It’s the question we’ve never really thought we needed to ask: “what if Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had guns?” – luckily Roll7’s Rollerdrome not only gives us this premise, but uses it to create one of the most stylish games of the year.
Rollerdrome is a cyberpunk story set in the year 2030, when megacorporations rule society and distract the public through violent blood sports. The titular ‘Rollerdrome’ is a deadly sport played on rollerskates where contestants compete to the death to become champion.
Inspired by dystopian media such as Death Race 2000 and Rollerball, the game puts you into the skates of Kara Hassan, a new competitor to the Rollerdrome who must make it through each stage of the games to become champion.
What follows is a series of levels set inside the Rollerdrome, where you must eliminate the other House Players using a variety of firearms.
Rollerdrome is very much a game about motion. That initial pitch of “Tony Hawk’s with guns” delivers on that promise, as you roll around each arena using tricks to avoid attacks from melee and ranged enemies. In between that, you can deal damage of your own to dispel these opponents.
What works best about this is how much you’re kept on the move. When you’re not pulling tricks from a halfpipe, you’re grinding along a rail, wallriding over an enemy’s head, or dodging a rocket that’s targeted on your face. Roll7 is the master of fluid gameplay, as evidenced by the studio’s OlliOlli World earlier this year. It simply just gets why constant movement can be fun in action gameplay.
This is aided by the enemy variety that hits a perfect sweet spot. House players are varied enough that each stage has a fun blend of different combat styles without it feeling too overwhelming. You see a shield enemy, you know exactly how to deal with them. You see a sniper, the same applies there. Having too many variants of enemies would have ruined the pace and familiarity of them, and so I’m glad it was kept to a nice round amount.
But it’s not just that which makes Rollerdrome special – it’s the objective of the game itself that inspires creativity. The goal of every stage in the game is to simply defeat every enemy. It doesn’t matter how you do it; whether you pull off incredible stunts in record time or react at a slower pace. This is important because Roll7 understands that memorising all the tricks can be, well, tricky. So you’re never forced to learn them all and rack up a high score. It gives you more agency to how you wish to perform.
You are, however, encouraged to learn the tricks via the game’s ammo system. When out of bullets, you can only replenish them by performing tricks. This can be from doing grabs and flips on the skates, grinding around the arena, or dodging enemy attacks. Each trick will regain ammo at the same rate, so you’re never forced to learn a specific trick, but rather use what is available to you at the time.
Later stages even reduce the opportunities to trick, thereby lessening how quickly you can reload your weapons. It makes those stages much harder, and increases the difficulty as you advance through each stage of the Rollerdrome.
This is where the difficulty chatter comes into play. Yes, Rollerdrome is a pretty hard game. Sometimes, the number of enemies can be overwhelming, or the stages laid out in such a way that makes it difficult for you to play effectively. It’s certainly a game that rewards your ability to keep moving throughout the arena.
Don’t let this put you off though, as there are a number of assists you can activate if you’re struggling with those later stages. These assists range from reducing the amount of enemy damage you receive, to having infinite ammo, unlimited slow motion time, and much more. It’s a great addition to the game that helps less skilled players have a leg up and see the remainder of the game should they get stuck.
Between each stage, much of the story, worldbuilding and additional narrative is delivered through short first-person sections. It is here you can learn more about Rollerdrome’s world, how the characters react to the events, and how the wider political atmosphere affects everyone involved. A lot of the finer details are hidden in the background, and it feels rewarding to piece this together yourself rather than being fed the information via exposition dumps.
What definitely feels like a missed opportunity is the lack of bonus modes. Rollerdrome feels like a game built for this stuff. While there are challenges available in each stage, an actual challenge mode with unique stages and restrictions would have been an excellent way to round off the story. Additionally, the lack of an endless survival mode also leaves a lot to be desired. There is, however, a harder season available after beating the core game, which is fun at least for those desiring a higher challenge.
Furthermore, there’s no multiplayer in Rollerdrome, but it really feels like there should be. With how fluid the gameplay feels, how intense the combat can become, and the style of its presentation, I’m a little sad I can’t face other human players in these big arenas.
To put it simply: Rollerdrome is fantastic. It’s easily one of the coolest games I’ve played all year. Although there are a few missed opportunities here and there, the gameplay is continuously creative, the story alluring, and there’s never a dull moment.
For our Rollerdrome review, a PC copy was provided by Bastion PR.Tested on a PC featuring:
Ryzen 7 3700X Processor
Corsair Vengeance 16GB RAM
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Video CardDo you agree with our review? Let us know across our socials, like our Twitter or our Discord. Or check out our other latest reviews, like for Stray or Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered.