Spiritual successors are a dangerous game. Creators run the risk of alienating fans of the title that inspired their new creation or deviating too far from the source material. Road Redemption, thankfully, does neither and fits Road Rash-style gameplay snug into a modern gaming library with some rogue-lite elements that keep it interesting. If a game could respond to a love letter, Road Rash would at least send back a kiss.
Return to the road
If you’re unfamiliar with Road Rash, which inspired Road Redemption’s gameplay, the brunt of it involves a motorcycle race. The twist is, weapons can be used to turn the tide of these races. Throughout the various race types, I’m able to use weapons to knock off helmets, cut off heads, knock enemies off bikes, or kick them into other vehicles.
The brutal Road Rash melee was in full effect and the attacks with blunt or sharp weapons are satisfyingly brutal. Explosive weapons and guns change the formula up a bit, but don’t work well all the time. Timed explosives can either be stuck on vehicles or just dropped behind me. Dropping them behind me was a roll of the dice because enemy speeds varied wildly when they got near me, but I could occasionally take out a solid group. Sticky bombs worked perfectly and made it easy to meet my kill quota in matches that required such.
Guns, on the other hand, I could have done without entirely. Attempting to aim them anywhere but straight ahead makes sticking to the road difficult, which could be seen as an offset for the overwhelming power of them. Nevertheless, the balance just never hit the sweet spot. I will add, though, that the reload animation and sounds for the shotgun were wonderful and made me feel like the T100 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
I utilized these mechanics across a handful of race types, which are randomly selected as you play through the Road Redemption campaign. Some are straight up races, but others had me killing a certain amount of gang members before reaching the end and taking on the gang leaders. The best levels, though, are the rooftop races that signal a scenery change after you take out the boss.
The sights and sounds of the streets
Gameplay was a treat most of the time, but it got derailed by some of the visual and aural elements. There are three distinct environment styles for the gangs that you encounter across different areas, but the textures on the maps tracks themselves are very unexciting. The surrounding environment is procedurally generated, but the tracks are set. The rooftop encounters are less of a drag, but it’s because I was more focused on not falling to my death versus checking out the area you’re speeding through.
Collision detection was a game of roulette throughout Road Redemption. Sometimes the reaction to running into obstacles will result in the expected crash and reset and, other times, I’ll get tossed way off the track or flipped into the wrong direction. The speed at impact doesn’t seem to dictate too much of this, as I got both types of reactions at varying speeds.
Attack collision was more consistent, though there was an art to striking the game’s hitbox. Enemy collision and movement are rough, though, as I spotted enemies going through pedestrian vehicles on occasion. The sound was an equally mixed bag. As mentioned, melee attacks are thoroughly satisfying. The few bits of dialogue are delivered well also and the game’s soundtrack was wonderful. I regularly found myself nodding my head vigorously while mashing the gas and taking out my assailants.
From there, though, sound falls apart. Collisions outside of weapons hit with the impact of cardboard on cardboard and the nitro boost sound effect was grating upon my ears. Most of the guns sound fine, but there were a couple of moments where a group of pistol-equipped enemies caused the repetitive sound effect to become maddeningly annoying.
If you eat it, get back up and race again
Road Redemption has a rogue-lite format where death erases all progress and upgrades I acquire during the run. Also like rogue-lite’s, though, there are permanent upgrades that I was able to unlock after my run ended. These things are permanent improvements that helped me get further and further into the campaign, which does ramp up in difficulty when you reach the third and final gang.
Multiplayer is available through the entire campaign as well, but you do get AI teammates in some of the random encounters if you decide you'd rather burn rubber alone. Be ready to pause your game for lengthy times if you’re hoping to just pick up and play Road Redemption, though. If you abandon the game, there’s no progress saved whatsoever in the campaign so you’ll have to tank your run to get your experience, finish the run, or pause it for a long time if you need to step away.
In addition to the permanent skills, I’m was rewarded with new characters and motorcycles for the campaign as well. It’s pretty cool to be able to jump back into a run as Santa Clause or Shovel Knight after accomplishing different feats.
While Road Redemption is far from perfect, it taps the popular rogue-lite experience to create an enjoyable spiritual successor to Road Rash. It’s very rough around the edges, but the cost of entry is on the lower side of things. If you’re itching for that classic motorcycle brawler experience, it's more than worth the purchase.
This review is based on a PS4 code provided by the game’s publisher. Road Redemption is available now for $19.99 on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, and PC.
- Rooftop races
- The satisfying thump of melee weapons
- Lots to unlock
- Wonderful soundtrack
- Guns just don't strike the right balance
- Visual flicker
- Lack of variety in maps