Review: Road Redemption (Nintendo Switch)

Road Redemption: Member Review

Nintendo Switch 0 likes 0 comments
Reviewed by Stwert, posted May 31, 2019, last updated May 31, 2019
May 31, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): November 6, 2018
  • Release Date (EU): November 6, 2018
  • Publisher: EQ Games
  • Developer: Pixel Dash Studios, EQ Games
  • Genres: Racing, Vehicular combat.
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Also For: Computer, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Road Redemption is a spiritual successor to the classic Road Rash games. But is it Born to be Wild, or does it crash and burn like a Bat out of Hell?
Live to Ride, Ride to Live

There’s something pretty obvious about Road Redemption, the elephant in the room if you will. So, let’s get that out of the way right now. Road Redemption clearly takes its inspiration from the classic Road Rash games. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s been a long time since we’ve had an official Road Rash game. In fact it’s been 16 years since the release of the last game, Road Rash Jailbreak on the Gameboy Advance – a port from the original PlayStation game in 2000.

The similarity to Road Rash is by no mere coincidence. Ian Fisch originally wrote a blog post in 2009, with the intention of prompting Electronic Arts into making a new Road Rash game. When it became clear that no such game would be made, Ian began working on his own take on the genre. Initially launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development in 2013, which went on to smash through its goal of $160,000. After a few bumps along the way and early access alpha versions on Steam, the game finally launched in 2017. Fast forwards a couple of years and we now have the Switch version of the game I’m looking at here.

The main campaign of the game has a somewhat basic story. It’s your standard post-apocalyptic fare. The main villain of the piece is an assassin with a huge bounty hanging over his head, which naturally everyone wants to claim. Taking on the role of a rider for the Jackals gang, you will be racing across the country in pursuit of said assassin.

Along the way you will encounter riders from various other generically named gangs, such as the Reapers and the Phantoms – who are also on the hunt for the assassin. Imagine any dodgy Mad Max style game you’ve ever played, throw in motorbikes and you have the basic idea – right down to the ropey Australian accents and generic, repetitive dialogue.

It’s a throwaway story, beyond the introduction explaining the background, there’s minimal progression to the story itself. Everything simply revolves around killing your targets. The introduction, incidentally, seriously annoys me. It is shown every single time you start the game anew, just after you choose your bike and rider. Every time! Sure, you can skip it, but it just seems like something which could have been shown at the title screen and then never again. Saving a little bit of unnecessary loading. I doubt there’s anyone who actually wants to read it every single time they start the sodding game.


Born to be Wild

All of which however is just a thin veneer that covers the core of the game. The developers have expanded upon the basic gameplay of the games which served as inspiration for Road Redemption. In fact, it’s almost as if they had given teenage me carte blanche to take Road Rash and add in anything I’d like. Rocket boosters? Check. Multiplayer? Check. Guns and explosives? Check.

The developers of Road Redemption have added all of those things teenage me would have wanted, but they didn’t stop there. Influences for Road Redemption, beyond the obvious, can be seen from games such as Mario Kart and Wipeout with the collectible weapons you can pick up on the road. There’s even the occasional 1UP mushroom to buy between missions. By adding in a skill tree, which incidentally takes a heck of a lot of work to fill, randomised courses and between-mission upgrades, the game takes on a distinctly Rouge-Lite feel.

The basic bones of Road Rash are there, of course, you’ll be going mission to mission across the country battling it out with (almost) everyone you encounter. In various types of challenges, from good old fashioned races, to takedowns. You’ll be given a variety of melee, swords (which personally I’d count as melee, but whatever) firearms and explosives to use. As well as simply kicking your opponent into scenery, or off a bridge to kill them. You also have the opportunity to block your opponents attacks, setting them up for an attack of your own - a parry if you will.

The block is a good move to master in this game, because when your health meter fritters out, it’s game over. You lose all of the money you had built-up and all of the items you purchased between missions. All that carries over is the XP you have managed to accrue. Some of the between-mission upgrades though, much like the permanent skill tree seem a bit pointless. Why bother buying a tank of nitro when clubbing someone over the head will fill up your nitro for you.

While it's important to achieve the goal of each of your missions, so too is accumulating XP by wiping out other riders on the road. As the skill tree is the only permanent upgrade system in the whole game. It’s not the biggest of skill trees and frankly some of the items are rather insignificant, adding very little to your overall abilities. You can also unlock the ability to start the campaign at various levels, though why on earth you’d choose to start at level 3 instead of level 1, I have no idea. You’re much better off starting from the beginning each and every time - particularly in your first few hours with the game. Why would you choose to skip past all of the easier to obtain XP? Unfortunately you have no choice but to purchase these skills, in order to progress to the better items, unlocking more bikes and such you need to unlock the entirety of the skill tree preceding them.

There aren’t a huge amount of tracks in the game, but the developers have tried to keep it fresh by randomising the tracks each time you play. It’s nothing particularly drastic, so you’ll still have no trouble learning the routes. There’s also shortcuts and alternate routes to watch out for along the way. Though be wary, some of these are anything but shortcuts, causing you to lose your position in a race more than they would improve it.

As well as bikes to unlock, you’ve also got a few different riders to unlock too. The riders vary from fairly standard, to completely bizarre. With a flame-headed rider, the obligatory Shovel Knight appearance and even Santa Clause himself showing up. The riders, as well as the bikes, all have different stats. Some make the game harder, while some will allow you to build up XP faster.

