This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Ride to Hell: Retribution.
Fans of The Last of Us, I feel a wedge has been driven between you and I. I know you were afraid that The Last of Us was some kind of beached whale that would die if not continually moistened by everybody's tongues, but it's not easy for me either, having a contentious opinion. When The Last of Us started losing me, I wasn't rubbing my fingerless-gloved hands in glee, I was thinking, "Ugh...I'm gonna get some real fucking stimulating email over this, aren't I?" I feel some kind of bonding exercise would help clear the air, and what would be better than a hunting expedition? So please, load up your shotguns, join me around this barrel, and let's take it out on some motherfucking fish!
This is how I unwind after stressful times. I review a game that absolutely no one expected to be good, and which entirely meets those expectations, namely Ride to Hell: Retribution 1%. If you're wondering, the 1% is an outlaw biker gang thing referring to a statement once made that 99% of motorbike riders are law-abiding citizens. It does not mean that the bikers have all gotten rich from trading stock in the knife-fighting industry. Yes, it's a biker-themed action-adventure, melee, shooty, ridey-bikey affair, sort of like Full Throttle if it had absolutely zero self-awareness, and if all the horrible action minigames had grown and taken over everything else like an inoperable cancer.
After returning from Vietnam, responsible mullet owner Jake Conway finds his uncle and brother being terrorized by an evil biker gang with more influence and manpower than the fucking postal service. His brother winds up dead and Jake must emasculate his way through the ranks of the evil gang, racing and shooting and pipe-wrenching and shagging all their birds, in what a thirteen-year-old boy whose spent the last seventy-two hours locked in a storage space with a bunch of 80s action movies and an entire pallet of Coco Pops would consider the apex of masculinity; to the end of uncovering the sinister truth behind Jake's missing father and why the evil gang is trying to kill all his kids, which I'm just gonna spoil because fuck you. In a climatic showdown, the evil gang leader grandly reveals that it was because he didn't like Jake's dad much. (beat) That's the mystery?! I assumed that much when he sent eleven thousand murderers dressed like Guns N' Roses backup drummers!
I do not know how the hell Ride to Heck got cleared for release unless the entire QA team simultaneously resigned to start a shotgun tasting business. It's bad. It's explosively, apocalyptically bad, and you should totally buy it. I'm serious, you have to see this shit! Where to start? Every single scene starts before the textures have properly loaded in, so all the characters look like severe burn victims for about ten seconds before all their features grow in like they're fucking Wolverine. The soundtrack consists of about four generic what I believe is termed "cock-rock" tracks that sound like the guitarist has trained a little mouse to walk up and down his fret board while he disinterestedly strums, and these are used for the sole purpose of adding excitement to combat scenes when there generally is none.
Most cutscenes have no music, and without ambiance, an already awkward poorly-acted dramatic dialogue becomes the Nativity Play at the children's head injury ward. Every character having these big flapping mouths like upside-down pedal bins also doesn't help, but the bell on the Test Your Awkwardness machine rings the loudest during the open-quotes "sex scenes". It's like watching fish-people attempting to disentangle their navel rings, all fully clothed. But I know penetrative intercourse is supposed to be taking place because Jake is thrusting and looks like he's about to start crying.
It's one of those games that try to keep a lot of balls in the air but forgot that it was standing under a ceiling fan. So we have melee combat in which it is possible for the first blow of your combo to push the target out of the range of the rest of your combo, and shooting in which every gun has all the weight and impact of using a drinking straw to propel mouthfuls of sailor jizz. And attempting to aim while standing within earshot of a solid object will cause you to attempt to vibrate through it like the fucking Flash.
Throughout the seemingly interminable sequences of copy-pasted combat arenas, the enemies alternate between gun and melee focus, but fortunately, you, the player, are not bound by the same obligation. And so combat for me turned into jizzing away at distant enemies who have heard of taking cover but haven't fully internalized the concept, and then taking a break from that by getting easy headshots on several unarmed bumble-fucks jogging towards me in convenient single-file. Then I'd move through an enormous empty room full of unused environmental kills. Ohh, was I supposed to be fighting them in here? How rude of me! But much as I'd love seeing your delightfully overlong preanimated takedowns another twelve or thirteen fucking times, I've got shit to dooooo!
And of course there are bike riding sequences, as programmed by roadkill. You can't turn around or go backwards 'cos we'd hate to have anything kill the pacing of this roller-coaster of an experience, so every time you hit something, you're absorbed into some cosmic nether plane and then spat back out a little way up the road. Physics, however, are a tricksy mistress, and it also tends to happen when you sideswipe obstacles or drive over pebbles or cough too loudly, and combining it with anaemic, arbitrary time limits is where adorably bad starts to test my patience.
I have a spurious, unresearched feeling that the game might once have intended to be sandbox, but something fucked up - or perhaps more to the point, everything fucked up - and they just had to stitch together whatever they had, 'cos in the hub town area where you buy upgrades, the whole town has clearly been modelled, but the moment you try to walk outside the square fifty yards where the shop is, the game goes, "EERRHH!" and shoves you right back. And there's one mission where Jake passes through this enormous casino, fully decked out with the unique assets that somebody probably put a lot of work into, then at the end the character goes, "Nope, wrong place", and then you just walk all the way out again.
And once or twice, apropos of nothing, Jake runs into women being harassed by burly men claiming they're entitled to sex, so Jake beats them up, whereupon he is entitled to sex. A brief blank-eyed, Thunderbirds-are-go hump with a random trollop before being dropped right back into the mission as if nothing happened. It feels like a sidequest, a "collect all the venereal diseases for 100%" kind of thing, such as might be found in a sandbox game developed by absolute psychopaths who got all their ideas of human social interaction from watching Confessions of a Window Cleaner on fast-forward.
It's hard to think of even one thing Ride to Hell doesn't fuck up! Maybe the weirdly-extensive motorbike customization, but it's a lot of wasted effort for something that is almost always obscured by the protagonist's fat arse.
Ride to Hell is the kind of bad that leaves me with a smile on my face. It's a little retarded child with its head stuck in a cereal box and a massive great dump in its big boy pants, going, "I'm a real game now!" Of course you are, Ride to Hell. And that's why I think everyone should buy it, just to fuck with some heads! This could be our Plan 9 from Outer Space! We should have mass screenings of it, get everyone to dress up, put upside down pedal bins on their heads and then beat their wives!
- The mild one: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I've taken so many knife fighting lessons but I always crumble at the pressure when it's time for my actual test
- I keep my venereal disease collection in a series of plastic drums in my basement