Publisher: Private Division
Genre(s): Action, Shooter, Sports
Platform: PlayStation 5 (also on PS4 and PC – Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 16/08/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Extreme sports games used to be a genre of games that were all the rage back in the late 90’s to early 2000’s. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Mat Hoffman BMX and Aggressive Inline to name a few, each having varying degrees of success. However, these games sort of died out, mostly due to over saturation of the market.
There has been a recent resurgence, mostly in part to Vicarious Visions 2020 remake of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Developers Roll7 have used this time to release their most recent game, an inline skating game that relies on a trick based system and the same sensibility of the skating games of the past, however with a twist.
So how does Rollerdrome play? Let’s roll on through to find out.
As stated on the game’s website, “The year is 2030. In a world where corporations rule and the lines between reality and performance are blurred, the public are kept distracted by the violence and excess of a brutal new blood sport — Rollerdrome.” The game sees you take control of the protagonist Kara Hassan, a newcomer to the Rollerdrome, who has taken out a massive loan to be able to compete in the competition, with the reward essentially taking care of all her debt, and then some.
The reason why I used the statement from the website is due in part to the fact that the story of the game could very easily be lost to those not looking for it. At first, you see some notes of the story, but the parts of Kara taking out a debt would be seen on a letter you can essentially not read. The story itself is mainly just a vehicle to get you into the main sticking point, the gameplay itself.
You remember me stating above that the game plays like Aggressive Inline with a twist. The twist is that, as stated in the story, a new bloodsport can’t be had without weapons. Developers Roll7 decided to add guns, such as pistols and shotguns, whilst you are skating elaborate arenas, designed to add enemy players known as House Players to take you down, with various weapons such as pistols and rocket launchers.
Your aim is to clear the arena, as quickly as possible, and to avoid the volley of gunfire, to progress further along in the Rollerdrome competition, until ultimately you become the champion. Skate or die was an expression I heard a lot as a kid on the skateparks, but this takes the expression to a literal new level.
You may be asking yourself (like I was before playing the game) if you are trying to avoid gunfire and lots of enemies, and trying to do so as quickly as possible, how would you have the time to reload? Or even avoid the gunfire? The developers give you ways around these.
To reload your guns, you have to do tricks, which depends on how long you can hold a trick, and variations upon which tricks you use. Like with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, you have various grinds and grabs to use to reload your weapons. However, if enemy fire comes your way, you have the ability to cancel out tricks with a dodge.
Shots towards you are indicated in different colours; red, grey and white. If the line is white, you have the ability to perfect dodge, which slows down time and an opportunity for a counter if you are close to an enemy. In conjunction with your weapons, you have a slowdown effect, which you can use to lock on to targets and gain perfect shots with certain weapons, which will be more powerful.
The gameplay is incredibly fluid and fun, however it comes with a steep learning curve. Whilst the early levels aren’t necessarily challenging, it would be quite easy if you aren’t prepared to be able to die a lot. In fact, I died a lot, and to note at the point of writing, I am still unable to complete the campaign. However, whenever you do happen to complete a challenging level, you do feel satisfied, and it is never for the game feeling cheap or badly designed. If you die on a level, it is due to either some bad choices or being ill-prepared. But these runs do help you in the future to plan better for the next one.
There is an art style – that was essentially very much a feature of the time in the early to late 2000’s – that also took a hiatus, like the extreme sports games, which was cel shading. If you are unsure what the term means, it basically gives games a more cartoon-like asthetic similar to film animation. Games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is probably the most famous example.
Rollerdrome uses a modernised and updated version of the cel shading art style, built for the current and previous generation of consoles, which show a great upgrade from what it was like on the Gamecube/PS2 generation. It is incredibly striking, and as well as the gameplay, makes Rollerdrome a game that will likely be remembered come the Game of the Year discussion at the end of 2022.
I reviewed Rollerdrome on the PS5, with the native version, however, it is also available on PS4 and Steam. So for the purpose of the review, I can only discuss the performance of the PS5 version.
I was astounded with how well this game ran, from the quick loading of levels, utilising the power of the hardware such as the SSD. Whilst I didn’t count the time it took from the start up of the game to the title screen, it was barely enough time to even pick up my phone to check a message or check twitter. The same could also be said about loading into levels.
The game appears to be running at a solid 60 frames per second, allowing for no drops in performance, and the action to always stay solid despite the large volume of bullets, rockets and people filling the screen.
Music and Sound
This is one of the only parts of the game that I would likely have any degree of criticism about. I must preface that the sound design, from the sounds of gunfire, rockets coming towards you, and the sounds of wheels hitting ramps, are very well designed and feel essential to the game, especially when some come through the speaker of the PS5 controller. Additionally, the triggers make a sound when they lock up whenever you are trying to take a shot with no aim. It is with this incredible integration of the PS5 controller and the 3D audio that helps to make Rollerdrome an immersive experience.
However, the soundtrack itself doesn’t appear to stand out at all. It may be a statement that is disparaging towards the composer, but it wasn’t particularly interesting to me, and even kind of drifted into the background, more likely overshadowed by every other part of the package such as the striking visual design.
Rollerdrome is an incredibly brilliant concept, whilst light on story, it fully focusses on a gameplay experience that gives the player full control of each run, with a great arsenal of weapons at your fingertips, putting you on the edge of your seat as you fight your way out of the arena alive. The challenge and the visuals may tend to put off a few, but it would be a mistake to sleep on Rollerdrome. For me, it is a serious contender for Game of the Year.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase Rollerdrome in the PlayStation store
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.