To put it plainly, Road Redemption technically isn't that impressive. It's very rough around the edges, in more ways than one, and it isn't doing anything truly groundbreaking. However, it knows exactly what it is and who it's for. This self-awareness doesn't take away the weaker aspects of the game, but odds are you won't care when you're bludgeoning opponents over the head with lead pipes and boosting over giant ramps.
This is an attempt at a modern take on Road Rash, that beloved arcade racer from the Mega Drive days that saw you speeding along on a motorbike, fighting extremely dirty to take first place. Road Redemption is much the same, but its main mode of play operates like a roguelite. Each time you play, the tracks throughout the campaign will be slightly different, and will offer various objectives. Some are straight races, while others see you taking down a set number of enemies, or getting to the finish line before a timer ticks down. If your health hits zero, the campaign is over, and you'll have to start again.
It's enjoyable, if pretty by-the-numbers these days. In between events, you can spend any cash you earn on temporary buffs to your health, boost, weaponry and so on, while XP will let you purchase permanent upgrades that persist across all runs. Interestingly, you can also play it in up to four player split-screen, but only player one's XP will count towards the permanent upgrade tree.
Alternatively, you can compete in quick play events -- regular races where you earn bronze, silver, or gold trophies to unlock more challenging ones. This is a good way to see everything the game has to offer if you're not into the roguelite angle. Online play is also included, and has its own progression path based on level that sees you earning more weapons to use, new riders to play, and more. Performance here holds up surprisingly well, but there does seem to be a lack of players at the time of writing. Races will start as long as there's at least one person per team, so you shouldn't have any trouble starting a game, but we've yet to experience a full 10-player online match. There doesn't seem to be any way to just play with your friends, either, which is a shame.
But what of the racing itself? This is a game that lives or dies on how it feels to play, and while initially it can feel a little fiddly, the handling and controls are pretty well done. You'll need to make fairly liberal use of your brake to make tighter corners, but the bikes are generally pretty nimble. However, if you do veer off-course or slam into something, you'll bounce off it like a rubber ball, sending you careening off to one side. Some intense rubber banding means you're never too far away from other racers, though, but it also means they're hot on your tail if you're in the lead.
Combat is where things start to get interesting with the controls. Square triggers an attack to your left, while you press triangle to attack to your right. Circle will deliver a kick that'll send other bikes spiralling away, and the d-pad is used to change weapons. You can deflect attacks with X, and grab an opponent with R1. If this sounds like a juggling act, it is, but after a while it somehow all clicks.
Weapons generally fall into certain categories, like melee, sword, guns, and explosives. Guns are, as you'd expect, highly effective but very unwieldy, while swords and clubs have their own strengths and weaknesses. It's not rocket science, but there's a teensy bit of depth to be uncovered here. Largely you can just keep wailing on someone until their health depletes, but there are certain circumstances where particular weapons are better than others. It's very scrappy and, again, can be tricky to get to grips with initially, but there's plenty of fun to be had here.
From a presentation standpoint, the game doesn't impress on any level. Environments are bland, characters and vehicles are unimaginative, and the sound design leaves a lot to be desired. It generally sticks to 60 frames-per-second, but it's also riddled with screen tearing and pop-in. Despite all this, there's an early 2000s air about Road Redemption that is somehow quite endearing. Much like the cheesy dialogue and finicky controls, the game's presentation exudes a certain old-school style that's rarely seen anymore. Sure, it's flawed in a few places, but it doesn't care, and neither should you.
Road Redemption feels like a PS2 arcade racer, for better and for worse. The high speed violence is fun to play in the decent roguelite campaign, online, and single races, and a cheesy tone keeps it down to earth. Visually, it's a generation behind, the controls take some getting used to, and there are undeniable performance problems, but there's a certain boldness and "screw you" vibe that somehow overrides these issues. If you're looking for a straightforward game to let loose in, this is a deeply flawed yet surprisingly enjoyable biker brawler.