choose from a low selection of bikes and racers that will rapidly expand upon achieving certain objectives such as beating the game a few times or killing a threshold of enemies. Unfortunately, the bikes are all very lame though, as the difference in stats between them is so minimal to the point that they make pretty much no difference. This is further amplified by a very special bike that takes a lot of replays to unlock, but has all stats at maximum values and completely breaks the game. This makes it very noticeable that stats do matter, but none of the bikes prior to the last one excel in any stat so it’s not noticeable at all up till that point.

The racers are definitely where it’s at though. They vary highly in specialities, ranging from higher health at the cost of nitro, or an abysmally low health bar that gets you killed in one hit, but that can be increased slowly by killing opponents. Suffice to say, the latter was one that I had a lot of fun playing with because of the high-risk high-reward gameplay. But other characters that I also really enjoyed were the racer who has an infinite nitro and takes damage when you’re not using it, or good ol’ Santa Claus who is a pacifist and can’t kill anyone… except bosses, who die in one hit from the candy cane. Or what about our good friend Shovel Knight, who suddenly finds himself on a bike killing other bikers with a shovel? I’m very easy to please, and putting Shovel Knight in your game is one way to do so.

Road Redemption Shovel Knight
Does putting Shovel Knight in your game make it better? Yes. Yes it does.

Though I do still think the low variety in bikes is a genuine issue, it also doesn’t matter too much. Slowly after booting up the game, it’s very clear that you’re racing the entire time, but at the same time it’s also not the main attraction here. Does that make sense? Probably not.

Racing itself isn’t too complicated, with turns being very easy to make and the roads themselves also not offering too much trouble. The only things you really have to watch out for are random obstacles and other cars, which can be very easily dodged due to how easy it is to steer. It’s safe to say that if you’re on the look for a vehicular combat game with deep racing mechanics, you won’t find it here. I’m perfectly fine with racing being this simple however, as there’s a lot else that you’ll be doing at the same time that requires your attention more. I never really had trouble getting first place either, but that’s because of something else that I was doing while driving.

It’s safe to say that if you’re on the look for a vehicular combat game with deep racing mechanics, you won’t find it here.

What else could I be talking about but absolute slaughter, annihilation, extermination and a lot of other synonyms for the same word? Armed with just a melee weapon at first, drive up to another racer and bonk him on the head. Driving up to another racer has also been streamlined, as you will always be driving at the same speed as your opponent when you’re close to them. The variation in weapons also increases over the game; for example, three different melee weapons differentiated by their weight. But there’s also a sword that’s weaker than the melee weapons for whatever reason that makes absolutely no sense, but it gives you double the spoils so it’s definitely worth using. There’s also a taser and several bombs to get rid of vehicles, but I will almost always choose guns whenever I get the chance.

Guns are definitely the reason why I’m fine with racing being so simplified, because aiming AND racing at the same time? Without former knowledge, that sounds like an absolute pain. But I’m here to tell you it’s really not that bad at all. The aiming crosshair is very responsive, but I usually just drive behind my target and get the crosshair in-sight by getting the opponent to drive into it. Because of how predictable the opponents are moving and the speed adjusting depending on how close you are, I can’t say I’ve ever had trouble with the gunplay. Keep in mind that I was also playing with a controller, so it’s possibly even easier with a mouse and keyboard.

Road Redemption Gunplay

So this all sounds fine and dandy, but it’s still a roguelike game after all; you’ll most likely die before you beat the game at least once. It’s actually quite easy to fend off against other bikers since you can block all of their assaults, and attack back in the opportunity. Funnily enough though, Road Redemption‘s difficulty comes from the same issue that I have with publisher Tripwire’s other game, Killing Floor 2: too. many. enemies. In the later stages, it happens very frequently that you’re in the middle of a group, and blocking attacks from both sides is not an easy thing to do. Most of the times I don’t even bother and press on the brakes or speed away. But there’s also those bikers who come up to you, say “omae wa mou shindeiru” and then go complete ham on you. Can’t say I’m a fan of them as you can’t even block after being hit once, so that’s two hits for the price of one. And bikers with armour who suffer no stun after their armour being depleted can also… drive somewhere else and have a nice day since this is still a family-friendly review of a non-family-friendly game.

After dying, your experience gained from winning races and killing other racers can be spent on a skill tree that will always be available for every racer unless specifically stated that racer doesn’t have a skill tree. This skill tree can range from more health to starting the game from a specific level onwards. There’s quite a lot of unnecessary space on the skill tree for me, but the good parts did eventually guarantee that I would win the game–multiple times even. I started unlocking new racers and also New Game+ mode, which is all stages back to back. I definitely enjoyed playing through the game multiple times for a while, but I reached that point where the game became really repetitive eventually.

I definitely enjoyed playing through the game multiple times for a while, but I reached that point where the game became really repetitive eventually.

There are a total of 16 levels, but many of them are just one stage but in the opposite direction. Funnily enough, it took me some time before I noticed that because the stages are made in a way that they race very well in both ways. Regardless, I was getting bored with the environments quite quickly as there is almost nothing memorable about any of the levels. I did genuinely enjoy going through them the first time–especially the rooftop levels in-between major areas which are as chaotic as it sounds. But a key element of roguelike games is that they encourage multiple playthroughs by having every new game feel different, and that simply isn’t the case here. The only small difference that can happen is the objective changing from a race to a time trial or killing a specific amount of enemies, but that’s something you’re doing the entire time anyway. Sometimes there’s also a cloud that rains… cars, but that’s also not enough to make a difference.

