Road Redemption Review: A Fun Highway to Hell
Anyone that grew up with the Sega Genesis likely remembers a little game series from Electronic Arts called Road Rash. In those games, you raced motorcycles and fought your way across the track using all manner of weapons to beat your opponents into a bloody pulp.
The same is true with Road Redemption from developers Pixel Dash Studios and EQ Games, and publisher Tripwire Interactive. It's a game that feels decidedly old-school in ways both good and bad.
Bad to the Bone
Road Redemption valiantly attempts to tell a story that you care about, but fails to muster so much as a passing subtitle skim. NPCs mumble over the top of the action during missions about cartels and gang members, but that's honestly about all I can remember. The attempt at establishing any sort of compelling narrative was a total waste here.
Instead, I imagined my own Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic world where the only way to get what you wanted is to decapitate and murder people on the highway while driving hundreds of miles per hour. Honestly, it just made a lot more sense that way.
Road Redemption is a simple game, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily easy. While racing you can swing your weapons on either side of you, grab enemies, kick other motorcycles, and block attacks all using the face and shoulder buttons. Cycling through the d-pad lets you swap out weapons once you find or buy new ones.
Interestingly, Road Redemption is sort of split up a bit like a roguelike in some ways. You'll play through a series of missions, each of which have different layouts and enemy spawns, while you focus on completing objectives. Sometimes you just need to not die or finish high enough in the race, while other times things get more dangerous as you're sometimes required to kill enemies on the road.
The way the game dynamically mixes up missions and objectives really helps keep things fresh.
Your strategy changes dramatically depending on whether or not you're trying to place high in a race or if you need to take out seven marked enemies before hitting the finish line. In this way, some missions are more like races against the shrinking road than they are races against actual opponents.
Plus, after each successful mission, you get an influx of cash that can be used to buy temporary upgrades such as more health for the rest of the campaign or increased damage. Then, after you eventually die (which you will a lot), you pick from an assortment of permanent skill upgrades.
Highway to Hell
Everything feels and looks a bit cheap in Road Redemption. The original Kickstarter for the game concluded its campaign back in 2013 and the game was originally slated to release in late 2014 but didn't hit PC until 2017 and just now released on consoles a week ago. Textures are muddy at times; I noticed some pretty bad pop-in issues, animations for crashes are laughable, and overall, it just feels like an Xbox 360-era game that got the remastered treatment before it ever even launched in the first place.
Actually using your weapons has great weight and impact behind every swing.
Your character has to really wind up before making contact and most riders can be taken out in just one or two swings. And if you don't block well, you can get thrashed really quickly as well. Combat has a deliciously violent speed as you zig and zag around corners, slam pipes and shovels into enemy torsos, and lop off heads for those without helmets.
Juggling various weapon types (short and long range, blunt and sharp, explosives, and even guns) is a big part of what makes everything work so well. It's far from a perfect system, hit detection isn't always the best, and it gets awfully repetitive quite quickly, but it's certainly fun once you get the training wheels off.
But one big problem with Road Redemption is a lack of explanation. A lot of the most interesting parts of the game -- like how repeatable it all is, how and when you should buy items, and what the general flow of gameplay is supposed to be -- are just overlooked. I just kind of figured out all that through trial and error because I was reviewing it; if I'd bought the game on a whim or got it for a gift I'm not sure I'd have had the patience to wait for things to click.
It also needs to be mentioned that the soundtrack selection is awful. Most of the music tracks sound like generic stock songs you might find built into YouTube or something else equally bad.
But despite all of those things, Road Redemption really surprised me with just how fun its core gameplay loop of speeding down the road and chopping away at enemies could continue to be even after dozens of races.
And in the end, all that really matters is if a game is fun or not.
[Note: The publisher provided the copy of Road Redemption used in this review.]