Impressions: Road Rash Spiritual Sequel Road Redemption

By Alec Meer on August 8th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

“What’s the point of remaking games?” is a familiar question. The answers can be similarly rote: “modern values”, “the audience demanded it”, “publishers abandoned the genre prematurely.” Road Redemption, which is ’90s motorbikes’n'baseball bats hit Road Rash by any other name, offers a stronger answer: “physics.” The physics of rending metal and the physics of plummeting bodies.

Sure, we were quite happy crowbar-smacking 16-bit dudes in their barely-detailed 2D skulls at 120MPH on the Sega Megadrive, but we didn’t get gloriously horrible ragdoll effects as our riders were hurled dozens of feet in the air by a collision, then bounced brutally along the tarmac. We didn’t get raining cars.

OK, maybe we are ultimately just recreating the “ooh! Ouch! Oh God would you look at that?” giggles of 20 years ago, aided by vast leaps in graphical technology, but Road Redemption’s alpha does strongly suggest a game that’s using this stuff to heighten the malevolent fantasy of it all, not simply add layer after layer of shininess.

The game was Kickstarted last year, and has now reached the point where the alpha’s available to buy if you want to take a punt. What I’ve been playing is unquestionably alpha, with all manner of features (including online multiplayer and a planned full sandbox singleplayer campaign with roguelite elements) missing, and a murkiness to its appearance (the meanie in me wants to say “which screams ‘made in Unity!’), but it’s done the smart thing and clearly focused on getting the nuts and bolts of biking and skull-cracking right first. It has realised its essential promise already.

Much like Elite Dangerous and its masterful space-feel, albeit at a fraction of the budget, Road Redemption seems to understand that all else is incidental beside realising the foundational fantasy. Vitally, it feels good to drive down a desert highway at high speed.

Hell, it feels great, even if more lighting snazz and sound effects are still needed to entirely convince. It definitely feels great to gun the throttle and waggle the steering until I’m alongside some leathers-clad rival, then lunge out with a shovel or truncheon and get that smack-crack response.

Reaching out and casually sticking a timed explosive to a rival’s bike, then nitro-boosting to safety and watching the explosion in my rear-view mirror has kept me smiling during what’s otherwise been a grim week. Even cocking it up and hitting a car’s rear fender at 100-something miles an hour has been a hoot, as this very much adopts the Trials philosophy: “make failure funny.”

Something the alpha also does is to attempt to remix things a little (or a lot) in each of its sequential race-levels. (I’m not sure if that will be the final structure of the game, but for now it’s at least showing off the different sorts of challenges the game can have). Sometimes you’ve got to win the race, sometimes you’ve got to take down a certain number of rivals (or police bikes) within a time limit, sometimes all the passing traffic goes Spielberg’s Duel on you, and sometimes they go Speilberg’s Duel on each other. Like this:

The combination of metal mangling at speed and body-hurling absurdity means the best description of Road Redemption (other than ‘it’s Road Rash, stupid’) is perhaps Michael Bay Remakes Wile E. Coyote. (And he probably will eventually, you know). Fortunately, the Roadrunner sensibility definitely wins out over the dead-eyed vehicle porn sensibility. We’re supposed to be laughing all the time, I think.

The ‘Rain’ tracks only confirmed this suspicion:

Oh yeah. Oh. Yeah. This is the one. It’s a hundred dumb apocalypse movie trailers made into one wild ride, and even in this nascent form it works beautifully. Arcade controls allow rapid response movement and the ability to avoid certain doom, only to plough straight into it seconds later. It’s possible the current build is a touch too easy, but again, alpha. It’s here to prove its concepts and without doubt it does. Biking down a highway in the middle of a carnado as is as thrillingly ridiculous as it sounds.

The lingering concern is how little time the game took before racheting up the gimmicks. Does that imply the simple, sadistic pleasure of racing and cracking heads only goes so far? Too soon to tell of course, especially as it’s multiplayer that will really test the mettle of Road Redemption’s pedals to the metal. Grudge matches, mass take-downs and full-nitro parrying are what Road Redemption will live or die on.

