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Rollerdrome Review

A roller riot

Sure, I can ride a bike without faceplanting (most of the time), but when it comes to getting around on anything else with wheels, I’m completely useless. I’ve always envied people who can skate, whether that be board, roller or ice, because I end up on my arse 100% of the time. That admiration, along with the banging soundtrack, is what drew me to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater games when I was a kid. The over-the-top tricks and sense of momentum were amazing and something that I knew I could never replicate in real life. It stands to reason then, that when developer Roll7 unveiled a trick-based rollerskating game that injects third-person shooting into the mix, it got my attention. With stylish visuals and an intriguing blend of genres, does Rollerdrome land the trick, or does it bail out?

In an alternate, near-future 2030, the people of the world have moved beyond other forms of entertainment like movies and video games, as their eyes are glued to an ultra-violent extreme sport – Rollerdrome. A combination of crazy combos and gun-based carnage, Rollerdrome sees competitors on skates ripping it up and performing tricks in custom skate parks, all while weapon-wielding enemies try and cut their run short. The aim? For the competitor to throw down impressive stunts to earn favour with the judges, while also taking out all of the human obstacles known as House Players.

As though that weren’t dangerous enough, Rollerdrome’s biggest sponsor is a shady mega-corporation called Matterhorn that has seized considerable control over the league and has ambitions to make it even more lethal. The most recent season sees the debut of the player character Kara Hassan, a rookie that’s out to make a name for herself as she follows in the footsteps of her idol, Morgan Fray.

Let’s give the people what they want

As Kara, you’ll be playing through a full Rollerdrome season, consisting of preseason matches, quarter-finals, semis and then the final. That shakes out as 11 different stages that are unlocked as you complete levels and the challenges within them. The basic goal is always to take out all of the House Players as quickly as possible, but each level comes with a set of ten challenges to complete as well. These range from collecting the five challenge tokens hidden in the stage, executing a certain move while going through the trick token, or eliminating House Players with a certain weapon. The challenges are incentive enough to replay levels, but you’ll also need to check off a number of them to unlock the next tier.

By tapping the left stick forward, Kara gets her skate on and she never stops, perpetually moving unless you hold back on the stick to stop. This allows you to focus on where you’re going and smashing out awesome grabs and grinds. You’ve got your typical jump and dodge on the face buttons, alongside the trick button that, when combined with direction inputs, has Kara perform one of the 27 unique tricks in her acrobatic arsenal. To further spice up your style, you can hold the right bumper to add in a rotation to any trick, further increasing your score. Kara’s perpetual movement feels excellent, with a true sense of momentum building as you tear around the parks.

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The other side of the equation is equally as sharp. Starting with dual pistols, you’ll eventually unlock four weapons to switch between, including a shotgun, grenade launcher and the Z11, a long-distance pseudo-sniper that can charge and shoot multiple bullets at once. Each of the weapons has a use, with the pistols being great for stun-locking the House Players, the shotgun staggering them and the grenade launcher dealing huge amounts of splash damage. They all provide great feedback by utilising the DualSense’s haptics and speaker, with an audio cue letting you know when your clip is almost dry.

I can skate faster than that laser…I think

The action is fast and getting your bearings can be hard when there’s a whole hit squad looking to knock you down. To help bring some balance to proceedings, you can enter Reflex Time, where everything around you slows down for a few seconds. This can allow you to line up a shot, plot your next route or just take a breather if things get hectic. It also activates the shotgun’s special ability, wherein it deals more damage with a Slugshot if you time your trigger pull correctly during Reflex.

While the elevator pitch for Rollerdrome makes it sounds like a mashup of a sports game and a shooter, the two aspects are so intertwined that it’s more of a genre unto itself. Instead of collecting ammo by rolling over pickups, you earn back your bullets by performing tricks, continuing combos or dodging attacks to impress the judges. Similarly, you regain your health by eliminating House Players and gliding through the green gems they drop. This creates an interesting synergy between the game’s two main focuses and keeps gameplay moving at a high pace.

