Graphics, controls, camera and gameplay unfortunately became a quick time sink port after a successful PC release several years ago. Nostalgia alone could not redeem Road Redemption on Android.
Road Redemption is a racing combat game where you can slice, shoot, kick and bash enemies off their bikes as you attempt to cruise to victory. After a biker gang leader assassinated, the cartel puts a bounty on the killer. It’s up to you and your gang to get them first. The premise is solid as the success of its predecessor Road Rash has shown. On the other hand, the nostalgia overload is where the fun took the exit ramp for me.
Racing games generally see a ton of customization and beautiful graphics due to the lack of variety in gameplay that is inherent to the genre. Road Redemption has extremely limited customization with graphics nowhere near the capabilities of current mobile phones. The quality was so low that even the game’s highest “ultra” setting had partial buildings and pop-in images all over the place. I had not played the PC version prior to the mobile, so I checked it out for comparison. I’m not sure what happened with the PC version’s beautiful graphics, but this mobile version ran out of gas. At a time where mobile phones feature OLED screens and 60 FPS capability, there really is no reason to have a game port with this low quality.
Often times, ports like these will feature lower graphical quality because of the large amount of content in the game. However, that isn’t the case with Road Redemption either. We are offered two ways of playing with Quick Play and Campaign, with the former being a simple one-off race. The latter features several different areas and is simply a longer version of Quick Play. Completing campaign races allows you to choose from auto-generated upgrades after each one by using money earned during the race. You can choose for an extra boost in attack power, restore health, etc. These upgrades, however, disappear once you lose a race. I appreciated the sense of strategy in having to decide on literally “ride or die” with the ability to balance the upgrade decisions. On the other hand, the money earned during the race that allowed you to purchase these upgrades was so low that often I couldn’t even purchase upgrades when needed due to the auto-generated setting. More than half the time I needed some health and had the funds to purchase it, there was no option for me to do so. As a result, I couldn’t make it too much further.
During the race saw a lot of what I call “leave it up to God” moments. It’s normal being a motorcycle game that you are going to bump into a lot of other bikers, cars, rocks, etc. Road Redemption saw no rhyme or reason to the result. Sometimes I would bump into another bike at fast speeds on a curve with no negative consequences. Other times, I would be hardly moving at all and go flying off my bike into space. It became incredibly frustrating as I was unable to plan out any strategy for taking down enemies as I wasn’t sure what would happen.
You do have several weapons at your disposal in Road Redemption. There are wrenches, swords, bats, pipes, guns, C4, etc. You can also kick enemies off their bikes or even grab them and toss them into another car. This was my favorite way to dispatch enemies, but it again quickly became annoying as I’d be forced to crash randomly by the game’s mechanic. Some enemies feature resistance to certain weapons, which I appreciated. For example, “armored” enemies were more susceptible to blunt damage opposed sharp weapons. This would force me to keep my variety and strategy up while maneuvering the bike. The flip side saw some interesting questions though. For example, I wasn’t sure why a ninja sword would have literally zero impact on an enemy and simply bounce off his helmet like a fly. I mean, it’s a sword. I may be able to wrap my head around lesser damage, but none at all?? As I said, it’s a freakin’ sword. It has to do something. Chopping off heads of bikers and seeing the bikes go flying was funny and also featured environmental effects. Bikers would crash into other enemies to see them knocked down, and C4 exploded vehicles would also do the job of multiple casualty inflicted damage.
The biggest downfall of Road Redemption is the campaign progression. It’s literally a crap shoot if you can survive due to the randomness of the upgrade system after each level. You may not get what you need to be available and die as a result. It would be different if you were forced to play very well to get the needed funds, but it’s not the case. Also, dying sees all your progression lost to the wind and the upgrades earned after each level disappear. At this point, you are brought to a separate upgrade menu where you use your XP to purchase “permanent” upgrades. These persist through death and start with you the next time you play the campaign from the beginning. Things like increases to weapon damage, XP earned, money earned during races, etc are all available. The issue is the balance in which the game offers them. First, you earn XP at such a low rate that you may not even be able to purchase an upgrade. As a result, your death is meaningless and literally a waste of time. Second, purchased upgrades offer such minimal increases that it’s not worth the effort. Third, you’ll need to die at least a dozen times before you have the ability to purchase an upgrade allowing you to start at say level three opposed to the first level.
Playing the game itself was a chore due to the lacking control system. The phone’s touch screen system offers a tap or swipe option for navigation and weapons, but both had functional issues. The tap was so delayed that often times my animation would not even start. The swipe function was so sensitive that a simple touch would see my bike rocket across the screen and crash. For a mobile game, it wasn’t acceptable that it required my Xbox controller to function adequately.
Overall, there wasn’t much redeeming about Road Redemption as it portrayed all of the issues you would expect out of three-year old game port.