Blood on the asphalt – and not much else.
In the 17 years since the last Road Rash came out on the original PlayStation, few games have managed to replicate the fun of its madcap brand of motorcycle mayhem. Road Redemption gives recapturing that feeling an honest go, and while the moment-to-moment combat racing does a great job, its lack of variety and polish leaves much to be desired.
Pulling up alongside a rival biker and duking it out with wrenches, pool cues, shovels and swords is simple, yet wildly fun. One button attacks left, one right, another blocks and parries and one just sends a kick towards whoever’s closest – and while this handful of commands may seem uncomplicated, combat can be surprisingly (and satisfyingly) challenging. This is largely thanks to the substantial arsenal available to you- apart from the aforementioned melee weapons, you can also acquire various explosives and firearms (though shooting and steering is difficult at times) – and the tactics required to defeat each of the limited roster of enemy types. For instance, you need to use a blunt melee weapon to knock off an opponent’s helmet before attempting a decapitation with a sword, and the tactical elimination of certain enemies to recover health or boost fuel required an unexpected bit of strategy, especially during shorter races.
While there’s a decent amount of technical quirks, including some highly questionable collision detection and graphics straight out of the mid-2000s, Road Redemption’s biggest problem is a severe lack of content, and a lack of long-term replayability for what content there is. Beyond racing for medals on the 16 unlockable tracks that are all similar variations of “desert,” “mountain” or “city” in its Classic race mode (some of them are just other maps in reverse), your only other option is to slog through those same maps with varying objectives in the surprisingly grueling roguelike campaign mode.
Having a full restart but permanent skill upgrades seems like a good idea on the surface, but experience gains are laughably low without booster items or skills, meaning until you unlock the ability to start the campaign at a later mission everything after the first few runs feels like more of a chore than anything else. You can purchase upgrades like XP or damage boosts between each race, as well as buy back health or boost fuel, but since these store items are randomized each time, you may not see the healing item or bonus you’ll need to make it through the next race. Regardless of whether you complete it on your first run or your fortieth, apart from the occasional boss fight, it’s the same three or four objectives on an endless loop.
I found myself longing for the rubber-banding I found so irritating when riding alone.
Road Redemption supports up to four players in local-only splitscreen – though, unless you’re playing on a big-screen TV in 4K, it gets pretty muddy. But even the fun of bashing your pal’s head in with a mallet becomes hard to enjoy thanks to some mechanics being translated poorly from solo to multiplayer. For instance, in solo play, as you ride up on an enemy biker, you automatically match speed with them until you either defeat them or boost away. This encourages you to engage in more skirmishes and ultimately leads to more fun being had during a race. However, in multiplayer – particularly with three or more players – the speed-matching function seems largely absent.
While playing against my friends, I (or they, depending on the race) regularly found myself zooming past any racers or additional enemies then leaving little or nothing to do for whoever was at the back of the pack, while the players in the middle of the crew got swamped with an almost comical amount of enemies. The same was true when I found myself in first place, too – with all the action happening far ahead of me, I found myself longing for the rubber-banding I found so irritating when riding alone. When you do manage to stay near your friends, the chaos that ensues is a fun time – but, just like in solo play, the simple novelty of pummeling each other with shovels wears off quickly.