If you grew up with a Sega Megadrive (or Genesis) then chances are you played Road Rash. Remember the game that combined motorcycle racing with combat? Well the first thing I heard about Road Rage was that it is a spiritual successor to that old franchise. Now here I am, once again, looking at a retro-inspired game on the Xbox One. And I say that with a smile on my face.
Road Rage starts off with a long tutorial. We must play through a bunch of checkpoint style time trials and races. The game teases us with an open world city, but we’re stuck doing what we’re told and listening to the story – more on that later. Eventually the training wheels come off and we’re given access to the city. The bleak and vacuous city that it is. Driver on the first Playstation had more traffic on its streets. Is it too much to ask to have my game worlds contain a morsel of reality in them, especially now in 2017? The game tries to justify this flaw within the context of the story, but it does not make any sense.
The developers must have had Need For Speed in mind while designing Road Rage, because it’s the exact same concept. We drive to certain points on the map and endure a race, a time trial – yes, it’s the tutorial all over again – or a stage where we must escape the police. Running from the cops is as much fun as changing a diaper in the middle of the night. The Road Rash inspired combat does come into play in the levels that involve us taking out a certain amount of enemy riders within a time limit, but it’s not anything to be excited about, unless cruising around while endlessly swinging a stick at nothing but air sounds like a good time to you. Expect to miss a lot.
In the open world, the cops do come after us for entering off-limit areas, and killing pedestrians. In any case, when the police are pursuing it’s a disaster. The not-so-clever tactics used by them include setting up pathetic road blocks, and chasing us like wind-up mice navigating a maze. After getting away, Road Rage tells us that we have “outsmarted the police”. Try not to let it boost your ego though!
When I first started playing Road Rage it felt as if I stumbled halfway into the storyline. I had no idea who the characters were, if the people had names or what anyone was talking about. The characters remain just as flat throughout the entire game. The weak story is told through text messages. The texts are narrated, which is off-putting, but it could also be phone conversations that are subtitled as texts. Either way it’s weird.
The cell phone graphic that shows us the all-important texts will pop up all the time. When we finish a side mission, it’s there, and it plays the exact same conversation explaining to us what were doing next, every time. The best way to avoid seeing the same dialogue would be to advance the story. Except to play the main missions we need to have a certain bike, which costs money, and the way to get money is to play the side missions. Suddenly we’re back to seeing the phone popping up and giving us the texts again. It gets redundant in a hurry and may end up being the reason that some folks drink. Don’t expect any cutscenes either, just the cellphone.
Furthermore, the objectives of the missions don’t relate to the gameplay at all. For example, in one mission we are tasked with planting bombs in order to assassinate enemies. To achieve this we simply need to drive through checkpoints on the map within the given time, but at no point do we ever get to see any explosions or fun things of that nature. That’s one example, but every mission is like that.
If you want explosions though, then everything else in the game will cause you to explode. Leaning too far back in a wheelie will blow you up. Hit a wall, boom! If you happen to crash in a race there’s a good chance that you’ll respawn facing the wrong way. Imagine you’re in a tight race and you slam into a wall then you come back going backwards. By the time you realize you’re heading the wrong way and turn around, it’s too late. It gets infuriating. The combat aspect of the game rarely proves to have a purpose either – we’re given the ability to hit other riders in races, but it’s a distraction that will cost you in time. Virtually every time I hit another racer I would be taken down too.
I experienced glitches in Road Rage that forced me to restart the game a number of times too. Sitting through the loading screen while the game boots up is no picnic. One glitch caused me to have to replay a mission that I had passed. I know I passed it because I finished in 1st place, yet I had to replay the stage for no apparent reason.
Road Rage has left me scratching my head a lot and I really don’t understand the purpose of the open world. If the devs would have left it out and tightened up the story progression, it could well have been a much better product.
It’s not all bad though. The bikes are fun to drive around, and with the money we are awarded from missions we can customize a lot. We have control on how our bike and rider looks and upgrading our motorcycle is surprisingly deep with many options. The music consists of hard rock instrumentals that gives the game some much needed energy, and achievement hunters will love how the points are handed out like damaged goods. But those few upsides aren’t enough to save Road Rage from hitting the wall.
Charging $40/£20 for this game is borderline criminal. Associating it with Road Rash is disrespectful. Unless customizing motorcycles is your sole passion in life, avoid this one.