Thursday, November 8

Review: Road Redemption [Nintendo Switch eShop]

OK, combat racing fans, it’s time to check out a dusted off cult classic… and experience an updated version of the classic Road Rash. Get on your bike and then swing one of your melee weapons of choice at opposing bikers to take them out, either riding to a first place finish on savvy driving and nitro boosting or by simply eliminating the pack you were up against. The good news is that some of the feels and great moments of mayhem are present in Road Redemption, the bad news is that once you’ve gotten your fill of vehicular carnage there’s not too much that’s compelling enough to motivate you to get back on the bike for more.

If you just want to jump right in you’ll want to go with Classic Quick Play. This is, for the most part, the traditional Road Rash experience. You’ll have a pack of other riders who are racing against you that you could certainly try to outrace, but for the most part it’s more fun to simply take them out. You’ll quickly find that being aggressive is actually a necessity as nitro boost is gained by taking other riders out (whether they’re your opponents or not) and since this is very much not a racing game you won’t be relying on your vehicular skills to win. While the first 2 areas are pretty easy to blow through by the third and fourth choices on the list the difficulty spikes pretty quickly up, and you’ll generally find yourself under-matched against better armored and equipped foes, which seemed both odd and sudden. If you can find someone to play with perhaps there can be some added fun, but in general it burns out pretty quickly.

The emphasis in the game is on the roguelike Campaign mode, where you’ll progress through a number of levels, eventually culminating in an area boss, trying to take down some assassin before rival gangs manage to do so first. Each level will have an objective, and there aren’t too many of them, you’ll essentially need to place in the Top 3, eliminate a certain number of rival gang members, or simply try to stay alive in some way as you’re overrun by cops or general calamity. In some stages there’ll be weapon pickups, which can really add to the fun, and some will also include members of your own gang riding to “help”. Between each level you can use the money you’ve hopefully accumulated to buy upgrades that are randomized each time, so obviously this can be a bit hit or miss, especially when you have no options to recover health sometimes. You’ll also accumulate experience which you can use to permanently upgrade your stats or even allow you to jump ahead further into the campaign on subsequent starts.

While the combat can be fun and will require some smart use of your weapons it also gets repetitive pretty quickly. Decapitating enemies with your machete or sword is fun but riders with pesky helmets usually require some prep or at least luck. Your longer reach weapons like a pool cue can be handy but require some solid positioning to use them well. Guns you’re able to pick up on the road are a bit tricky to use while you’re trying to drive, and can be very picky with whether they even hit anything, are useful but run out of ammo quickly. Probably the most satisfying pick-up is a bomb on a timer you’re able to plunk on an enemy and then steer clear of before they blow up. The thing is, the racing that is happening the entire time as well could only be called wonky at best. Collision detection and remotely realistic physics are inconsistent and sometimes almost comically bad as you practically pinball off of objects sometimes. In general you’re only driving at your top speed or using boost, holding down the left trigger will help you turn more sharply and that’s about all there is to say for the “racing”. It serves mostly as something you need to keep an eye out for while swinging away at someone, being sure not to miss a big turn or get wrecked by an oncoming car.

In particular if you were a bit fan of Road Rash and are itching for some of that unique satisfaction of taking people out as you go Road Redemption does have its moments and can be fun in bursts. With any amount of sustained play the formula’s lack of any real depth is difficult to miss though. In theory Online play could help to further sustain interest but two nights in a row at what I’d consider pretty prime time I’ve yet to see a single person to play with, aside from the fact that there being a sustained community for this title past the first week or two would be doubtful when there’s so much to play out there. As a bit of nostalgia or a quick burst of violent fun it may have some appeal but in general it runs out of gas far too quickly.

Score: 5.5

  • The combat itself can be fun and even a bit strategic
  • Blowing up your enemies or decapitating them can provide some temporary thrills and fun
  • If you have a friend who wants to ride along it's supported

  • In general the physics of the racing itself is somewhere between suspect and awful
  • While there’s some variety in the game’s weapons some of them are just too difficult to use well, especially when you’re trying to stay on the track while using them
  • No signs of life in the Online lobbies thus far, but even if there were some people it is unlikely that will remain a consistent option for any fun
  • The difficulty spike in the Quick Play stages is a bit odd