Look, I’m not going to really run circles around it- we got to try out an early preview of Rollerdrome, and what we got out of it was some of the most fun I’ve had in a video game, in a year incredibly stacked with fun games.
You play as Kara Hassan, rising superstar of the sport of Rollerdrome- a violent sport combining roller derby with live-fire training. As such, each of these stages are events, where you dispatch all of the stage’s House Players as stylishly as possible to get a high score.
In a world incredibly retro and stylish with a soundtrack described as an outright banger, Roll7 came straight for my heart- then did a couple flips and even a Rainstorm on it in the best ways possible.
Holy Matrimony of Extreme Sports And Live Firearms
Considering how often people like to throw around terms like “no depth” for games they don’t like, it’s nice to finally see its polar opposite in action- on every run, it feels like Rollerdrome has something new to teach you. You’d think skates and guns were fairly straightforward- guns are all about pointing and shooting, while skating is all about moving until the game makes you stop one way or another. Yet with Rollerdrome, the two combine gorgeously as Kara does flips, grinds and wallrides all while unloading clips into a sniper in a refurbished shopping mall.
Take, for example, the ammo system: rather than treat it like a true ammo system with bullet types for each gun, Rollerdrome treats theirs more like a stamina bar- Each gun segments the bar differently, so to speak, and more importantly they draw from the same pool. What starts as a gripe about constantly being out of ammo quickly turns into learning how to better managed the shared bar (say, by making sure to never leave yourself totally empty because of a big grenade shot). That then turns into making better use of the game’s reload system- doing sick tricks- and working it into your skate combos to make sure that you’re never really out of options.
The Quest To Becoming A Skate Combo God
With Rollerdrome, it’s very much all about that journey. Sure, it might seem weird at first balancing thinking about shooting enemies and keeping your forward momentum. But it always feels like there’s another step just ahead for you, and it leads to doing more sick stuff.
There’s an enemy type that carries a big shield- these resilient foes will throw mines while also creating big shockwaves in front of them if you try to get in too close. What usually became a long affair of trying to break his guard but always running out of ammo doing so suddenly became a much faster affair- after getting his guard to 50%, a perfect dodge-induced slowdown allowed me to fire a slow-moving grenade first, before switching out to the shotgun to break his guard, all before the grenade connected to finish off his actual health.
Sure, on one hand the main reward is your high score. But a lot of Rollerdrome seems to be designed from the same school games like Devil May Cry come from- one that’s built around giving the player satisfaction at every level, since every new piece of tech learned feels so rewarding to use. Backtracking older levels is absolutely necessary for better clear times, since weapons like the grenade launcher are good for dealing with parked snipers or the shotgun just being an overall better weapon for picking off weak enemies. Rather than feeling tedious though, it just feels good. Heading back to the second stage and mopping the floor with the WARHEADs because you have a fuller arsenal sparks the same joy as bringing back your upgraded Dante to an earlier level and never needing to touch the floor.
Nice Shooting, Tex
Part of how this system works so well is the actual gunplay. Hip firing in Rollerdrome has its own soft-lock, letting you focus on keeping the momentum going as you gun down House Members, explosive barrels and even incoming projectiles without having to actually aim manually. For those who want to aim, though, the game features a manual aim that slows down time called Reflex Mode, as well as Super Reflex Mode- which you get for aiming right after doing a perfect dodge.
Rather than assume any one mode is better than the others, the game is all about mixing them up to make for more efficient damage and point gain. Hip firing is great for dealing with an onslaught of rockets, while you’ll want to aim down sights to use the Shotgun or Grenade Launchers’ blasts. Super Reflex is especially good with the pistols, since you’ll move just a bit fast enough to unload more rounds into enemies before they can get away.
Flowers need to be given to the animators for making this feel so good, too, with all the extra animations. Kara can shoot in a multitude of ways, even casually launching a grenade over her shoulder in what can only be described as an utter display of coolness. Mix that with the game’s effortlessly clean UI and you’ve got all the makings for a gold-standard in action games.
After My Own Heart
From what we’ve seen so far, Rollerdrome looks to be a masterclass in simple game design. It’s all about doing cool tricks and committing gun violence, and every other design decision in the game seems to just be an extension of that ethos. In a field striving to constantly make you buy upgrades or farm loot, what we’ve played of Rollerdrome has been an utter breath of sincerity- outside of unlocking guns via story, tricks and skills are just there for you from the start, meaning it’s up to you to get good enough to use them properly.
It doesn’t even wrap itself in a “git gud” veneer, either, since the game sports some assisted controls to reduce the need for precise timing, and even turning off damage so you can be an indestructible tank on a pair of rollerskates. Remember, it’s not about being better than other people, it’s about celebrating how cool your own personal achievements are.
Rollerdrome releases on August 16th, with an introductory price for new players. Let’s hope the full version of the game sticks the landing as hard as the early previews have- because just like Kara Hassan, this game is one to watch.
Preview access provided by Private Division. Game played on PC.
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