Dark Seas Interactive have revived a classic 90s racing franchise with their game Road Redemption, a spiritual successor to the over-the-top motorcycle combat-racing game Road Rash that first launched on the Sega Mega Drive 25 years ago. I became aware of Road Redemption back in 2013, when Dark Seas launched a crowdfunding campaign to get the game off the ground. RR has been available on Steam Early Access since late 2014, and I decided it was finally time I checked it out.

roadredemption01I began the campaign mode and was greeted by the jolly fat man himself. Santa Claus was the default character on the rider select screen. Other surprises include Shovel Knight, sporting a metallic blue vest and Halloween Rider, whose head was a flaming pumpkin. The other riders were quite generic, although each possessed slightly different stats. The lack of female riders was disappointing.

Road Redemption’s gameplay is both fun and addictive. It has an arcade like feel to it, with the added gory carnage of weapons. Each player can carry up to three weapons at any time. You can use the weapons to take out the other riders, or force them into oncoming traffic. Taking out opponents earns you cash, experience, nitrous and obviously makes it easier to improve your race standings.

There is a large arsenal of weapons available. Bats, clubs, axes, shovels, C4 and a wide variety of firearms made the cut. My personal favourite is the 12 gauge shotgun, which is reloaded with the flip manoeuvre, just like Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2. The chain weapon made famous by Road Rash was nowhere to be found, despite appearing in the concept art. Approximately half way through the campaign, you acquire a grappling hook used to slow other riders and stop yourself falling off the track. The post-race screen informs you how many takedowns you scored with each weapon type.

The campaign mode currently does not feature a story (though it’s in the works for the full release). Instead, it simply shows your progress across a map of the U.S.A. Campaign mode randomly switches between races, eliminations and time trails. These events commonly take place in a desert or a city rooftop environment. Occasionally I was greeted by races which took place in a ‘hallucinogenic chemical spill zone’. This caused vehicles to fall from the sky and block my path. Other ‘events’ included escaping a carnado (tornado of cars) and raising my wanted level (a.k.a. Grand Theft Auto). The final event is homage to the final course in another popular racing franchise. I won’t ruin the surprise.

RR’s rogue-like features greatly expand the game’s replay value. Between races, you can spend cash on temporary upgrades, weapons and regain health. This is the only way to refill your health bar. When it’s empty…game over. An upgrade screen follows where you can permanently increase your stats for each new play through. The catch? Enemies get stronger too. The more I leveled up, the more frequently I faced horned riders with flaming bikes and actual trucks as opponents.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Road Redemption. It’s full of Road Rash nostalgia, and also a solid racing game full of surprises. I loved its original soundtrack, which covered most genres (even 8-bit) and reminded me of Tony Hawk Pro Skater. The game did have a few bugs, although nothing serious. Upgrading RR to utilise the Unity 5 engine has caused Dark Seas some lengthy delays, but it will be interesting to see how the final version shapes up and if story mode, online multiplayer and the consoles versions still go ahead. No doubt I will be paying close attention.

Michael Vane is a freelance writer who knows nothing about motorcycles. You can follow him on Twitter at @DrVane

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