My motorcycle between my legs, I scream over the rooftops. All I know is rage. There are other bikers around me, but I don’t like them, no sir. I take out my tactical axe and hack at them, kick at them, grab them and guide them into the back of a nearby log truck. This is the world of Road Redemption, an Early Access game I was gifted over the holidays that evokes Road Rash (or so I’ve been told, because that’s another game I’ve never played).
The game is simple – get on a bike, drive fast, kill others, fulfill missions, earn money, buy upgrades, eventually die, level up, do it again! Let’s break down these pieces and see what works and what doesn’t. I can understand that fiction and backstory isn’t a priority for an early access indie game, but there’s a weird divide here. Road Redemption does have a campaign (and a campaign+ that I haven’t unlocked) which has a weak fiction of wanting to travel across the USA, ending at the east coast. What happens when I reach the east coast? Do I finally fulfill the blood debt I owe my secret master? Do I ascend to be the next Redeemer of the Road? Do I finally get to see my long-lost son?? I never got there, so I may never know.
This trek to the east is broken into individual stages. Each stage has a mission, which is fairly simple: win the race, knock off this many dudes, stay alive. There are a few curveballs – sometimes you can only use kicks and grabs, sometimes you have to focus on policeman, sometimes there are cars raining from the sky. There’s enough variety to keep things fresh, but the truth is that the basic minute-to-minute gameplay is already super-fun.
The controls are decent, and there’s a good trade-off between speed and cornering (though NPC bikers seem like they’re much better than I am at actually just riding their hogs). The feeling of timing a well-struck hit with a melee weapon as you speed up or slow down to sidle up to a fellow rider is super satisfying.
Like every indie game since 2012, Road Redemption also has some rogue-like-lite-like permadeath and metaprogression elements. In between levels, I can use the money I acquire from finishing missions and hitting guys with sledgehammers to buy some upgrades. These can include consumables like health or nitro, but also can be more semi-permanent, like higher damage, more health pickups, and greater max nitro.
If my rider perishes anytime on his fated journey across the states, I have to start over. I lose all those upgrades and cash; however, the earned cash is then converted into experience, which I can use to buy actual permanent upgrades that are then carried across all future campaign attempts. It’s a nice touch, but not the main draw of Road Redemption.
The core of Road Redemption is fun, and that may be all it needs. It feels a bit unpolished certainly, and there are many minor (and more major) inconveniences I can point to, like the ugly terrain textures, the fact that you can get turned around easily and drive off into nowhere, and the physics of colliding into cars is a bit wonky. I’ve also run into a couple game-breaking bugs as well – a few times all my weapons become useless and one time my bike just started bucking like an uncontrollable hydraulics-enhanced low rider.
It really is a credit to the game that despite all of these problems, I continued to play and enjoy it. There is a silly, visceral thrill to the whole thing, and the basic controls are tight enough to make it all work.
I’m excited to see what progress Road Redemption can make going forward. There’s a promise of multiplayer that could make it a great party game. Right now, it’s a nice distraction which combines the thrill of racing with the silly carnage of a brawler. Perhaps I’ll even make it to Boston one day on my doom bike, leaving a pile of bodies behind to find my beloved lost hamster or something.