There's a moment in all 11 of Rollerdrome's levels where everything just clicks. Runs rewarding grades unfit for college graduation are the norm in the latest game from OlliOlli World developer Roll7, but practise makes perfect, and this futuristic Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game knows how to make top marks feel good. The Birdman makes it look easy, and you will too having flirted with death enough times. Rollerdrome is a game all about movement, speed, and style. It feels extraordinary once you've mastered it.
What sets the game apart from the Activision classics of old, though, is your life's on the line. Rollerdrome shares its name with a blood sport for the paying masses that combines cool tricks with modish slaughter, and you've entered the preliminary round of the tournament. To come away still breathing, triumphing in the final is the only option.
The game's structure is therefore set: work your way through each stage and claim first place at the end of it all. A few first-person scenes break up the action and introduce a bit of narrative outside the contest itself, but they're forgettable. You're here to kick some arse and look cool while doing so, so Roll7 keeps them brief and skippable.
Action does most of the talking anyway, with rollerblades strapped to your feet and weapons clenched in your fists. For each and every stage, the goal is to kill all the enemies in the arena. You'll do so by combining tricks with bullets; each system lends a helping hand to the other. A limited pool of ammo is refilled by performing flips and grinds, and eliminating bad guys makes it easier to successfully pull them off. Therefore, the trick is to find a flow that allows you to smoothly transition between shooting and point scoring. You'll use up some shotgun shells to obliterate a few challengers, retreat to a half-pipe to get your ammunition back, and then return with a fully loaded grenade launcher to cause mayhem with.
This creates an incredibly fast-paced gameplay loop where you'll need to be thinking on the fly about the next target, judging what the right gun would be and whether you have enough rounds in the chamber to take them down. Different enemies demand distinct approaches too: a sniper will always be on your case as its sight line tracks you about the skate park. Meanwhile, bigger brutes will shoot land mines and projectiles to make navigating the field much more difficult. You'll quickly learn what to hunt first — if it's making your life a misery, take it down next.
The rush once you come out the other side unscathed, though, is exhilarating. It's the feeling that'll have you replaying levels simply for the fun of it and working through the list of optional challenges to better your score. It's a more approachable game than a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater too: you needn't worry about bailing when you don't line up your landing correctly and the timer counts up rather than down. Taking too long negatively affects your score, but with core progression purely tied to killing enemies, completing objectives within a set time limit isn't a concern. It turns the title into one just as approachable as it is enjoyable.
And boy is it enjoyable. Rollerdrome is one of those games that's tougher to convey because so much of its quality is wrapped up in game feel — you really need to play it for yourself to understand what's special about it. The rush of excitement as you flip through the air, slow down time and unload into an enemy, to then land safely on your feet and line up another target feels magnificent. Added depth is then sourced from Super Reflex moves, increasing your firepower and sending the swagger barometer into overdrive. You're very unlikely to play a cooler PS5 game this year.
Three hours of play will be roughly enough to roll credits on the main campaign, but with bonus objectives tied to every level, there's reason to return beyond the leaderboards that compare your score to friends and the rest of the world. Furthermore, a second game mode is unlocked upon completion of the base experience named Out for Blood, which allows you to play through the tournament again with increased enemy density and overall difficulty. While it may be more for the masochists among you, the mode is another way of extending your playtime and putting your skills to the ultimate test.
That is if the difficulty spike in the base campaign didn't already defeat you. There comes a point in the latter stages of Rollerdrome where the general difficulty may seem insurmountable as it throws so many enemies at you that it feels like a test of endurance rather than one of skill.
An example of this would be the par time, which almost doubles between stages as you progress from the quarter to the semi-finals. Beating the clock improves your score, and while you don't need to do so to progress through the competition, it's an illustration of how the game kicks into overdrive all of a sudden. Forcing you to survive for so much longer against significantly tougher enemies, it may come as a shock after breezing through the earlier rounds.
Although, if you do hit a brick wall, some accessibility options (invincibility, infinite ammo etc.) can be switched on in the pause menu. Your score won't be uploaded to the leaderboards, but you will make it through to the end of the Rollerdrome tournament.
At least replaying those later levels gives you another chance to appreciate the gorgeous art style featuring vibrant colouring, bold tones to boost locations, and detailed brush strokes upon the ramps of each and every skate park. It all looks beautiful in motion, especially when you're racing past with a guaranteed speeding ticket and rockets on your tail. Said to be inspired by comic books of the 1970s, it looks a bit like SEGA Dreamcast heavyweight Jet Set Radio, except Rollerdrome's cel-shaded look feels a bit bolder and in your face.
The only problem is there aren't enough environments in the game to add variety and really do the art style justice. The stages generally all fall into one of three categories: a standard skate park, a shopping centre, or an outdoor area that's either freezing cold or baking in the heat. It's fairly disappointing to reach the final stages of the competition, only to encounter what is essentially the exact same place from a few levels ago. Luckily, the white-knuckle action only allows you so much time to take in your surroundings before an enemy has a headshot lined up in their scope.
Without any graphical modes to speak of, the game locks you to a smooth and blistering 60 frames-per-second without even a hint of a drop. Roll7 has done superb work to ensure Rollerdrome keeps up with its high-octane combat; it feels great no matter what speed you're travelling at. If anything, it's actually refreshing to not have to tinker about with visual settings. We don't have to compromise the stunning graphics and the frame rate locks to 60 no matter what — great stuff.
The PS5's DualSense controller is also supported, but it's a really basic implementation. You may pick up on some slight differences in the feel of each weapon through the pad's triggers and haptic feedback makes itself known near bombs and missiles. However, it isn't anything to shout home about. It feels like the support is just there to tick a box rather than really go above and beyond to make the PS5 version distinct.
If there's an award for game feel, Rollerdrome wins it by a country mile. Roll7 has crafted a short but supremely sweet experience that feels incredible to engage with. No matter whether you're performing tricks or blasting enemies, its addictive loop will have you coming back for more. Complemented by a phenomenal, colourful art style and a real sense of speed, flow, and motion, Rollerdrome rivals the very best Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games.