by Christopher Coke
previewed on PC
Years in Wait
Road Redemption has the heart and soul of the Road Rash franchise. The two games are so similar, in fact, that I had to do some extra digging just to be sure the original creators hadn’t simply re-branded alike Mighty No. 9. But no, Redemption is a spiritual successor if there ever was one. From the very beginning, there is no mistaking that the developers have a deep love for the classic motorcycle-battler. Road Redemption is the modern envisioning of that franchise. It plays and feels almost identical. Even after years away, gracing the roads on my high-powered speed bike felt like coming home again – with all of the advancements of 2014 brought to bear.
The alpha is barebones at this point, featuring one bike and a scant few environments, but the core gameplay is already well-refined. It is clear that Dark Seas has spent its development time focusing on the races and high-speed brawls. So much the better, for these two elements are the foundation of the game. They promise procedurally generated tracks, full featured multiplayer, enemy AI factions, and hundreds of weapons. They’re also promising a single-player campaign with unlockable weapons and bikes and more than a few mission types.
An Inspiring Glimpse at What’s to Come
The content available in the game currently feels like a preview of what is to come. Loading in, you are given the option to choose your resolution and graphics settings, select the amount of players, and are thrown into a race with brief auto-pauses to share the control details. It’s simple, WASD movement with the right and left mouse buttons controlling your attack side. From there, it is double tap to boost and bash anyone that strays too close on your path to victory.
The available bike has weight which adds a considerable amount of depth to the original formula. It takes its cues from modern racers, demanding that you drift around curves to stay on track and keep your lead. Oncoming traffic can be a problem before you learn to hold your own but when you do the game’s difficulty drops dramatically. In less than an hour, I was trivializing the other racers. Part of this may be because the options menu is currently disabled and I was unable to manually increase the difficulty. When the game rates itself as “very difficult,” however, I expect more than what I received. There are many things left to complete in Road Redemption but AI needs to be addressed.
That said, the process of climbing to the top, is a lot of fun. As you defeat enemy riders, you acquire their weapons. Each has a unique weight and feel, making thumping someone with a bat a different experience than walloping them with a shovel. Enemies aren’t shy about hitting you back either and a couple smacks and a crash will easily take you out of the race. Road Redemption has an excellent sense of speed. Flying along its roadways with the land blurring to either side just to send an enemy sprawling behind you is an exhilarating experience.
At this point, the alpha progresses in a series of mission modifiers. One race might have you fight to come in first while another asks you to take out five opponents in a certain amount of time. Each race becomes progressively more crazy as you move from success to success. In the beginning you might be given a billy club. Later you will be limited to C4 and have to careen away wildly as you escape the blast of your enemy’s exploding bike. Traffic modifiers ramp up too, first adding density but soon making you a target for every car and 18-wheeler on the road. One race warns you, almost gleefully, to “prepare for a car storm!” before falling vehicles stream from the sky in a deluge of rending metal.
Still to Come
Though none of these were currently implemented in the build I had access to, Dark Seas promises to expand single player beyond the bloody combat race. Convoy Assault will see you lead your gang against the heavily armed escort of an 18-wheeler. Escape From Enemy Territory is a race across rooftops after an inner-city exchange goes bad. Assassin takes the race to the densely populated streets of that city as a rival gang leader fights to escape extinction. Ambush pushes that formula to an entire rival club.
Another new element coming to the game is firearms, which is the one area I remain unsure about, though Dark Seas promises that ammo will be a rare commodity. It is a stark move away from the blunt force battery players might be used to but it is easy to see how a sawed-off shotgun might be a fun addition to the game.
After a week with the alpha, I am excited to finally be back in the driver’s seat, katana at one side and chain at the other. For years, I, and fans like me, have wondered about the fate of the motorcycle brawler. Why had no one else ever taken up the mantle? Where were the motorcycle brawlers? Road Redemption is the answer to those questions. There is still work to be done before its August release, that much is sure, but the makings are in place for a supreme delivery on all these years of anticipation. The developers are active, asking for player’s feedback and updating their development blog, giving me high hopes for what is to come. This is a brand of mayhem you won’t want to miss. I certainly won’t be.