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Ride to Hell: Retribution - Review
Writing reviews, at least for me, typically involves a fairly simple format: point out the things I liked, the things I didn't like, and maybe discuss which games/films have had an influence on the title. I sometimes might give a bit of history about the development of the game or, if it's a sequel, what I thought of the earlier instalments.
I'm not going to do this for my review of Ride to Hell: Retribution.
Instead you're going to get a step by step, or rather word by word, account of my experience playing the first two hours of the game. And if you're still around by the end (or have skipped ahead) then you'll realize why.
So I immediately notice the developer's logo flash up on screen: Eutechynx, a company name that sounds like either a small bone in the body, a dinosaur, or possibly some obscure STD, I'm not sure. Suffice to say it's a bizarre name for a company that I can't pronounce, and I wasn't sure what they had previously developed. I also notice that the game is powered by Unreal Engine 3, a little odd, I thought, for a game that was presumably about driving (Unreal Engine 3 is notable for being good at making pretty corridors for first-person shooters, not roads).
After getting through the main menu I start the game in earnest. I see the main character, Jake, driving down a road on his bike. Straight away I notice the graphics aren't that good, but hey, there's more important things than pretty...BAM, just like that, with no context or preparation whatsoever, I'm thrust into a turret gun section. A group of gangsters, I presume, are pouring out of a canyon to stand politely next to a bunch of bright red barrels whilst they shoot at me. The game then informs me to shoot said red barrels, which wouldn't be too difficult except the aiming feels like my character is moving through treacle.
I manage to adjust to the game's poor aiming and start mowing down these nameless enemies with leaden death. There's two left, I take aim, and...BAM, the game shifts straight back to a cutscene, as Jake is beating the crap out of some guy. There's a few button prompts, and then some more cutscenes that don't make much sense.
After that I make it to the beginning of the game in earnest. Jake has just left Vietnam and headed back home it seems. He's greeted by his uncle, called Mack, who sounds like a cave troll. Seriously, I don't know who they got to voice him, or why he needed a voice that deep, but it's that bad that I couldn't make out a lot of what he said.
Jake also catches up with his younger brother, Mikey, and they share a stiffly animated hug. I have to remind you at this point that I've been playing for around 15-20 minutes and have yet to experience proper gameplay. The dialogue during this opening is terrible; it's not the worst acting I've ever heard in a game, but it's so boring. There's no atmosphere and the script isn't even dolling out much exposition, it's just mumbling along about nothing.
Eventually, Mikey takes off on Mack's bike so I'm sent to chase him down and bring him home. Right, here we go, first taste of true gameplay. The bike's controls are simple: R2 to speed up, L2 to slow down. Notice I say slow down and not stop. You can't actually stop your bike, what's more, all the roads you drive down are straight, meaning that I'm barely interacting with the game at all. To make up for this, literally every item imaginable has been thrown onto the roads so that you have to move a bit. It looks ridiculous and it's made worse by the fact that the driving controls have that same unresponsiveness that the gun section had. So I'm chasing after Mikey, crashing into what appears to be the remnants of some apocalyptic event, when the game cuts abruptly and declares that I've caught up with him.
After yet more cutscenes with bland dialogue, Mikey goes and annoys a gang of bikers called the Devil's Hand, who then chase after him and Jake. Also, all of these cutscenes are bookended by loading screens that take a good 20-30 seconds to get through most of the time, making the process even more dull. So I'm back on the bike with the terrible driving controls, thinking that this might be a little better since I should get to see some combat now. Except there isn't any combat, it's just more button prompts, a driver pulls alongside me, I mash one button, and he eventually falls off his bike. While I'm doing this a timer starts ticking down in the corner of the screen. I'm given no explanation what this means, do I have to kill all of them in that time, or do I have to escape?
