Universal praise for a game is always something that will draw skepticism from me as it’s rare that a game will please everyone that plays it. Indeed this is the reason why I try to avoid the hype for any game now as I’ve had far too many receive wide critical acclaim (Bayonetta being the greatest example of this) only to find out that they just didn’t merit the high scores that were granted to them. Universal derision on the other hand is far more reliable with games that get hit with bad review after bad review usually being quite deserving of the title. Thus when I read about so many people taking Ride to Hell: Retribution to task I couldn’t help but witness this trainwreck for myself.
The year is 1969 and Jake Conway is a Vietnam veteran, returning home for the first time. He’s part of a biker gang, one that still has a lot of rivals, but he’s not interested in that, he just wants to live a quiet life with his brother. Past rivalries quickly catch up with him however and his brother is brutally murdered in front of him and Jake is mortally wounded. He survives, somehow, and swears revenge upon those who did this to him. So begins your ride to retribution, one that’s filled with poor game design choices and ludicrously bad implementation.
If Ride to Hell was an iOS/Android game I’d give it a pass for graphics as they’re at the level I’ve come to expect from a mobile platform. However this game saw a release on both major consoles and PC which means they knew they had a decent amount of grunt to work with and simply didn’t make use of it. Now this is usually done for a reason, like when you’re expecting a lot of action on screen and don’t want the FPS to drop, but Ride to Hell has none of that and so the only conclusion you can come up with is that either the developers ran out of time or they were simply not capable of producing something that was better. I’m tending towards the former however as the rest of the game smacks of something that was rushed to release.
For starters the models and animations are either weird or just plain terrible. For starters look at the hands above, for Jake on the left they look normal-ish but on his brother they’re freakishly oversized. Not only that his jacket is fully rigid, hovering a good half a foot off his back at all times. It gets worse when every character flaps their mouth in a wide gape every time they talk which just draws attention to the stiff animation of nearly everything else within Ride to Hell. Indeed you get the feeling that some of this stuff was just placeholder animations whilst they worked on getting better ones in but they just never got the time to do so.
This rushed feeling permeates throughout Ride to Hell as nearly every aspect of the game feels like there was so much more planned for it but it never saw the light of day. Even in it’s decidedly half-assed state the game still takes up a whopping 10GB worth of space which, when compared to something like Tomb Raider which is about the same size, shows that their ambitions far exceeded their grasp. All this is likely a product of its tumultuous origin story which has seen this turd of a game be in development for 5 years prior to its release.
The port to PC hasn’t done it any favours either as they’ve literally just made sure it works on the platform and then done nothing to improve the experience. Like many gamers I have a native resolution for my monitor and if I don’t play games at that res then they tend to look like crap. Well Ride to Hell doesn’t even have an option to change the resolution nor any other graphics options that have been standard for years. Worse still all the menus and interfaces show their console first nature with the mouse being unusuable in any of them. They also break several gaming conventions for typical bindings for command keys, a sin few can get away with.
Combat in Ride to Hell is a mixture of third person cover based shooting and “freeflow” beat ’em up combat. It’s obvious that different sections of the game were designed for different types of combat however you’re free to choose whatever method you see fit. So this means if the developers wanted you to melee the next section and you whip our your gun it’s quite likely you can take out the whole room as they run blindly at you. Similarly if an enemy was programmed to use his guns then you going in fists first usually means they won’t block at all and you can take them out rather quickly.
The AIs also seem to have no idea about line of sight as there were many time s I could hear gun shots but not see any bullets flying nor the enemy that was shooting them. Eventually I’d find one of them hiding behind a pillar or something similar, randomly firing rounds in my direction but hitting the giant obstacle in their way. You could also do the old hide just around the corner trick where they can see you, but not hit you, and then just line up the perfect head shot to take them out in one go. Even the melee guys, who in most games will charge directly at you in order to get you to engage, just stand there doing nothing if you’re around a corner. Needless to say the AI needs a lot of work if it even wants to match 2008 standards.
It’s obvious that Ride to Hell: Retribution was designed to be some kind of open world game, ala Grand Theft Auto. The first indication I got of this was a lot of the dialogue made reference to locations with directions, as if you were going to be taking yourself there. Indeed the amount of assets used between sections for the various races/quick time event combat encounters would lead you to believe that it’s one big continuous world. It’s pretty much confirmed when you get given your home base which allows you to choose missions, buy upgrades and customize your ride which are all features you’d expect in a sandbox style game.
The amount of effort put into these side features shows that the ambitions of this game were much higher than what they managed to achieve. The bike customization for instance is pretty detailed with nearly every part of the bike customizable. However the second you get to it 90% of the parts are unlocked with only a few requiring you to do something to be able to use them. Not only does this remove much of the incentive to keep on playing it also signals that they likely had many more collectibles/achievements planned that would unlock additional bike customizations.
The skill/weapon upgrade system is incredibly basic, to the point where it looks like it was slapped on at the last minute to give the player some sense of progression. However since all the weapons are available to you it doesn’t make sense to buy anything but the best in its category and after the first mission you have enough cash to buy the best one from at least one of the weapon classes. The melee combat skills are simply not worth your time as they don’t fundamentally change the way combat flows nor do they make it particularly easier.
Ride to Hell: Retribution is terrible, suffering from development woes that should have seen it dead and buried, not released to the public in it’s god awful state. Every aspect of it is unfinished and the band aids put on top to try and it up only make it worse, highlighting every undeveloped aspect. There’s really nothing redeemable about Ride to Hell at all except for maybe it serving as yet another text book case of why some games should just be allowed to die rather than be released to the public. I honestly feel for the devs as it looks like this game was meant for so much more but its development story has instead resulted in this turd that’s only appeal is how terrible it is.
Ride to Hell: Retribution is available on PC, Xbox360 and PlayStation3 right now for $14, $68 and $68 respectively. Game was played on the PC with around 2 hours of total play time and 21% of the achievements unlocked.