A Road Rash reboot has long been called for by fans of the series, but with games like Road Redemption & Road Rage, is there any need to dust off the franchise?
Road Rage is set in the near (dystopian) future, when the government has locked down areas of the cities and violent biker gangs roam the streets… It’s not an inspired storyline, although it is delivered with enough cheesiness and poorly written dialogue as to be unintentionally hilarious. The opening cut-scene is one of the cheapest things you could possibly imagine – and then only gets somehow cheaper as the rest of the game’s exposition comes through a series of voiced SMS messages after you complete the regular story missions.
Road Rage has a surprisingly varied number of event types. There’s standard racing game fayre, like races, elimination events and time trials. There’s also missions which involve escaping from the cops, doing X number of wheelies/ air time/ near misses etc. within a certain time frame, and combat-orientated stages too. Unfortunately, this variety is ruined by 2 key areas of the game which are sorely lacking: the bike handling and the AI.
The AI isn’t broken in Road Rage, but it is completely incapable, and in many cases this has hilarious (and unintended) repercussions. Simple tasks like cornering the AI has immense difficulty with; you’ll often find them careering off buildings, crashing into parked cars or even failing to take the corner completely, riding off into another part of the open world. The former is the most funny, thanks to the over-the-top ragdoll physics and the fact your bike will normally explode upon crashing.
Most corners, AI riders will be looping over you, pivoting at impossible angles as their broken bodies become implanted upon the scenery. Unfortunately, you’re doing the same all too often. A) it’s impossible to tell what parts of the scenery you can crash through (like fences, small lamp-posts) and which you can’t (big lamp-posts, girders etc.) and B) the controls are really poor. At low speeds you literally glide sideways and small changes of direction are impossible, whilst at speed almost the opposite is true.
There’s combat, which is extremely simple (there’s loads of difference weapons but I couldn’t work out if they are just different visually or whether there is a power or gameplay difference), you just press X to bash left, or B to bash right. There’s a good sense of speed to the game, and it generally runs well, but whether you can put up with the game for the duration is another question. There’s plenty to do, but I racked up around 50% of the achievements in just over 2 hours of playtime, because the optional content is purely optional.
Road Rage hides the fact it has online multiplayer behind the menus (as the game defaults into throwing you into the single-player open world every time you boot it up). Perhaps unsurprisingly as a result, the multiplayer servers were always dead when I tried the game. However, given the core gameplay, it’s not exactly going to tempt me away from Call of Duty…
The open world of Road Rage isn’t the worst looking thing you could imagine – the various districts all have their own visual style, whilst the world itself is relatively expansive. It’s the periphery which is less good – the lighting is quite poor during the day cycle (but somewhat better at night), and the world feels lifeless. There’s not much traffic, whilst the few pedestrians all walk mindlessly with no purpose. Meanwhile, the bikes and riders all feel a little bit generic. There’s plenty of customization options, but as with any bike game, it’s often difficult to feel the visual impact.
The voice acting is pretty bad, but it works with the cheesy storyline. I can only imagine it’s unintentional, because the rest of the game seems to take itself quite seriously, but it worked for me. The music, however, is the worst royalty-free, lyric-free, looping power rock that you’d find blasting over PS1 and N64 titles 20 years ago, and the sound effects are all dreadful too.
When a game has so little attention paid to it that even the achievements have spelling mistakes in them, you know deep down it’s never going to be a GOTY contender. Still, I had higher hopes for Road Rage than the end result. An open-world Road Rash could have made for a pretty decent game, but with handling and AI that a PS1-era game would still be ashamed of, it’s hard to recommend Road Rash. It’s not a complete car crash, but the charm of the awful story and the hilarious physics aren’t strong enough to recommend this to anyone.