Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Anyone with even a passing fancy in low-fi, dystopian '70s sci-fi, like 1975 James Caan classic Rollerball, is going to want to keep an eye on Rollerdrome. Right from the off, it apes exactly the kind of analogue-tech vision of the future from those movies, placing you in a locker room with a slide projector, before jettisoning you into an arena, where you're locked in a frenetic fight for your life. The game's cel-shaded comic-book art style is immediately eye-catching, but it's that same brand of fluid, 'flow-state' gameplay, which made the OlliOlli series so endlessly enjoyable, that makes Rollerdrome such an enticing prospect. It's also the answer to the age-old question: what if Tony Hawk's Pro Skater had guns? And rollerskates - retro-style, four-wheeled rollerskates.
Indeed, Rollerdrome even adopts the classic Pro Skater controller layout, using X to ready a jump, triangle to grind rails and ledges, and square (combined with a direction) to execute grabs. Meanwhile, circle has you leaping to dodge the bright-red laser sights of snipers, and volleys of rockets, because in Rollerdrome everyone is out to kill you. As newcomer Kara Hassan (following in the footsteps of her hero, Morgan Fray), you'll participate in 2030's most brutal bloodsport, at the behest of the Matterhorn megacorporation, a typically shady outfit, using the popular televised Rollerdrome event to distract the people from its underhand dealings. When will there ever be a legitimately nice corporation, eh?
The sport of Rollerdrome itself involves fending off the International Rollerdrome Federation's so-called 'House Players', enemies dropped into the arena armed with baseball bats, rocket launchers, shields, and an array of other weaponry. Killing them rewards you with health pickups, while racking up points and combos sees the judges granting you ammunition. Fail to string together combos and perform tricks, and your guns will run dry (with a disconcerting click from the DualSense), leaving you horribly vulnerable – and so the only way to ensure your survival is to master the art of shooting foes while executing daredevil stunts. It's a beautiful alchemy of mechanics that proves to be deliciously moreish, and few things are quite as gratifying as flipping through the air while blasting an enemy, then casually wallriding away.
A delectably sugary icing on Rollerdrome's cake is the implementation of 'Reflex Time', an ability that enables Kara to temporarily enter a slow-motion state, lending you valuable breathing space to line up shots, plot a course to a ramp, or simply decide what the hell to do next amid the chaos. Juggling each of these skills to optimum effect is the secret sauce in Rollerdrome, and after the tutorial and first few stages ease you in gently, things soon ramp up fast. Before you know it, you'll be dodging missiles in mid-air, gracefully barreling between enemies while switching weapons, and stringing together combos to ensure your ammo supply doesn't become depleted. Really hone your skills, and you'll be executing Perfect Dodges or achieving the holy grail of the Super Reflex, slowing time to a crawl for a few precious seconds, should you successfully pull off a Perfect Dodge and immediately follow it up with Reflex Time.
The real trick to survival in Rollerdrome (and keeping up with closest rival, Caspar Ickx) is maintaining a constant flow, lest you leave your arse hanging out, ripe to be blasted into oblivion by the myriad enemies out for blood. Early on, it seems that you can limp across an arena, dispatching the House Players without worrying too much about tricks, but as you progress, that's less of an option – you'll need to get to grips with the art of busting moves and blowing away the competition. Each mission has a series of challenges to complete, too, whether it's beating the scores of other Rollerdrome contenders, collecting all of the combo tokens, popping a specific trick in a specific part of the map, or taking down an enemy in a certain way, sometimes with a certain weapon. Stages must be completed within a par time, too, otherwise your score will be subject to a nasty penalty.
On the basis of its first few missions, Rollerdrome is in fine shape, handling like a dream, deftly fusing fluid trick mechanics with the nuts and bolts of a third-person shooter. Developer Roll7 has proved that it's a dab hand at creating addictive and mechanically complex games, free of needless fripperies, and, with Rollerdrome, it not only looks poised to repeat the trick, but to also deliver something entirely unique. Its down and dirty futuristic 1970s comic-book style is not only hugely appealing, but the second-to-second quality of the skating and shooting mash-up marks Rollerdrome out as one to watch.
Rollerdrome is coming to PlayStation 5. PlayStation 4, and PC on 16th August.
Tuesday, July 26, 2022 @ 01:04 PM
Wednesday, July 27, 2022 @ 11:04 AM