A BOLD AND BRUTAL tournament THAT NEEDS TO BE ENTERED
Let’s not beat around the bush here, Rollerdrome is an absolute joy! Beautiful arenas, excellent gameplay, pure adrenaline-filled fun. From Roll7 who gave us the fantastic OlliOlli series, Rollerdrome takes those trusty skateboarding mechanics and flawlessly transitions them onto roller skates whilst adding excellent third person shooting for good measure.
Assuming the role of Kara Hassan, a debutant aiming to become the 2030 champion in the bloody and brutal Rollerdrome tournament, your aim is simple – skate and kill with style. Flips and tricks are key to keeping your ammo stocks high, whilst kill chains will replenish your health. It might sound simple, but it’s bloody hard!
Set in a dystopian future “where corporations rule and the lines between reality and performance are blurred, the public are kept distracted by the violence and excess of a brutal new bloodsport”, Rollerdrome tells its story through explorable sections at the beginning of each round. Kara eavesdrops on rivals, accesses their messages, rifles through lockers and ultimately finds the odds continuing to stack against her, whilst making her way to the arena to commence battle. Some may argue these sections are not required, but they do add context for Kara as she battles both the other contestants and a corrupt system.
The campaign is structured in typical tournament fashion – with four rounds consisting of multiple events to conquer. The main objective is clearing each stage supplemented with other stage specific challenges such as high score targets, performing certain tricks, building combos and combat targets thrown in to add even more fun (and replayability) to the proceedings.
Progression requires clearing each event and completing a specific number of the challenges to unlock the next round. Plenty of replays are required but you will likely want to do that anyway. Whether that be to experience the pure thrill of the game, to chase down those challenges, or to take that illustrious place at the top of those illustrious leaderboards.
Taking top spot is going to take a fair amount of skill but will bring with it plenty of bragging rights. The gameplay mechanics may appear simple on the surface, but there is far more depth there. Imagine the intricacies of OlliOlli World mashed up with the shooting style of My Friend Pedro.
“The electronic-themed soundtrack rounds off the atmosphere as you roll round the arenas, backflipping off the wall, diving into a nose grind to get that dopamine hit from the succulent head shot you land on the house player in reflex time – simply breath-taking.”
Eliminating all enemies is the aim of the game. Layer-on the trickery required to keep your ammo topped up and your “reflex time” (essentially bullet time, slowing down the gameplay to allow you aim and witness that kill in all its satisfying glory) meter full, the difficulty quickly builds.
Kara is armed with dual pistols from the outset, with three further weapons to unlock as the tournament progresses. Each weapon has its advantages, and these are beautifully accentuated through the implementation of the DualSense’s adaptive triggers. Mastering the guns and knowing when to use them will go a long way in keeping those combos alive.
Put off by all this talk of difficulty? Worry not – there are accessibility and assist options aplenty. I am not ashamed to say I made use of a number of these to progress. Options include reduced enemy health, reduced player damage, unlimited ammo and removing the challenge completion requirements to progress to the next round. Further options allow you to tailor the game to your own needs and skill level, making this an enjoyable experience for everyone.
There is a slight downside. When assists are active, scores will not register on the leaderboard. For me, this isn’t the right approach – I would have preferred separate leaderboards with assists on/off filters – a more inclusive solution that would encourage more competition for everyone as they blaze around the arenas.
Rollerdrome’s arenas are not exactly typical. The tutorial and first event are in what you may think of as a traditional roller skate park with added bad guys, but the setting varies from desert wasteland to a shopping centre, to an outpost in the snowy mountains.
These areas are all exquisite, beautifully created within the overall comic book inspired art style and excellent level design creating challenging and varied arenas that require planning and demand attack without feeling unfair – a beautiful balance. A slight disappointment is there aren’t more of them. The main locations have different arena configurations across the campaign but given how beautiful they are, I would have loved to have seen more.
These gorgeous worlds are complemented by an equally gorgeous score. The electronic-themed soundtrack rounds off the atmosphere as you roll round the arenas, backflipping off the wall, diving into a nose grind to get that dopamine hit from the succulent head shot you land on the house player in reflex time – simply breath-taking. There is also a remixed version for the “Out For Blood” campaign.
Essentially New Game+, Out for Blood begins with all weapons and house players unlocked from the start, providing the ultimate test of skill and agility. It comes complete with its own set of challenges and cranks things up a notch or two! Similarly to the location, I would have liked to see a bit more variety in house players and bosses, but the ones that are here are excellent.
Rollerdrome is an absolute joy, a triumphant mash-up of genres that has no right to be anywhere near as much fun as it is. The campaign itself may not be the longest, but the challenges will keep you coming back for more. My biggest challenge to you is not to enjoy this. A truly unique experience.
A PlayStation console exclusive at launch, there is a trial available for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers. No excuses not to give it a go (and check out OlliOll World while you are there)!
Reviewed on PlayStation 5, available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Steam.