Back in 1991, Road Rash emerged as a fan favourite arcade racing game that gave a fun mix between arcade racing and vehicular combat, roll on 18 years and we’ve seen the racing game develop into a near lifelike representation of speed, but many miss the arcade roots or unadulterated fun.
Roll-up Team 6 studios who’s partnership with Maximum games has been promising us a Road Rash inspired hit, but after a entire year’s delay, is Road Rage the smash-hit we’ve been waiting for.
Set in the fictional city of Ashen (Coincidentally similarly named to the developers home town of Assen), You take control of Reef Jackson, your home town is falling fast and gangs have over-run the city, the only way to beat them is to join them, so it’s up to you to take the reigns of your own crew and dominate the various districts one step at a time.
Unlike many vehicular combat titles, Road Rage aims to break new ground by offering an open world and a storyline, so you’ll find over 40 story missions as well as 50+ side-quests as you progress, with 98 in total there’s plenty to get through, but sadly that’s not quite as promising as it seems.
You’ll regularly find your phone rings, so hitting A to answer the call brings up your device as a conversation starts with your crew or enemies, this transcripts are straight out of a poor American B-movie, filled with as many swear words as possible and the sort of delivery which leaves you feeling detached from the characters your supposed to care about.
Head into your first race and you’ll find it painfully easy, even coming off your bike you’ll catch the leader within 2 checkpoints, and if you manage to go a few laps without damage you’ll be lapping everyone before the end of the race.
There’s a strange aura around Road Rage, it’s trying to throw adult themes at the player with every opportunity, constant F*** this and F*** that, women constantly over-sexualised in tight-fitting clothing, and plenty of violence as you swing your weapon at choice sending the dumb AI to the floor. This gives Road Rage a steady 18 rating, however the controls are incredibly easy, and there’s very little traffic on the roads during missions, which mean your only challenge is smashing X or B to strike any riders to the left or right. This results in even missions labelled as ‘hard’ being incredibly simple to pass, and while I did fail one mission in my first hour of gameplay, that was because I needed 5 near-misses and there wasn’t enough cars on the road on my first attempt.
I’m unsure if the lack of traffic is intentional to keep things simple, or forced due to poor development, but while games like the early Burnout titles where great because of the amount of traffic you had to traverse through, Road Rage feels empty, lifeless and severely lacking. The same could be said about the city as a whole, across the 7 districts there’s variation in scenery as you go from the shanty rural district of Subtroit into the little Italy inspired Chitaly and onto the City centre before heading to the countryside and while each area does look and feel different in visuals, they’re just as deserted leaving very little excitement about more of a challenge.
Progressing through Road Rage is disappointingly simple, hard missions don’t feel that much tougher, missions never seem attached to the dialogue you’ve just listened to and even race’s packed with enemies promising to ***** break your ***** neck, usually result in them riding along side you, and giving you a second or two to knock them off before launching an attack of their own, only to ride at 20mph to give you plenty of time to get up and catch up with them again. The so-called ‘combat mode’ consists of smacking the desired face button to hit left or right, and while you’ll find a ride range of weapons to unlock there’s little difference in the actual outcome regardless of whether your using a bat, fire extinguisher or razor sharp katana, Thankfully you’ll find plenty of other unlocks to keep you occupied, ranging from new characters which impressively (and rather surprisingly) carry their own voice acting and dialogue, but also new bikes which can be upgraded and customised.
This carries greater weight online where you can enjoy play with 2-4 players, and due to the lacking AI, this is where you’ll find the most challenge and enjoyment, unfortunately even on the day of, and the day after release, I couldn’t find a single online game, but having a brief play on split-screen it holds up surprisingly well considering the graphical difficulties in single player.
Using the Xbox One X, I’ve spent the last week drooling at 4K textures, lightning fast frame-rates and greatly decreased load times, especially on games that weren’t also loading in extra gigabytes of 4K greatness, so launching Road Rage, was a massive shock, hitting the opening scenes in the game, I watched in horror as textures would load in after a few seconds, taking the game from Xbox quality to Xbox 360 standards.
The initial trailer released shortly before the previous release date of November 2016 didn’t look any worse, but after an extra year of development, It’s really disappointing to see a game that’s so badly optimised, thankfully it runs smoothly, so it seems obvious the development has been concentrating on a smooth experience, but even the One X can’t make it look good. Character models look more like GTA3 than anything more recent and I’m left scratching my head as to what the extra development time has been used for. Audio is marginally better, and while voice acting certainly isn’t A-list quality, there’s plenty of dialogue and the music, while frustrating at times (I reduced mine to 50% volume within 20 minutes) it’s still a better performance than visually.
98 Missions might sound impressive, but you’ll easily navigate through the story quests, especially if you save your money and only spend on required bikes and upgrades, after that the range of mission types from race, elimination, time trials and much in between might keep you going back for more, but after the initial novelty has worn away, you’ll be relying on the equally sparse multiplayer to provide any sort of value after the first few days.