Shared screen multiplayer is in here, but as I share a house only with someone who doesn’t like games, someone who’s too young to play games and someone who lack thumbs, I haven’t explored that yet.

There’s much to come, including guns, grappling hooks, jetpacks, missions, cities, upgrades, stores, 18-wheelers, driving over rooftops, all sorts. Part of me worries that it’s trying to do far more than it needs to, that it might be better off just focusing on making that core biking’n'brawling as slick and solid as possible.

On the other hand, it’s a better world if we wind up talking about Road Redemption in contexts other than ‘crowd-funded Road Rash spiritual sequel.’ We’re on the road to that world already, I’m glad to say.

The Road Redemption alpha is available to buy from the Humble store now, but it’ll arrive on Steam Early access on 15th September. I will definitely be coming back to it.

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19 Comments »

  1. Keyrock says:

    That does look like Road Rash, and I mean that in the best way possible. Hopefully they’ll have some faster bikes in the future.

    • Fiatil says:

      Yeah, it took about a second of watching the motorcycle move for my brain to leap back in time to my Genesis Road Rash days; they seem to have nailed the feel already. Wantttttt.

  2. David Bliff says:

    I really hope they don’t overdo the combat – Road Rash 3D was a racing game first and foremost, and combat felt weighty in that it let you get ahead but was risky. You couldn’t just go crazy with the combat because you had to dodge fast traffic and (depending on your bike) you’d have to worry about some really tough turns. You might knock 2 or 3 people off their bikes in an entire race and it was way more satisfying as a result.

    I also hope they keep the different combat moves – backhand, overhead whack, kicks, etc. Road Rash 64 had the ability to stick things in people’s spokes and make them go flying, which was wonderful.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Agree with this, I hope they don’t turn it into Burnout where you are eliminating the competition left right and centre. Seems that riders go down too easily for my liking. 2 hits with a pipe and they are gone. In the original games you had to wail on them a fair bit to knock them off and it made it not always the best thing to do if you could simply pass them instead.

  3. DrManhatten says:

    One of the Kickstarters I was toying to back but in the end did not because I had doubts the devs could pull it off looks like I might have been proven wrong, good to see!

  4. 321 says:

    “Sure, we were quite happy crowbar-smacking 16-bit dudes in their barely-detailed 2D skulls at 120MPH on the Sega Megadrive”

    what blasphemy is this? i played it on PC. No consolitis infection on this gamer, even then

  5. Buffer117 says:

    Second that Amiga was where this game shone! I wasted away hours playing the original road rash as a teenager and it is still one of my favourite games of all time!

    I’ve enjoyed the alpha, but as a huge fan of the original, the idea of gun combat and some of devs other ideas have me a little worried on where their vision is taking this game.

  6. BehindYou!!! says:

    Looks promising but that was by far the worst nitrous sound I have ever heard. Seems they recorded it by placing a blowtorch next to microphone. Ughh.

  7. jasonisme84 says:

    The riders appear to be made out of rubber.

  8. SuicideKing says:

    It’s a hundred dumb apocalypse movie trailers made into one wild ride

    Not to mention CoD MW2 after the nuke explodes.

  9. melphion says:

    Is it bad that I just saw the desert and the blue and yellow outfit without reading and just assumed Fallout?

  10. snajk says:

    It needs splitscreen multiplayer. The most fun I remember from Road Rage 2 was drinking beer and racing/beating up each other in splitscreen.

  11. Leb says:

    Please bring back the kick! My favourite thing was pushing out a foot and completely screwing up someones corner, watching them tumble into the side of a building/sign/pedestrian. Ahh childhood…

  12. P.Funk says:

    This story did what these nostalgia stories often do, it made me want to play a similar but altogether different game. Moto Racer. Turns out its on GOG too. Must play. Many recollections. Much childhood. Such history.

  13. Velko says:

    On a dark desert highway

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