Let the road rage flow through you.
Road Redemption is a spiritual successor to the Road Rash series, a collection of games that mixed motorcycle racing and combat. It features rogue-lite elements in that the maps, enemies, and objectives change each time you start a new campaign. There is a decent progression system that helps you improve your stats and increases the number of bikes and racers available to you. While the gameplay is quite fun, a number of mechanical and performance issues prevent Road Redemption from landing a spot on the podium.
The campaign mode is where you are likely to spend most of your time since it’s fairly replayable. You begin by choosing from a very limited number of motorcycles and riders initially, but the selections increase as you progress deeper into the campaign or spend experience points on a perk tree. Across three territories with different racing tracks and environments, you compete in a handful of races culminating in a type of boss fight with a gang leader. The story centers on the unnamed player chasing down a huge bounty that has been placed on a notorious assassin, and it adds a little flavor to the missions.
The rogue-lite nature of the campaign is significant because when your health meter runs out and you die, you have to start the campaign over from the beginning. When this happens, you have a chance to spend accrued experience points on a variety of perks such as increased maximum health, improved resistance to crashes, and greater money accumulation. You can also unlock the ability to start at Level 3, 6, or 9, which are further into the campaign and give you a better chance of completing it. I found the experience gains and cost of the perks a little unbalanced, especially considering any unspent experience points are forfeited when you return to the main menu. You have to complete a number of runs before you can afford just a handful of expensive perks that provide minimal benefits, and the perk tree itself is actually quite substantial.
In terms of gameplay, the racing and combat feel pretty good. It’s always satisfying to use a pipe to smash another rider off his bike, and you get money, health, and nitro in return for unseating your competition. There is a thorough focus on the combat, with a number of races tasking you not with coming in first but with taking down specific targets during the race. However, if you don’t pick up explosives or guns, or upgrade your melee weapons, it eventually becomes really tough to take people off their bikes. If you fail to complete the objective of the level, your maximum health is slashed by 25 percent. Fortunately, money you earn from combat and completing objectives can be spent in between levels on restoring your health, upgrading your weapons, and augmenting the experience you gain from each race. All that said, it would have been nice to see a more detailed progression screen at the end of each race; as it is, you see the money and experienced earned, but no real indication of how these totals are broken down.
Multiplayer is available but a mixed bag. There is local, 2-player split-screen for campaign mode which can be a great way to experience the story mode, and quick play single races across the game’s 17 tracks. However, the online play is basically dead. I have logged in on a dozen occasions at different times of the day and have yet to find anyone playing Road Redemption online.
I enjoy playing Road Redemption in short bursts, but I don’t feel compelled to keep coming back to the game, even to unlock the Campaign+ mode. The game frequently slows down when large groups of riders come together, and with combat-focused objectives this happens quite often. I really liked that every time I started a new campaign it felt different, but dying and seeing that I could only make a small dent in the perk tree was disappointing. Road Redemption is punctuated by moments of absolute chaos: cars flying through the air and crushing bikes beneath them or using your attacks to smash one rider into another, sending them both flying off a bridge. The game finds a way to capture my attention, but it isn’t polished enough to hold it. In trying to combine a variety of genres, Road Redemption ends up simply being a master of none.