Road Redemption is an arcade motorbike racer available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Road Redemption aims to reinvigorate the arcade motorbike racing genre which remains in the essence of the classic retro Road Rash series which originated on the SEGA Mega Drive in 1991 before receiving an Amiga port in 1992, although immediate Road Rash sequels Road Rash 2 and 3 were initially released exclusively for SEGA Mega Drive in 1992 and 1995 respectively before the SEGA Mega Drive Road Rash trilogy was eventually ported to PSP as part of the EA Replay collection in 2006. However, enhanced versions of Road Rash were released on various platforms such as 3DO in 1994 which was one of the first games to feature licensed music from established recording artists such as SoundGarden; making for one of the greatest videogame soundtracks in the history of videogames, while Road Rash 3D on PlayStation released in 1998 with a focus on improved track design and 3D visuals, alongside Road Rash 64 on Nintendo 64 in 1999 which reworked Road Rash 3D to include a range of local multiplayer modes and different graphics. Road Rash: Jailbreak released on PlayStation in 2000 featuring a licensed music soundtrack and local multiplayer with a later port to Game Boy Advance in 2003.
Road Redemption has had a long journey towards being released on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch as it was discussed since Ian Fisch wrote a feature on why Road Rash needs to be revived in 2009 before eventually being officially announced as his own fan developed project in April 2013 with ambitions to gradually improve the game and bring it to more platforms. A Kickstarter campaign soon followed resulting in over $173,000 in crowd funding, although it did not quite reach the stretch goal of $190,000 to develop the VR version. Road Redemption’s release date was planned for August 2014, but was significantly delayed, while only an early beta was released in September 2014 via early access on PC, although nothing else was heard until April 2016 when it was confirmed that development was progressing on PC, Mac and Linux versions, while ports to further platforms would occur at a later time. Can the development team at EQ Games and Pixel Dash Studios deliver a faithful revival of the classic arcade motorbike racing gameplay of the Road Rash franchise in all but name?
Campaign mode challenges players to successfully complete an objective such as performing takedowns on a certain amount of opposing riders or finishing in a certain position on randomly generated tracks that provides an in-game currency reward, while further in-game currency and XP can be earned through performing individual opposing rider takedowns and how they are performed. Unfortunately, there is a major gameplay element that sees players having to return to the start of campaign mode without keeping any in-game currency or store purchases when running out of health after not completing an objective within a few attempts as your rider is rather oddly out of the race when knocked off your motorbike by an opposing rider. An immediate start at level 3, 6 or 9 can be unlocked from the skill tree, but even then that will take a substantial amount of time as players cannot instantaneously unlock any of those levels as upgrades need to be maximised before moving onto the next set of upgrades with level 3 in the second tier of the skill tree, while both of the other start levels are much further into the skill tree. Meanwhile, completing campaign mode unlocks campaign+ mode.
Classic Quick Play mode contains 16 fixed tracks with three available to race on from the beginning, while the other tracks have to be unlocked through achieving certain objectives such as earning a particular quantity of bronze, silver or gold trophies in relation to your finishing position on the podium.
Given that Road Redemption is billed as a spiritual successor to Road Rash; players that are familiar with Road Rash would naturally be expecting street racing on motorbikes combined with some combat, although to have a firm emphasis on racing. However, it is actually the complete opposite as players will only gain health and nitro boosts through engaging in combat almost repeatedly, while leaving the entire field of riders to continue competing will most probably result in them finishing ahead of your rider and motorbike as they absolutely will engage in combat.
Combat is actually very responsive as the player’s chosen rider can reach out to grab a nearby opposing rider to perform a different set of melee takedowns or kick their motorbike, while opposing rider’s attempting to hit your rider can have their attempt deflected with your melee weapon. There are a variety of melee weapons that can be aimed at an opponent situated to the left or right, alongside weapon pickups such as an uzi, grappling hook and much more besides that can be aimed at an opposing rider positioned anywhere close by.
One of the major features of Road Rash that does accurately return in Road Redemption is the police chases as sirens loudly ring from approaching police motorbikes that begin hitting your rider with a baton anytime they get anywhere near your motorbike in true Road Rash style.
