Road Rage is perhaps the most appropriately named game I’ve ever played. Sure, I controlled a member of a motorcycle gang as I street raced my way through a city, using anything from hockey sticks to swords to physically assault my competition and pedestrians. The real rage, however, is that which I felt within me from playing this game.
The lightest of story elements guide you through the main missions, unlocking each of the seven map regions as you progress. Simplistic text messages take the place of cutscenes and include surprisingly amateur sounding voiceover. I don’t know if this is the case, but it certainly feels like the voices were performed by random developers with no experience in voice acting. I don’t want to drag on about this too much, just know it’s bad. I wanted to skip my way through all of them but sat through each and every one. In one of the regions, my contact was somebody doing their best attempt at an Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation. At this point, I questioned if the entire thing was going for a cheesy “so bad it’s good” quality to the story, but I think somebody just thought it would be funny. It wasn’t.
Though nothing in Road Rage looks particularly pretty, I found the regions themselves to be varied and interesting. The graphics look like they could have been seen at least a console generation ago. Pop-in is a perpetual sight. If I was traveling at high speed, I’d see cars actually spawning in above the road and falling down onto it.
The overall presentation is poor, but the gameplay is unfortunately worse. Where do I even begin? The first thing I noticed is the controls are very touchy. Making tight corners with any sense is speed is near impossible. Even fully upgraded brakes can’t slow you down quick enough to not lose positions on 90 degree turns, but there is one other option. The handbrake, mapped to the cross button on PS4, is like a gambling minigame in its own right. Sometimes I’d luck out and make a turn at nearly full speed. More often, using the handbrake would result in turning either too quickly or sliding through the turn, which presents a whole new set of problems.
Mission types include arcade-style checkpoint races, combat focused “assassination” missions, A to B sprints, variations of circuit races, and stunts. I preferred sprints because they were the most reliable. I just open the map and figure out how to get to the end. Stunt missions are the worst. They involve minor stunts, asking us to clock in several seconds of air time on jumps, pop a wheelie for a short time, and perform “near misses” with cars. I had to replay these missions many times to complete them. The wheelies are easy enough, but rough controls made it hard for me to reliably drive up the ramps. Even when I did, sometimes landing cleanly on two wheels would result in a fireball explosion. A lot of the time it’s hard to find enough cars to perform the near misses. I found out I could cheese my way through it by slowly passing a car, then stop and reversing past them, which counted for a second near miss. Repeat that enough times and the mission would come to a merciful end.
The collision physics in Road Rage are infuriating. The only thing consistent about them is the constant sense of dread I felt in never knowing for sure if I’m going to crash into that building and respawn, drive through that building and fall out the bottom of the map, or maybe I’ll hit that table in front of the building and come to a full stop but not actually crash. I’m not even sure which of those scenarios is the worst. If I don’t actually crash, I have to reverse at a snail’s pace and try to get back up to speed, which loses a ton of ground. If I do crash or fall through the map, however, respawns are very fast but many times drop me either pointing the wrong direction or on a different road altogether.
Sometimes I would drive completely through a roadside guardrail. Other times I’d drive halfway through it, and my bike would get stuck. Unable to move forward or backward, I sat there as my race lead dwindled away, with just two checkpoints to go. The 2nd place bike eventually missed the turn, blew me up, and caused me to respawn. But the damage was done, I didn’t win the race and thus failed the mission. Now I had to start from the beginning of a five-plus plus minute race that I was 15 seconds away from winning. Something like this happening once or twice isn’t the biggest problem, but I blame buggy physics for making this game take probably a couple hours longer to complete than it would have otherwise.
The AI is simultaneously cheap and stupid. At the start of a race, they will *always* try to lean into you and attack you. At this point I should mention that every weapon in the game is a one hit kill. If you get hit, you crash. The only difference in weapons is how long it takes to swing them. And that doesn’t matter too much because the hit detection with the weapons is as unreliable as the game’s map clipping. So I would usually start each race at a deficit, getting knocked down almost immediately. I started just not driving at the start of races to avoid it. It was then that I noticed the AI rarely attacks each other. I would follow the pack and see them driving around corners three and four bike wide without even attempting to attack each other.
Fortunately, their primary focus on only attacking me could be overcome by how bad they usually were at driving. They got a bit better near the very end of the game, but the AI often looked like they were other humans suffering through the poor controls. They would slide through corners and crash into building and cars more often than me. There was no sign of any rubber banding, so my usual strategy was to look for a hole to drive to the front and stay there. I could then relax a little bit, take the turns a bit slower, basically just focus on not crashing. Doing that, the other riders could rarely catch up to me as they would keep respawning for various reasons other than actually trying to attack each other.
Some of the game involves police chasing you, using a GTA style five star wanted system. The police are worse drivers than the AI racers. I frequently caught them driving in circles, stuck in an infinite loop, running over pedestrians with zero disregard for public safety. Their sole focus is to drive into me at full speed. When they miss, they can fly off the road and get stuck on trees or other geometry very easily. If they do hit me, I usually respawned immediately. But sometimes I got a “Busted” message and respawned further away and gained $2 in game. I never understood why.
In theory, multiplayer exists in Road Rage. I can’t tell you anything about it other than it’s an option in the menu. I repeatedly attempted to try it out, but every single time I would get a message that the host disconnected. The game then kicks me out to the main menu and I have to go through a couple load screens to get back to the open world before I can try again.
I was actually very excited to play Road Rage. It reminded me of the times spent with friends playing local multiplayer on Road Rash 64. This looked to be a new imaging of that previously successful formula. I can barely express how disappointing it was to review this game. The combat is clunky, the physics are confounding, the controls are very touch and I never grew comfortable with them. The AI is out to only get the player, but they’re also brain dead and will just drive into a tree and get stuck until you drive far enough away for them to despawn. Multiplayer is literally broken, it actually doesn’t load. From beginning to end this was a chore to play, and I couldn’t wait to be done with it.