Road Redemption Rooftops
The rooftop levels are chaotic, but I love them for sure!

New Game+ was slightly better as it mixed what stages you were going through at what time, but in the end, you still had to go through every stage available. I also didn’t like that every playthrough has the same end game that you were forced to go through every single time. There is a very special final stage beyond the credits that I won’t spoil due to it (maybe) blowing your mind the first time, but this very special final stage also takes forever and it just extends a single playthrough by quite a large margin compared to other stages.

My overall recommendation would be to just go through it a few times with different characters and then call it a day, unless you’re still having a lot of fun. I mostly had fun for the first 10 playthroughs, but I also had a goal that I was working towards: the Golden Transcended Divine Bike™. This is the bike I mentioned earlier with all stats to the maximum, so I was very curious how it fared. Suffice to say, it broke the game and removed any and all challenges. I also wanted to find out what the last biker Elijah Price was about since his perks said “good luck” but I done goofed and it was just… a good luck message because he’s the hardest character in the game. Oh well, now you don’t have to find out as I did for you!

Road Redemption is a game that I had a lot of fun with. The combat felt fun and satisfying with a good variety in weapons and even guns, and it kept you on your toes at all times when there were multiple enemies. This was further amplified by the broad amount of different racers, each having their own fun perks and even unique playstyles. The same can’t be said about the bikes unfortunately, and that also brings me to the main question of this review: are you looking for a deep racing game, or a combat game? Because if it’s the former, you won’t find it here. Racing mechanics are very simplistic, and the tracks themselves don’t stand out either. The main issue with the game is that it’s a roguelike which fails at replayability because of these tracks not changing at all. It definitely tries to encourage you to play the game multiple times but honestly, you’ve seen pretty much everything the game has to offer after a playthrough or two. Then again, if you’re here just for a few playthroughs? That’s when the game does shine.

8.0

Nepiki's Rating

Overall rating

Game Score
8.0
Fun Score
8.0
Positives
  • Combat is very fun, and gun combat is surprisingly easy.
  • A lot of different drivers that each have their own perks- and gameplay style.
  • The skilltree can make a world of difference.
Negatives
  • The racing itself is surprisingly not the main appeal of the game, as it's pretty simplistic.
  • Replayability is lost quickly.
  • Track design isn't that exciting and also doesn't change at all throughout the entire game.

Thank you for reading! And if you’re interested, I’ve at least warned you to not be like me and play through the game 20 times! Joking aside, I had a lot of fun with Road Redemption, but it doesn’t have the replayability most roguelike games have and should have. But if you’re just here to play through the game a few times and test out a few bikers, it is definitely a recommendation from me! I was actually very conflicted between giving the game score (not the fun score) a 7 or an 8, but I went with the latter because the main game is the main attraction. Not wanting to replay a game more than a few times definitely hurts, but it is mostly just an extra. Besides, it probably wouldn’t even be an issue if you played through it a few times, took a break for several months and then come back.

I’m a bit behind on reviews so expect to see these pop up a bit more often the coming weeks! There’s also another interesting article that I’m working on right now, which will be published somewhere in between!

What makes a game replayable for you specifically? For example, having multiple characters to play as, or the game being different every time you play it.

It is a loaded question for sure. Maybe it will spark some interesting conversations? Anyway, my main answer would definitely be multiple characters with different playstyles. This made Ys Origin a fun game to play through because all three of the main characters play very differently, yet you go through the same tower three time as well. This does apply to Road Redemption as well I should stress, but there are only a select amount of characters that have majorly different playstyles over the others–most of the time you’ll still be doing the same combat.

The length also matters to me. Ys Origin was very replayable because a journey through the tower only took a few hours at best. Having almost no changes to the tower therefore didn’t matter too much. But if it’s a long RPG with hours in the double digits then yeah, I would definitely like to see some stuff being randomized like how Roguelikes do.

Multiple pathways are also definitely important to me. This makes the Metroidvania genre one of my favourite to replay because I don’t have to do everything in a specific order. Hollow Knight’s world is so big, that it’s almost impossible for a playthrough to be the same as another. Yet, you’re playing through the exact same game with no changes, and the same character.

I could probably transform this into its own article some day so I’ll stop here, but I’m definitely curious for your answers!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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Aether

It does seem rather interesting, the way you describe it. I randomly picked it up as part of a Humble Bundle a while back, and it’s been in my to-play list for a while, although not a big priority on it. Given I never played Road Rash, I might find this quite a unique experience, and from your description, it seems to stand well on its own merits.

[…] was quickly followed up by two reviews: Road Redemption and Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds. Games that, surprisingly, had issues with replayability in […]

[…] wouldn’t see. I’ve already covered a few myself, like a Typing Bullet-Hell Shooter or a Roguelike Combat Racer. I love discovering these games myself because they are so much different from the rest, and often […]

[…] wouldn’t see. I’ve already covered a few myself, like a Typing Bullet-Hell Shooter or a Roguelike Combat Racer. I love discovering these games myself because they are so much different from the rest, and often […]