I still have no idea what it was for because, after a killing a few guys with my button mashing skills, a loading screen pops up and, all of a sudden, Jake and Mikey have been captured by the Devil's Hand. It would have been nice of the game to have shown me this, but no, it couldn't be bothered. Fast forward through some more boring dialogue and the introduction of yet more terrible character models, and I don't just mean the graphics, these guys just look terribly designed full stop. It turns out the Devil's Hand had some issue with Jake and Mikey's father, so they knife Mikey and shoot Jake. At point-blank range. Several times. And he survives. One cut later and Jake is all healed up and out to get revenge, retribution even, for what the Devil's Hand have done.
After that I'm sent on a lead to hunt down the first of the members, Anvil, and I'm back on the road doing a driving section. I have to stress once again how utterly pointless these sections are. You aren't driving. The game is moving you forward constantly, you can barely turn and there's nothing for you to do bar "powerslide" (i.e. push one button) in order to slide under petrol tankers that have found themselves inexplicably stuck right in the middle of the road. Also, if you crash into something, the game instantly resets you on the middle of the road to hide the fact that there's no way of reversing. That is, of course, if you don't simply clip through whatever you drive into, which happened on several occasions. However, the best part is, I take a second to look up what Eutechynx have developed before, and they're known for racing games! Racing game specialists developing a game that doesn't even have basic driving functionality. I'm pretty sure that this game is a pure trolling effort on their part.
So after a ridiculously long driving section I then have to beat up a few thugs to find Anvil. The fighting is just as atrocious as everything else: X punches, and square breaks through the enemy's block. Occasionally, you have to tap triangle in order to counter an enemy attack. It's like Batman: Arkham Asylum, only terrible.
I'm then sent to San Alfonso where Jake is accosted by a very busty prostitute...well...I think she's meant to be a prostitute. It's never explicitly said, but the second Jake steps of his bike she immediately offers to have sex with him. It could just be that the developer's concept of representing woman is stuck somewhere in the 1930s. However, Jake's got bigger things on his mind than sex, like retribution. I just breathe a sigh of relief that this game doesn't attempt to render a sex scene...
Just after stepping out of a potentially sexist scene I walk straight into a drug dealer...who just happens to be Hispanic. Now I'm not saying the developers are doing this deliberately, or that they're the only ones that do this, but I do have to question their judgment when they use crude stereotypes. Carlos the drug dealer points me to the nearby motel where Anvil is meant to be. I take it slowly, moving around the building ready to take him on. However, he manages to get away, and I'm told to give chase.
The game then instructs me to get on my bike in order to chase Anvil down. The problem is I have no idea where my bike is, and neither does the game. I flounder around the parking lot looking for my ride as a timer ticks down in the corner. The game shouts at me "He's getting away!".
"I know!", I shout back, cursing at the screen. At least I know what the timer is for. Just as the clock is running out some fat guy in the parking lot decides to just punch Jake on the back of the head for no reason. Who is this mystery assailant? I had no time to figure out though since I'd just failed the mission.
After about three failed attempts the smallest possible icon pops up pointing out where my bike is. It's a whole street away. What I love though, is that the woman from earlier is still stood there, as if she had nothing better to do than wait for Jake to get back.
After all that, I'm back to chasing down Anvil. The driving sequence is identical to the one with Mickey earlier in that it's impossible to actually catch up with him until the game decides it's time. More thugs show up which are met with my awesome button prompt-pressing skills. What I do become aware of this time though is what Jake does in order to fight the other bikers. He wields a weapon, only it's a magic weapon because it changes each attack. First, it's a knife, then it's a wrench and then he also manages to whip out a broken bottle to smack a guy with. Jake wasn't kidding when he said he'd come prepared.
Once that chase is over, Anvil manages to escape into the Birkin Brewery. I say escape, what he actually does is drive under a metal shutter which Jake doesn't get to in time. Rather than, I don't know, bash down a nearby door to get in, he gives up. He just doesn't know how he's going to get into this brewery. A woman nearby is working on a truck, Jake strolls on up and basically says "Women don't work as mechanics". Jake just went from incredibly bland, to horrible, in just one swoop.
