If you have nostalgia for arcade style racers but feel like a little combat action at the same time, Road Rage is now available on multiple platforms, but is it worth it?
Set in the divided city of Ashen, you play as a member of an outcast motorcycle gang who must race or assassinate rival gangs, perform stunts, evade the police and earn money to stay top dog amidst the anarchy.
Upon starting, Ashens backstory is explained via an edgy sounding narrator. As the scenes are motionless and there are no sound effects or music to accompany them, the introduction feels unengaging. It feels strange, given the non-stop action of the game itself. After that, control is handed over and the action begins.
At this point, players may scratch their heads as to why there is no tutorial for the controls. To find out, one must access the pause menu and go into the controls option for a description of each button’s function. The control scheme itself isn’t complex and doesn’t take long to get to grips with, vehicle handling, on the other hand, feels a little light and clumsy, to begin with. Motorcycles seem to handle much easier when upgraded or replaced by superior models.
Those familiar with the Grand Theft Auto series may notice straight away that Road Rage takes a lot of inspiration from it. There are different districts with varying aspects, police stars in the top right corner of the screen, a circular minimap in the bottom left and the rider gets given missions via his/her mobile phone. The phone is also used to view the map, although icons are miniscule even when fully zoomed in. This isn’t the case when viewing the minimap where mission icons appear clearly. Curiously there’s no key to explain what the icons represent so this is something you will discover as you play. You will also notice that there are seven hidden collectables to find,
although it’s not clear what they are. Tips do appear on loading screens but are no substitute for a tutorial.
Graphically, Road Rage looks rather rudimentary and dated. The streets are as bleak as one would expect in such a downtrodden city, so bleak in fact that you can never see more than a few metres ahead in the permanently hazy streets. As a result, sometimes during missions, you may find that other vehicles and even stationary objects such as lampposts will appear rather suddenly in your line of sight, often leading to collisions. Checkpoints and directional pointers, however, are very prominent so it’s easy to stay on track.
Puddles on roads add to the dreary surroundings but are quite a mystery because weather effects are absent. There is, however, daytime and nighttime riding. The districts seamlessly fit together as you ride from one to another with pedestrians suitably dressed for the area. For example, the rich Chitaly district has pedestrians in business suits and much taller buildings compared to Subtroit where you start off.
Road Rage has a rock soundtrack which perfectly matches the high-speed gameplay although there’s little variation as there aren’t many tracks. It’s a shame that the sound effects are lacking as there is no screeching of brakes, no variation in collision sounds and pedestrians are silent even when you plough into them. The voice acting itself often falls flat and some spoken lines are delivered at a painfully inconsistent pace, although thankfully the character’s dialogue boxes can be read on the phones messenger as they talk.
Road Rage has ninety-eight missions in total which consist of elimination races, timed races, assassinations, police escapes and stunts. Some are main story missions, shown on the map by a green star whereas others side missions which are spread about. Sometimes there will be entry requirements for the mission such as a particular motorcycle plus a fee. To do this you access the Clubhouse via the main menu but this is not explained. If a mission proves too challenging or you don’t have the funds, you can replay earlier missions and earn money for upgrades.
The difficulty is shown on the mission marker but for a number of them, the difficulty is inconsistent with the description. A number of ‘hard’ missions are actually quite fast and effortless compared to some of the ‘easy’ ones which can be long and frustrating.
Sometimes a mission can be made too easy because the AI opponents aren’t only slow but like to randomly veer off into other vehicles or obstacles.
Rivals can be knocked off of their bikes with your weapon which feels both satisfying and amusing but does take some practice. When you are in range, a button prompt appears indicating the perfect time to switch to combat mode and you are drawn alongside the other bikers as if by a magnet. A skull icon then appears above their heads and you can attempt to knock them off with whatever weapon you’re brandishing. It is particularly entertaining to knock one rider into another or into a whole pack. More weapons can be unlocked via missions or by purchasing with money earned and get wackier as the list goes on. They range from the standard baseball bat to hedge scissors, a selfie stick and even a medieval mace.
As well as weapons there are a variety of motorcycles and eighteen different riders. All of this, including vehicle upgrades and customisation, can be accessed via the Clubhouse option in the menu, which is very simplistic. It feels progressive to purchase upgrades but once again there are issues where a few descriptions wouldn’t have gone amiss, such as explaining what effect some of the upgrades would have on your bike. Riders have names but no personality profile or other details which may have made them feel a little more interesting to unlock.
The story itself is lacklustre and told entirely via messenger conversations. It can be hard to tell who is talking as there is only a small thumbnail image next to the text as they speak and the characters themselves are just as uninspiring. After a while, the missions can start to become monotonous. If you fancy playing with others there is the option to play multiplayer either online or local split screen.
Another issue with Road Rage is the number of glitches, some of which hamper gameplay. Don’t be surprised to find yourself hurtling through buildings on several occasions as clipping is a big problem. Opponents also have a tendency to vanish into thin air before your eyes. Even police chases lose their adrenaline factor because their cars get stuck, causing police stars to instantly vanish as their sirens continue to wail.
At other times game design itself is an issue, particularly regarding stunt missions where ramps are placed in some truly questionable places such as metres away from a fence. On the whole, Road Rage is very easy to pick up and play in short bursts. Short bursts are all one will likely manage before succumbing to the boredom of repetitive missions or frustration because of technical issues. It delivers on speed and action although, ultimately, is an unpolished game that lacks personality and fun factor.
+ Soundtrack is decent
+ Large variety of weapons, bikes and riders.
+ Causing carnage in combat can be satisfying
The not so good
– Technical issues
– Lack of descriptions or tutorials
– Repetitive missions
Final Score: 4/10