There are nine motorbikes, although none are officially licensed resulting in names such as Hardley Davidson. The first three motorbikes are available to ride, but the other motorbikes need to be unlocked in the skill tree or by completing campaign or campaign+ mode with 9 riders. Every motorbike has their own unique qualities in four attributes including acceleration, maximum speed, nitro boost and steering. Only the Golden Jet motorbike has maximum attributes, while the rest of the motorbikes are wildly varying in their statistical attributes. There are 18 riders to choose from that each have there own unique attributes including a percentage of health, nitro boost, critical charge, an increase in in-game currency and XP; however there are some elements of risk and reward as infinite nitro and infinite jump jet boost provides a simultaneous reduction in health to only 40% and an increase in crash damage to 250%. The majority of the riders have to be unlocked, although there are collaborative characters such as DJ Skully and Dr. Hans Volter from publisher Tripwire Interactive’s Killing Floor 2 that can also be chosen from the start, while Shovel Knight is an unlockable character. Every rider has their preset weapon loadout that mostly includes melee weapons, although weapon pick-ups can be collected on the majority of tracks that provide weapons not in your chosen rider’s weapon loadout from further melee weapons to a grappling hook, guns and even a rocket launcher that really adds to the combat gameplay.
Skill tree and in-game store are quite different as the skill tree produces permanent upgrades in exchange for XP such as unlocking a motorbike, increasing your rider’s attack damage and unlocking levels to resume campaign mode from whereas in-game store upgrades are temporary items bought with in-game currency such as better armour or an increase in health, XP, in-game currency and more besides that will help the player progress through the campaign mode, but not be retained when the rider is defeated by an opposing rider through being knocked off their motorbike during combat.
Track design has four themes within the randomly generated tracks in campaign mode and the 16 tracks in classic quick play mode including deserts, wintry mountain roads, rooftops and apocalyptic environments; although the actual track layouts feel rather similar when racing. There are shortcuts on some tracks such as ramps on the desert tracks that players will need to learn before reaching a faster pace, but the shortcuts look out of place in relation to the surrounding environments.
There is only a single third-person camera angle, although it can be panned up and down to provide the player’s preferred camera positioning height and panned around the motorbike a full 360 degrees, while the player can also display their rear view mirror, but the rear view mirror is too small, so it is not a good alternative to the usual look behind view that is not included in Road Redemption. It would have been better to be able to choose from a multitude of camera angles such as from the front of the motorbike without any bodywork; a view showing the motorbike’s front bodywork; a cockpit view showing the speedometer and your rider’s hands on the handlebars; a rider’s eye view from the perspective of your chosen rider through their crash helmet; and a Micro Machines or MotorStorm RC styled camera angle that would be situated above the course as though a helicopter is dynamically following the racing and combat action. Meanwhile, there are no replays or photo mode, so those features would further improve how the racing and combat could be captured and viewed.
There are no games within the arcade motorbike racing genre on Vita; therefore Road Redemption would have been a perfect fit on Vita as it would have had the entire genre to itself, although remote play is a consolation. Road Redemption’s remote play performance retains the graphics, audio and general performance in comparison to the PS4 version. However, there is no remote play control scheme optimisation resulting in accelerating and handbrake turning being mapped to the top right and top left of the touch screen respectively when it would have been much better suited to re-map them to R and L. It is quite awkward to simultaneously accelerate, handbrake and perform takedowns or deflect an opposition’s attempt to perform a takedown as the right thumb has to be in two places at once.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme including holding R2 to accelerate; double tapping R2 to engage a temporary nitro boost; pressing L2 to perform a handbrake turn on sharper corners; pressing R1 to fire at or grab an opposing rider; pressing square or triangle to attack an opposing rider situated to the left or right respectively; pressing O to kick an opposing rider; pressing X to deflect an opposing rider’s attack on your rider; pressing left or right on the d-pad to cycle through your rider’s weapons; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer your motorbike; moving the right analogue stick to pan the third-person camera angle; pressing L3 to centre the camera; holding L1 to display the rear view mirror; pressing R3 to engage jump jets; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad repositions your motorbike and rider on track, while vibration occurs when opposing riders hit the player’s motorbike and rider with their weapons. There is no light bar support that could have produced the colour of your motorbike or rider’s costume or alternatively displaying the amount of health your rider has remaining.
