Many games that succeeded on Kickstarter have been sequels to classic games that had languished in obscurity for years: Wasteland 2, Broken Sword 5, and several more long-wished-for sequels owe their lives to Kickstarter. And then you have spiritual successors like Shroud of the Avatar and Underworld Ascendant, which are sequels in all but name to beloved past games.
Road Redemption is one such game. During the Sega Genesis and early 32-bit days, Road Rash was a popular combat racing series. But Electronic Arts hasn't released a Road Rash game since 2003, leaving fans of the series without their fix of fantasy motorcycle violence. Luckily, New Orleans-based indie developer Darkseas Games is currently hard at work on its own modern motorocycle combat game called Road Redemption.
Road Redemption is already available on Steam Early Access and will be coming to Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Wii U later this year. Read on for my detailed impressions and our developer interview and gameplay video!
Gear up and hit the road
The developers plan to revamp Road Redemption's campaign between now and the final release, but the in-progress version available on Steam offers a fairly substantial campaign already.
To start with, players will choose a bike and a rider. There are five bikes at present, each with its own stats such as acceleration and durability that can be upgraded during gameplay. Besides traditional nondescript riders, Redemption has a few unique ones like a Jack-o-Lantern and Shovel Knight (star of his own indie game).
Once you've made your choices, you'll embark on a cross-country campaign of racing and destruction. The game procedurally generates the tracks, so they're different every time you play. Environments that I've seen so far include deserts, canyons, snow-covered forests, and cities – all the same stuff you'd see in Road Rash. Actually, the city races take place on rooftops, which changes things up a lot; we'll get to that in a bit.
Race and rage
Road Redemption offers several types of events throughout the campaign. Races require you to place in the top three, some missions task you with beating up a certain number of opponents, and so on. Whether your goal is to come in first or something else, the combat is this game's standout feature.
Your rider starts out with at least one weapon, but he can carry several and switch between them on the fly. Some of the melee weapons I've seen include bats, golf clubs, shovels, crowbars, swords, and more. As you come across other rides, you're free to whack away at them on either direction. Don't feel bad; they're trying to do the same to you!
Your rider can also kick at enemies, which proves quit amusing when you knock them off a bridge or into oncoming traffic. The deflect button lets you block oncoming attacks, but I usually focus on offense over defense.
On top of the standard Road Rash-style melee weapons and kicks, Road Redemption goes wild with ranged weapons and explosives. From time you time your rider can pick up a shotgun or Uzi and go to town on the other races. This involves aiming a reticule while driving, which can be tough to do effectively. But if you get someone lined up in your gun's sights, they won't stand a chance.
My favorite weapon (though also challenging to use) is the bomb. Bombs resemble melee weapons in that you must be right next to an enemy to use them. Just stick a bomb onto another rider and it will go off a few seconds later, knocking him out of the race. The challenge comes from trying to get away from the "stickied" enemy. I usually take some damage from the blast, but it's a fun regardless.
One life to race
Road Rash was always a highly challenging game, and Redemption retains some of that unforgivingness by only allotting players a single life for each campaign playthrough. Whatever upgrades you purchase between races will be lost if you die, so you have to watch your health and buy refills when the opportunity presents itself.
Luckily, the one-life system here isn't the bad kind, it's the good kind – à la Rogue Legacy. At the end of your playthrough, all of the experience you earned can be spent on actual permanent upgrades that carry over between playthroughs. These include upgrades to health, damage, and much more.
Road Redemption supports split-screen co-op for up to four players during the campaign (using multiple controllers and/or a keyboard). Split-screen support is quite unusual in a PC game, though not so uncommon in consoles. Many of the old Road Rashes offered split-screen, so it will be great to sit down on the couch with friends and race together once again.
Much as many of us love local multiplayer, modern racing games also beg for online support. Online racing is so ubiquitous within the genre, it would be difficult for an offline-only racer to compete. Thankfully Darkseas plans to add online multiplayer in the near future.
As far as multiplayer goes, I'm hoping the developers will throw in a separate multiplayer mode and game types. Teaming up during the campaign mode is great, but we should also be able to select an environment/track and game type outside of campaign and play a quick match or two.
Still some rash on this road
I'm not sure whether the current Early Access version of Road Redemption is considered alpha or beta, but it does have some obvious issues that need to be addressed by launch. For one, all of the UI, loading screens, and menus within the campaign itself look fairly awful and low resolution. The races themselves are fine, but the game needs to connect them more smoothly and attractively.
One of the campaign's most exciting innovations – its rooftop races – also proves one of its weakest points. Driving across a series of interconnected rooftops, catching air from ramps as you hop to distant buildings is certainly exciting at its core. But it's far too easy to fall off and into the abyss below. Once you do, the game takes too long to put you back on the track. One fall just about guarantees a loss.
Road Redemption's basic racing controls and the focus on combat just don't mix very well with unforgiving track design. If Darkseas doesn't drastically improve the rooftop races by launch, they will seriously drag down an otherwise solid racer.
Finally, Redemption currently lacks two big features from Road Rash 3D: pedestrians and female racers. Maybe I could live without innocent people to run over, but female characters are important in this era of gaming equality.
Keeping the torch alive
Road Rash was a fantastic series with a unique mix of arcade-style racing, combat, and attitude. There was really nothing else like it, until now. Even in its current unpolished state, Road Redemption captures the look and feel of EA's long slumbering series. Pounding enemy racers here feels just as good as ever, and Redemption looks very good by downloadable game standards as well.
Darkseas Games' current focus is finishing up the Steam version of Road Redemption, which will likely take a few months. After they knock the lead version out, it will be time to polish off the Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Wii U games (previous gen consoles are also a possibility). Hopefully the road to Redemption on consoles will not be a long one. I'm ready to hit the pavement and bust a few heads!
If you just can't wait, check out the Early Access version on Steam.
- Road Redemption – Windows and Mac – $19.99 – Steam Link