It’s fair to say video games struggle to pander to the biker fans. Apart from straight up racers, the feeling of being part of an outlaw biker gang has not been explored to its lofty potential. Road Redemption won’t please everyone, but its arcade feel on vehicular combat will put a smile on most faces. It’s just a shame that its infuriating progression makes you feel like you should pull over, rather than continue the chase.
Road Redemption on Xbox One sees you tear up the roads, across a “post-apocalyptic” styled Australia, where rival biker gangs have been in conflict for decades. It’s thrown into even more chaos when the leader of a weapons cartel is killed by an unidentified assassin. Road Redemption has you take control of a member of the Jackal biker gang, out for a massive bounty on the head of the rival assassin. But in this world, you are not the only faction out for the $15million reward; three rival gangs, the Reapers, SIGMA and the Phantoms are also hot on the assassin’s trail. Each faction controls certain territories and you must complete different areas, to continue the chase.
It’s fair to say that, what story there is, is so superfluous that the setting could have been anywhere. Each environment feels very copy and paste, yet a couple of rooftop tracks are a welcome distraction from the generic desert roads.
Harkening back to arcade style racers, each run is point to point. Immediately you are thrown into a combat heavy racer where physics and handling go to pot. If anyone remembers the old bowling alley arcade machines, you will recognise the unrealistic racing style you have to employ. Turning while accelerating will lead to you disappearing off into the wilderness. However, by pushing brake and accelerate, you will perform a perfect drift. It is very reminiscent of the old Ridge Racer titles. Handling can be unpredictable and you will have to find a rhythm quickly.
Navigating through each of the three territories, you will come up against a variety of enemy types. Lighter enemies are equipped with simple melee weapons, such as pool cues, nail riddled bats and the occasional battle axe. Each faction has their own take on heavier brutes though, some possess more damaging blows, or are kitted out with battle armour or even, Star Trek styled, shields.
Enemies offer challenge, more by their sheer numbers than their intelligence, although you’ll find that most do not take more than two hits from a pool cue to go down. Hit detection is not always on point and several times you can find yourself surrounded, with absolutely no means of escape, especially when the armoured or shielded foes take a few more swings to dispatch. The main fun of the combat is found in mixing up the variety of weapons and gadgets on offer; Sticky bombs, automatic rifles, tasers and machete knives give the combat a nice feel of malice.
Rather than just pure racing, each area found in Road Redemption has different objectives, ranging from taking down a specific number of enemies or beating the clock. Your character starts out with very similar weaponry, one sword, one short range melee and long-range melee, and taking out enemies with different weapons offers in game bonuses. You can regain health, replenish your nitro boost and earn XP to spend in an upgrade tree. After each run you can activate stat bonuses using money and XP you have built up, unlocking weapons or increased damage. These bonuses only remain during your run through the campaign.
The more levels you pass, the more you are found unlocking different bikes and riders. Each rider and bike come with different perks, like earning extra XP, heavier armour or better starting weapons, however, fundamentally, it doesn’t change how you play.
You’ll want to fail an area at your peril. See, failure to complete the objective will penalise the stats of your rider, whilst losing money and XP limits your upgrades and even reduces your maximum health. But stay tuned because this isn’t the worst punishment Road Redemption has in store. Death and failure to complete the campaign sends you to a larger upgrade tree, which offers more substantial upgrades. The XP you have left, upon death, can be used to unlock permanent upgrades. The only problem is this is a hugely tedious process. After each failure (and I’ve said that too much in this review), such a small amount of XP can be accrued that it will take forever to complete.
However, what is a kick in the teeth, is the cheek the game has to send you right back to the beginning. Not of the level, of the game! It has the arrogance to throw away all your hard work and plonk you right back at square one. And as stated previously, the miniscule sense of progression can lead to frustration so easily.
Unfortunately, Road Redemption is not much of a looker either. Many textures and elements look early Xbox 360 era, and the horizon draws in so unrealistically that it can be distracting. That said, the particle effects on broken weapons look decent, but overall Redemption feels more of a throwback to its arcade inspired roots than anything else.
While managing to deliver a decent melee combat racing experience, Road Redemption is bogged down by its stilted progression and under par presentation. The campaign can be a pain to complete and the time taken to upgrade your rider and bike, with little payoff, seems pointless. Road Redemption won’t tempt you to break out the biker leathers anytime soon, yet it can still be a pleasant ride if the mood takes you.