Years and years ago, the Mega Drive was my go to console, with hundreds of hours poured into the games that crossed my path. Yet there were only a few cartridges that would regularly find themselves placed in the slot and one of those games was Road Rash. The premise was simple: race motorbikes and win by any means necessary. There were no rules of the road, just grab a weapon and try to knock fellow racers and the police off their seats. It’s a simple set up that has only recently come back in the form of Road Redemption.
The best place to start with Road Redemption is with the campaign. You’re a rider for the Jackals biker gang which becomes embroiled in a hunt for an assassin to collect a bounty. However the assassin is riding through the territory of other gangs, so you need to follow and face off against those gangs to close the gap to the assassin. What follows is a combination of races, survival, and time trials to catch your prey.
Road Redemption arms you with melee weapons such as pipes and shovels, a sword to decapitate riders that aren’t wearing helmets, and a mix of guns and explosives. Some of these aren’t available straight away but are instead found as pickups on the tracks. The melee weapons are what’ll you’ll use the most to reduce the health of fellow riders until they fall off their bikes. You can also kick at other bikes to try and push them off the road, or into buildings and oncoming traffic. Of course, the other bikers aren’t going to take this without fighting back and they fight back hard with the same weapons you have. It’s also not uncommon to find yourself in a pack of bikers who are all swinging for each other, leading to a lot of crashes.
Knocking enemies out of commission isn’t just there for the sake of violence, but also allows you to build up your nitro to boosts across the winding tracks. It also replenishes your health and builds up your critical attack bar, which gives your attacks an extra boost. Some bikers have signs above their heads which indicate if they’ll deliver additional health or nitro bonuses. There is also some tactical thought required as different enemies have different weaknesses. One may be able to deflect all of your melee attacks, so kicking them into obstacles or hitting them from range is necessary, while others have shields that can only be disabled by certain weapons.
Road Redemption is a roguelite in that when your health depletes to zero all of your progress is reset, outside of any skills you’ve unlocked. These allow you to improve your health, attack power, how quickly you gain XP, how quickly you gain cash and can even let you skip levels to start later in the campaign. While XP is important, I found that accumulating cash through each run is much more important, as it feeds into how much XP you could earn as well as how far you’ll get through on a run.
Cash accumulates through killing enemies and completing objectives. It can then be used to recover health and nitro, unlock stronger weapons, and improve attack or defence. The more cash you gain, the more perks you’ll unlock and the further you’ll be able to progress. However, I did find that I didn’t even need to unlock many skills through XP to get to the end of a campaign run, as the perks carried me all the way through. There is a tougher challenge waiting after completing the campaign once with campaign+ where enemies are stronger and you cannot fail a single mission on the run without being reset.
Road Redemption also features a quick play mode where you race the AI and try to come first, get the gold trophy and unlock additional tracks. There’s also an online mode where two teams race and fight against each other, though sadly the servers are already a little barren, and the online tracks feel emptier and not as exciting.
While Road Redemption does scratch that Road Rash itch, there are areas in which there can be improvements and bugs to iron out. Through the campaign the AI has an unnatural ability to avoid oncoming traffic and glide out of the way in a manner that players don’t have. It’s not only that, but when going off road through the sheer speed and flying over hills, the AI can just magically land perfectly while I struggled to simply get back down to ground.
There was some dodgy collision detection at times, so my biker would suddenly crash even if there was no noticeable obstacle in the way, or any enemies that were attacking, and the effect of collisions also seemed to vary wildly. Sometimes bumping into something would be no big deal, while other times it’d cause your biker to ragdoll into the air and lose health, even if it felt like both collisions were at approximately the same speeds.
Road Redemption won’t be winning awards for its visual design. It’s definitely serviceable, but vehicles that aren’t bikes are blocky, ground textures look flat, and the environment is often quite basic. That said, there’s a lot of attention to detail in the bikes and riders, allowing you to differentiate quickly between which faction they represent and what strengths and weaknesses they have. Here the devs have to be commended as it allows you to think through your tactics quickly.
While Road Redemption does have its issues, it did more than enough to keep me playing. Following in the tracks of Road Rash, it nails that one more go feeling that you can lose so much time to. However, while the core gameplay is entertaining, the surrounding package could have been better with basic online and and a roguelite structure that some may find uninspired. Road Redemption is a mixed bag that is fun to play, but it could have been so much better.
Version tested: PS4 – Also available on PC, Xbox One, Switch