Whacked right out of his skull, man!
It’s always pleasing when you look at a game and it makes you think that the Switch really does have something for everyone. Road Redemption has you play as a member of a biker gang, hunting a lucrative bounty along long, winding roads and unleashing a whole host of violence along the way.
And violent it is. Road Redemption earns its 18 rating by pushing the scale of bloodlust up just about as high as it can possibly go. From using machine guns on your rival riders while racing at high speeds, swinging a club at a rider to either side to knock them off their bikes or, under its most gory episode, slicing another rider’s head clean off using a sword, Road Redemption is all about the shock and awe.
It’s a game which clearly serves as a spiritual successor to Road Rash, a series which had its humble beginnings on the Sega Mega Drive in 1991. Both heavily place the emphasis on the explosive anger associated with biker gangs, with the actual riding side coming across as a secondary element.
You can hop on a bike and play a one-off level from the off, but the meat and potatoes of Road Redemption comes in its campaign mode, which can be played with one or two players. After selecting a bike and rider and then sitting through a seemingly interminable loading screen, you’ll eventually be thrust straight onto the road for the action. Level objectives can include a straight race, a set number of opponents to kill, reaching the finish within a set time and more, so the general gameplay is varied, but there’s still a samey sense which filters through.
You see, each level has a driving experience which initially puts all other racers out of your reach. Using your nitro (by double-tapping the accelerator button) will level the playing field, often jettisoning you way past the pack if you have a full nitro meter at your disposal (you can replenish this meter by driving through pickups across the course and also by removing other riders from their bikes). But even with the nitro pushing you ahead, there seems to be a magnet pulling you and at least one other rider together side by side, so the emphasis is again placed on the fisticuffs over the sweet racing lines. There are usually extra riders along the track to keep you engaged if you do race too far in front, and the added challenge of fending off the cops does keep things interesting. But as a result of this magnet sensation, it all feels very arcadey, and it doesn’t quite give the sense of a major advancement over Road Rash.
But then, that’s likely to have been the intention. Road Redemption isn’t a game which wants you to feel exactly like a real biker gang – it wants to put you in the heart of the arcade. The environments of the game won’t set any tongues wagging, but it’s the freshness of the Road Rash inspired gameplay – particularly to Nintendo fans, who last saw the series in 2003 on the Game Boy Advance. Road Redemption should be commended for doing what it does, but the game doesn’t quite retain the boundary-pushing delight after you pull off your first decapitation.
Road Redemption isn’t pretty, but it is fun. You’ll likely have some good fun with this Mad Max-a-like, especially with a friend in tow.