There’s also a fairly standard quick play mode, just your good old fashioned set of tracks to unlock as you race through each one to achieve trophies for your finishing position. Nothing more, nothing less, but if you don't feel up to the slog of the campaign mode it’s an easier way to experience the tracks available in the game.

There is online multiplayer, which I can’t really say much about, other than technically it seems to work. Every time I tried for a bit of multiplayer action there was no-one too be found. Which is a real shame, because I think the potential for fun in the online mode is huge. Who wouldn’t want to race along on a jet-fuelled motorbike, smashing in the skulls of their opponents - or shooting them, blowing them up, or whatever. This game is just crying out for some players to fulfil its potential.


Bat out of Hell

Controlling Road Redemption requires a bit of dexterity, or at least a heck of a lot of getting used to. The four face buttons control attacking to the left and right, kicking and blocking. ZR is, as you would expect, for accelerating, while ZL takes on the brake function. All of which sounds just fine, but because of the varied selection of weapons on offer, every other stick and button has a function too.

The D-Pad lets you select between the four weapon categories, the R button shoots your gun, which is also aimed with the R-Stick and clicking the R-Stick kicks in your Jump Jets. Rounding out the functions are the L button to look backwards and double pressing the ZR button to activate your Nitro.

Personally I think at least having the option of an auto-aim for the firearms would make life a heck of a lot easier. In the heat of a mission you can be steering, accelerating, using nitro, watching for oncoming traffic and bludgeoning your opponents to knock off their helmets, so you can decapitate them with your sword. All of which can be tricky sometimes in itself, particularly in handheld mode - oncoming traffic seems to just appear from nowhere. If you then want to use a gun you’ve got to deal with aiming the damn thing, while also paying attention to the npc’s who’ll still be trying to kill you. So you’re having to kick them out of the way, or quickly switch back to a melee weapon to clobber them.

Sadly Road Redemption is not without its share of problems. For a game which has been in development for so long, I can’t help but feel most of them should have been ironed out. The bikes themselves, no matter which of them you choose, don't have the greatest of handling. I’ve never known any motorbike to have such a poor turning circle - you’ll be making plenty use of the brake to help you slide round bends in the road.

While playing the game I also encountered far more technical issues than I’d like. These varied from stuttering when things got busy, glitching through scenery - I actually drove along a bridge at one point with only the head of the rider visible. Another time, I dropped right through a bridge and got stuck in the structure. No amount of hitting the “Put me on the track” option would shift me out of there. Worst of all though, the crashes, and I don't mean me driving into scenery. I had no less than seven incidents of the game just giving up and crashing out to the Switch’s home screen. Sometimes this meant I lost the XP I had built up, there were a fair few unprintable words shouted then, I can assure you.

The physics are a bit wild sometimes, bumping into a roadside object can see you scraping along it, bounced high into the air, or thrown miles from the road. The loading times seem quite excessive reaching over 30 seconds between races at points. Something with is all the more surprising when you consider the graphics, which are nothing special, I’m sure even the Switch is capable of better. Let's put it this way, I was playing my Playstation 2 this morning and it crossed my mind that Road Redemption would have looked right at home there. The decidedly average heavy metal soundtrack would probably have been just at home there too.



Wanted - Dead or Alive?

So Road Redemption is rough around the edges, its graphics are nothing to write home about, there’s only 16 tracks, the physics are unpredictable, the story is forgettable, the voice acting is a bit bland and it’s got a few bugs that really need to be ironed out. Yet despite all of its roughness and its issues, I find myself really enjoying it. The one thing it has properly nailed down is the combat, it’s just so satisfyingly addictive, it really is a modern Road Rash. I’d love to see a few more people owning this game - I might finally get a proper shot at the online modes, but do I think you should rash, ahem, rush out and buy this? Probably not, at least not until we see if the game is going to get support from the developers.

If, like me, you’re a huge fan of the Road Rash series and would love an updated version for modern systems, you probably won’t be disappointed with Road Redemption. Even if you just like the idea of racing around killing people on a jet-fuelled motorbike, you’ll likely get many happy hours from this. I’m inclined to say that if this game appeals to you in any way, pick it up in a sale - I’d actually pay the full asking price, because I enjoy it so much. But taking the package as a whole I can’t in good conscience tell anyone else to do the same. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m determined to get that damn skill tree maxed out.

+ Captures the classic Road Rash formula
+ Great selection of weapons
+ Hugely satisfying combat
+ Filled with potential
- Dated graphics
- Average soundtrack
- Terrible load times
- A bit of a grind to fill the skill tree
- Empty multiplayer
- More bugs and problems than I’d like to see
6 Presentation
Even the humble Switch is surely capable of better graphics, they’re a bit uninspired and dated. Performance is a mixed bag, for the majority of the time it is fine, but it does slow down when there’s a lot of on-screen action and the load times are atrocious.
7 Gameplay
The one area of the game which is without doubt its saving grace, is the combat. I don't think I’ll tire of clubbing people over the head. It’s a shame though that the multiplayer is so devoid of other players, it has so much potential to be great.
6 Lasting Appeal
The skill tree in the campaign mode will take many, many hours of gameplay to fill and there’s a few bikes and riders to get unlocked. There’s also the campaign + mode, which offers a bit of a harder challenge. If multiplayer got more participants, this game would be fun to play for a long time. I could see myself still playing multiplayer this time next year - if more people showed up.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Potential, I think, pretty much sums this game up. The core gameplay is undeniably fun, but eventually you will become weary of the single player modes. If more people bought this game and the multiplayer filled, it could be its saving grace - that and some attention from the developers to fix the bugs. I honestly think I’d bump the score up a notch or two if both of those issues were remedied.