The woman's name is Sarah, except she never introduces herself as Sarah, that's just what the subtitles refer to her as. No, really, I'm almost certain she never says what her name is. Anyway, she explains that her husband has her wedding ring that she wants back and that if Jake helps her get it from her husband she can get hold of the keys to the brewery too. Why does Jake need to do a fetch and carry quest when he can just break down a door?
Cue another pointless driving sequence, which may as well just be an additional two minute loading screen since there isn't anything else to do before arriving at Sarah's place. After yet another loading screen I realize that something is wrong with the picture. The textures haven't loaded. Jake turns to Sarah, who now looks like some aborted project from Aardman Animations, and instructs me to find her husband. Once the textures have loaded properly (it takes about a minute), I notice there's a huge building in front of me. I assume that's where her husband is, since it's the most prominent building. The second I walk near the gates "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY. TURN AROUND." splats in front of the screen, because don't you dare think of going exploring!
My actual location is a horrible little hut stuck in the corner of the map. Sarah's husband and his cronies walk out and Jake attacks them with all the grace of an arthritic old man. After they eventually fall, Sarah comes over and thanks Jake for a job well done; she's got her ring back and so now she can get me into the brewery. She looks at Jake with what I suppose is might to be a seductive stare, but looks more like she's half asleep, and says "This girl can do a lot more than start an engine."
"Yes," I think to myself, "you could learn to load your face properly".
Then the worst thing so far happens. There's a sex scene. Not just any sex scene, no, the worst sex scene to ever afflict the video game art form. You thought that awkwardly animated bonking in Dragon Age: Origins was bad? It's positively life like compared to the stuff you see in this. Best of all, they keep their clothes on because the developers didn't have the energy to create shirtless character models. Now, in a sense, it's a blessing in disguise because the thought of Eutechnyx attempting to model the naked human body makes me want to throw up a little. Can you imagine what it would have been like if the character textures hadn't loaded again? Suffice to say, it's horrible and there's no possible reason why it should be in the game.
Sarah does however advise Jake on getting some guns, which is then set as my next objective. Geez, how does Jake even know if Anvil is still at the brewery after all this time? Before getting back on my motorcycle, Mack calls and tells me to go see a guy called Tyrell Jones at an old army base to pick up some guns. He also says he's going to meet me at the brewery to provide some back up, which is good, because if there's one thing that Anvil's thugs will fall to it's Mack going all Mordor on their asses.
Fortunately, I don't have to drive to the army base, Jake jump cuts there. I also meet Tyrell Jones, or as I prefer to call him: Beard Man. The bearded one tells Jake he "doesn't hand out firearms to just anybody", instead you have to fight hand to hand in order to prove yourself, because violently assaulting people is a clear sign that you'll be responsible with guns. He calls in his two best men who I promptly beat to a pulp, and he seems happy to give me the guns after some weapons training.
This is what broke me. It seems relatively small in hindsight, compared to some of the other nonsense I'd put up with up until this point. Tyrell instructs me to use a shooting range armed with a pistol. It's a shooting tutorial basically. The controls are still poor and the cover system doesn't always work. After passing the pistol test, I move onto the rifle and then the machine gun. I only got a "C" grade on the first two tests because of how bad the aiming is, on the machine gun test, I failed. Rather than let me retry the game drops out to another menu and I have to reload right at the start of the shooting range. That was it, I couldn't take anymore. I haven't played any more of Ride to Hell: Retribution and I don't ever plan to.
It takes a lot for me to not finish a game, especially if I'm planning on reviewing it. Even played just to see how bad it is just makes for a horrible experience. Quite frankly, this game should never have been released, it was cancelled once, so I have no idea what made Deep Silver or Eutechnyx decide to revive the game. Oddly enough, there's a "1%" sign on the title poster of the game, that should give you a clue about the quality of this game. Avoid.
Ride to Hell: Retribution was released, in the UK, on June 28th for PC, 360, and PS3.
This review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game.
© 2013 LudoLogic