First Impressions - Rollerdrome

July 26, 2022
FEATURES
PC
Also on: PS5

As far as games developers are concerned there really isn’t much to look forward to in the future.  If we’re not overrun by zombies, invaded by aliens or forced to survive in a post apocalyptic wasteland we’re almost certainly all going to be forced to take part in crazy televised bloodsports where death is the only runner up prize.

Fresh off the critical and commercial success of OlliOlliWorld, developers Roll7 are taking this fine tradition of creating a depressingly grim near-future in video game form, and releasing Rollerdrome, due out in just a few short weeks.  

In the distant future of 2030, the hottest sport on TV is Rollerdrome, a bloodsport where players on rollerskates armed with weapons compete in combat arenas, all set to the sound of retro futuristic synth-pop.

You play as Kara Hassan, a newcomer on the Rollerdrome scene with big dreams to become the best player on the circuit.  After a suspiciously basic amount of training, you are let loose in the titular Rollerdrome, a variety of free roam arenas that require you to kill baddies while looking as cool as possible in order to clock up a high enough score to top the International Rollerdrome Federation scoreboard. 

The game wears its inspirations on its polyester boiler suited sleeve– it’s an obvious throwback to movies like Rollerball, The Running Man and The New Gladiators.  But since all those movies were awesome it’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination.

The two main mechanics at work in this game are pulling off skate tricks, and blowing away your enemies in slow motion “bullet time”.  If you’ve ever dreamed of what the lovechild of Tony Hawk and Max Payne would look like, then this might be the game you’re looking for.

In fact this is where the developers have been extremely clever.  They have realised that practically everyone has played at least one of the Tony Hawk and Max Payne games before and have taken a strictly “if the mechanic ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.  It’s a clever way to make the game as pick-up-and-play friendly as possible. 

That’s not to say the game is easy.  I was lucky enough to get access to a preview copy of the first six maps of the game, and it took me at least 45 minutes to get past the first one alone.  Although the initial goal of each one is to not die and kill everyone else in the process, much like the Tony Hawk games each map has a variety of challenges you need to complete before moving onto the next one.  This might involve pulling off particular tricks, killing someone in a particular way or collecting various bonuses scattered across the map. 

The graphics have a highly stylised cel-shaded effect which makes the game look striking and suitably retro.  Not only that but for the PC gamers out there it makes it relatively less processor hungry. I managed to play the game on my 5-year-old laptop on the highest quality settings without any problems. 

Roll7 describes this upcoming release as a “flow state” game.  Flow, for those unaware, is what games devs refer to as the point at which a player is completely absorbed in a game, blocking out outside distractions and completely focused on what’s happening on screen.  This is how playing Rollerdrome feels, there’s always something to dodge, jump, collect, shoot or kill and the game requires your complete focus to do so.  If you die, it’s not because of some cheap shot that that game threw at you, it’s because you stopped concentrating for a split second and the only solution is to try harder next time.  Yes it’s intense, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

Imagine hitting a ramp, flying over an enemy's head while pulling off a sweet 720° Nose Grab, blasting him in the chest with a shotgun before landing perfectly and rolling away, all in super slow motion.  It just feels…right, not to mention making you feel like a total badass while you play it.

Rollerdome will be released on August 16 for PC, PS5, PS4 and I think this could be one of the sleeper hits of 2022.

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Iain Blank

PC gamer with an Xbox controller. As long as they keep making games I'll keep playing them.