There were a number of games during the 16 and 32-bit eras that were viewed by parents and politicians as excessively violent. One of the most notable and notorious of these was the original Mortal Kombat. Others included games like Primal Rage, and of course, Road Rash. Road Redemption is clearly inspired by Road Rash, and it manages to take most of the mechanics of that classic and update them in satisfying ways.
Take me home, country roads
Road Redemption brings nostalgic feelings with its art style and design. It reminds me of the games I wasn’t able to play very much as a kid (being that I had a SNES and Road Rash was on Genesis), but also that it probably would have been a game parents would warn other parents about—and that’s what’s awesome about it.
In Road Redemption, you start out by playing randomized objectives on equally randomized maps. During each race, a different objective is identified. Sometimes you’ll be racing against the clock; other times you’ll be assassinating members of an opposing motorcycle club. In order to fend off these bloodthirsty road rebels, there are a variety of melee weapons and guns available to wreak havoc.
To further increase the amount of mayhem in each level, the AI in the game is fairly aggressive. Oncoming traffic can also cause multiple crashes at high speeds. Semi trucks carrying lumber will lose their load, causing giant logs to barrel down highway roads. However, the part that stuck out to me most is that it doesn’t work against you as the player. Sure, there are races where the police units are hot on your tail and excessively side-swiping you. But there are weapons like the sticky bombs and Uzi that can lay waste to these vehicles, not to mention air and speed boosts to evade them.
Bikin’ and fightin’
The combat in Road Redemption is utterly satisfying. I can’t tell you how many bikers I’ve slammed with a heavy wrench, boosted mid-air and clobbered with a shovel, or plugged from a ways back with a lever-action. You can even decapitate them when striking them with force. These instances never seem to get old, allowing for a variety of obstacles, dangers, and challenges from start to finish.
The controls of the game take some getting used to though. The X and Y buttons allow you to strike on the left and right side of your bike, while the A button kicks. The B button is used as a block and comes in more useful than you would think. The D-pad is used to select weapons in your arsenal. During races, you can pick up additional weapons by driving over their respective icons. At times you’ll have multiple weapons to cycle through instead of just being limited to one long melee or gun. Aiming is done with the RS, allowing you to move the reticle around in all directions and aim with precision.
I wasn’t too keen on the acceleration and braking system at first. Pressing the ZR accelerates, while double-tapping it uses your speed boost. The ZL is used for drifting and probably has the steepest learning curve. But once this is all mastered, sniping enemies, avoiding crashes, and taking alternate routes in a race become second nature.
Taking the fight online
I was excited to jump into an online match and play against other racers. I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t a single match to connect to, probably due to the shallow player base. Playing through a few matches here solo does unlock some additional riders and bikes, each having their own performance perks, so your time spent isn’t necessarily in vain.
Wheelin’ and skill’n
The way the skill system is designed in Road Redemption very much complements the combat. Each biker taken down gains you experience points, cash, replaces boost, or a combo of all. Experience is then used to purchase perks or replace health. When you lose all health, your run has ended and you must start back from the beginning.
Starting over isn’t as bad as it sounds. There are options and upgrades after each run to set yourself up for success on the next one. Things like critical damage, boost, and health can all be upgraded here.
New bikers can also be unlocked, each containing perks of their own. There is even an option to start further in the game, creating an atmosphere where you aren’t discouraged when playing through multiple times. This is essentially the format of the progression in the game, challenging your skills each and every time you hit the road.
The end of the road
Instead of taking Road Rash and attempting to reinvent the wheel, Road Redemption took the things that made it entertaining and refined those mechanics. The bike combat is excellent, and the aesthetic very much mimics the series of games that have come before it. I haven’t had this much fun with an arcade racer, let alone one that incorporated vehicular combat, in a long time.
Recently, I played Grip: Combat Racing. Although the game was visually impressive and complex in many ways, its biggest downfall and turnoff was its gameplay. Road Redemption very much brought the 16/32-bit era to the modern age, while nailing the combat and offering variety in its races. This was something Grip couldn’t through two years of early access development and a full launch.
In Road Redemption, you’ll find plenty levels of challenging combat and races. The upgrade system is forgiving enough to bring you back into the game for multiple playthroughs. It’s a shame that there isn’t an online community for matches as this would have carried the experience that much farther. But as it stands, there’s enough here to warrant a purchase if you’re looking for an ass-kicking good time on the couch.
A code was provided by the publisher for this review. Our review policy.