Graphically, Road Redemption suffers from pop-up in the distance on mountains or buildings upon the horizon and pop-in on shadow textures, vehicles and vehicle textures in the foreground even during single player gameplay. Performance can be a little inconsistent at times when a lot of motorbikes are simultaneously on-screen with their riders doing battle, so that is capable of temporarily affecting the sense of speed.
Road Redemption’s presentation is mostly solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, campaign mode menus, classic quick play mode menus, split-screen multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, motorbike and rider selection menus, skill tree and store menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds are focused on carnage between motorbike riders and police pursuits.
A male voice-over informs players of their objectives and comments on takedowns or taunts players when an objective has not been met in campaign mode. Sound effects include the motorbike’s engine accelerating, riders performing takedowns on their opposition, landing after large jumps and crashing into obstacles. Unlike Road Rash on 3DO; there is no officially licensed soundtrack, although there is instrumental rock music. The audio mix does not quite seem as it would be anticipated to; regardless of adjusting volumes such as when everything is at 100% volume; the voice-over volume is too dominant and the music is far louder than important sound effects including motorbike engines. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation that could have produced voice-overs, sound effects or music.
The trophy list includes 51 trophies with 41 bronze trophies, 7 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Wax On Wax Off bronze trophy for deflecting 40 attacks from opposing riders, while harder trophies include the Cash Money bronze trophy for winning 1 million dollars over all playthroughs and the Campaign+ Warrior bronze trophy for completing campaign+ mode. The majority of the trophy list involves reaching various areas of campaign mode, completing 15 quick races in first place in quick play mode and completing campaign mode with all 16 riders. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although there is a permanently hard difficulty curve that is seemingly due to a rubber-banding automatic catch-up for A.I. and players alike. In one instance, an opposing rider overtook on the line to finish 0.03 seconds ahead; despite being seemingly nowhere near the win beforehand. Meanwhile, players can usually catch-up to the mid-pack even when crashing your rider’s motorbike, although the frontrunners are further ahead requiring better pace or a knowledge of the track’s shortcuts before being able to overtake.
Split-screen multiplayer allows 2 to 4 players to play in campaign mode and the unlocked tracks in quick play mode, although there is more pop-up in comparison to single player to such a point that it would be unacceptable on PS1 or 3DO as entire forests of trees, mountain ranges and buildings appear as you are almost immediately in front of them. Due to the silly gameplay element of being eliminated from a race when an opposing rider knocks your rider off their motorbike; there is a realistic chance that there could be only one player riding their motorbike after other players are defeated once by an opposing rider even though there is no fun in multiple players wanting to participate and compete in split-screen multiplayer, but not being able to do so until the end of the race. That scenario leads to an audio glitch as it seems the motorbike engine sound effects are only focused on player 1, so when that player is eliminated from the race; all motorbike engine sound effects are no longer within the audio mix.
Online multiplayer supports 1 to 10 players in team focused races with up to five players per team, while the objective for each team is to be the first team to reach three race wins being the winner of the match before moving onto the next randomly selected track for the best of five races, albeit on the same track layout for each of the up to five races. Rather oddly, when there are no players to race with co-operatively and competitively; a player can participate in the race by oneself, but there is no A.I. controlled opposition to compete with even though there are A.I. controlled police motorbikes. This is particularly contradictory in comparison to split-screen multiplayer that has a full field of A.I. controlled opposing riders. Online multiplayer allows players to choose from 15 motorbikes, 30 riders, your team and a weapons loadout, although the vast majority have to be unlocked through levelling up specifically within online multiplayer races that at least provides a separate set of gameplay that would most probably prove to be more entertaining if more players start to play Road Redemption in online multiplayer.
Road Redemption’s replayability stems from the challenging campaign mode and unlockable campaign+ mode, alongside classic quick play mode, split-screen multiplayer for 2 to 4 players and online multiplayer for 1 to 10 players, while there are also unlockable motorbikes and riders with numerous upgrades and progression in the XP related skill tree that will potentially have players returning for quite a few hours if players can overcome and forgive Road Redemption’s serious flaws.
- Title: Road Redemption
- Developer: EQ Games/Pixel Dash Studios
- Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Split-Screen Multiplayer)/2-10 (Online Co-Operative/Competitive Multiplayer)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 7.92GB (Version 1.02)