The House Players are varied, with grunts that wield nothing more than baseball bats and a dream blocking your run, while snipers pepper you from a distance and riot shield bombers lay down mines to trip you up. Certain Players will need to take priority, such as the deadly teleporting bastards that shoot laser beams and the flying menaces that drop area-of-effect goop on the ground, so planning a line and weeding out the problem Players is often the right strat.

That shield won’t help him now

You’ll have seen all of the enemy types by the time you hit the halfway point in Kara’s rise to the finals, so the difficulty curve will continue to rise by means of quantity. The semi-final bracket levels bombard you with an insane number of House Players at once, forcing you to either master the layout or hit the reset button dozens of times until you squeak out a lucky win. I did find that these latter levels were a bit too chaotic for my liking, as I felt as though 90% of my movement was dodging, but the difficult settings are brilliant, letting you tailor your experience until you’re having the most fun.

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Looking into the difficulty settings, you’re able to adjust everything from the percentage of damage the House Players deal and the length of your Reflex Time, down to whether or not your progress should be tied to completing challenges or just finishing levels. For someone who was admittedly a bit shit, I found this to be welcoming and inclusive.

At multiple points throughout the campaign, you’ll be met with first-person segments that are akin to something like What Remains of Edith Finch or similar walking sims. During these moments you’re able to go through lockers, read notes left by Matterhorn and interact with a few items that flesh out the light story. The conspiracy behind Rollerdrome doesn’t eventuate into anything huge, but it does create some intrigue that made me a bit more invested.

The first thing you’re likely to notice when you boot up Rollerdrome is the stylish visuals. The bold, cell-shaded art style is complemented nicely by the game’s limited yet rich colour pallet. The bright red of Kara’s jumpsuit always stands out against the muted greys of the House Players, giving the silent protagonist some character. The levels themselves are also pretty, whether you be in a mall, on a snow-capped mountain facility or in a rocky desert.

What? The judges must have had their damn eyes closed 

Pumping your adrenaline up further as you roll and rampage through the levels is a pretty banging synth soundtrack. All of the tracks have a high tempo and they get your heart rate moving just as much as the action does. The music never overpowers the gameplay, instead complementing it and matching its tone.

Once you’ve hit the credits and overcome the finals, you’ll unlock the Out For Blood mode. This insane gauntlet has you playing through the season for a second time, with the full force of the House Players coming at you from level one. The difficulty is ratcheted up to a crazy degree in this mode, with the only challenges being to complete the level in a certain time and with a certain, disgustingly high, score. Though I appreciate the added difficulty, that’s pretty much all the additional mode has to offer. If you become obsessed with Rollerdrome’s gameplay I can see this hitting the spot, otherwise, it’s a bit of a retread.

Final Thoughts

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Hybridising genres can often lead to a game feeling unbalanced, awkward or a bit muddled, so it’s refreshing to Rollerdrome’s mashup of ideas work so well. The movement and trick systems are easy to understand and execute without feeling shallow, while the gunplay is snappy and fits well in fast-paced matches. While I would have liked the introduction of new elements to continue on a bit further than it did, those who want to master the mechanics and go after those high scores will find plenty of reasons to replay the levels over and over.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Rollerdrome Review
A Warrior On Wheels
Blending the momentum of an extreme sport with the action of a third-person shooter, Rollerdrome creates a unique experience that will resonate with those who love to chase a high score.
The Good
Stylish cell-shaded visuals
Synth soundtrack keeps the heart pumping
Movement and gunplay feel satisfying
Story is light yet intriguing
Excellent difficulty/accessibility options
The Bad
Late game difficulty feels a little stilted
Out For Blood mode doesn’t add to the formula
Encounters can feel overwhelming
8
Get Around It
  • Roll7
  • Private Division
  • PS5 / PS4 / PC
  • August 17, 2022

Rollerdrome Review
A Warrior On Wheels
Blending the momentum of an extreme sport with the action of a third-person shooter, Rollerdrome creates a unique experience that will resonate with those who love to chase a high score.
The Good
Stylish cell-shaded visuals
Synth soundtrack keeps the heart pumping
Movement and gunplay feel satisfying
Story is light yet intriguing
Excellent difficulty/accessibility options
The Bad
Late game difficulty feels a little stilted
Out For Blood mode doesn’t add to the formula
Encounters can feel overwhelming
8
Get Around It
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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