Roadkill, the recipe: Take one part Twisted Metal, one part Grand Theft Auto III and just a vague hint of originality, shake until frothy and serve. As a developer, you’d think it’d be the recipe for “the best game ever”, or in business man speak “a whole lot of money”. While Roadkill adequately captures the aspects it was going for, it does little to actually stand out in a market of countless similar experiences.
The hint of originality I spoke of is certainly not due to its lackadaisical, derivative story. Set in post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque environment, your character falls in with a gang of road thugs. Your first mission is to prove your worthiness by going across town and, you guessed it, blow stuff up. And if that’s not enough to quench your thirst for destruction, have no fear, because in the second mission you will be going out and blowing stuff up, again… Familiarize yourself with this concept because this is essentially what Roadkill boils down to. Basically, you kill to become well known, collect money, and get better wheels.
In contrast to other driving, racing, and hijacking games currently on the market, Roadkill’s vehicle dynamics are definitely on the simplistic side. This is both good and bad. On the one hand, the simplistic yet functional gameplay really lets you concentrate on the gratuitous killing and the proverbial “blowing up of stuff”. On the other hand, the one-dimensional controls do little to actually inspire continued play. If you are familiar with the hand brake, you will have no problem making sharp turns, even with the accelerator firmly mashed down. The abundance of sexual innuendo and profanity that is included in Roadkill goes nicely with its destruction-centric theme. It’s a tasty combo, make no mistake, but it gets real old real fast. Roadkill is very forgiving in terms of consequences for driving badly. Full acceleration into a brick wall? No foul, you will only stop…at least they didn’t overlook that part.
Using the vehicle-mounted weaponry is simple as the nearest target automatically gets the aiming reticule treatment, which may be an enemy or an innocent pedestrian. It’s all the same to Roadkill’s auto-targeting system. In the game’s defense, enemies blow up real good and pedestrians bleed a lot, Carmageddon style. By killing enemy vehicles, you get salvage parts that basically translate into money. You can buy upgrades like top speed modifiers, more NOs Shots, Special weapons, etc. The cool thing about the upgrades is that they are not specific to the car you are driving; in fact, all the vehicles you drive will have any upgrade you picked up. Despite its downfalls and blatantly imitative roots, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty Roadkill is ultimately a fun game to play, if only in short bursts.
The graphics leave something to be desired. The frame rate is pretty steady, though it does have a tendency to chunk up when the screen is filled with action. The vast environments in which you’ll drive around are adequately detailed, although texture quality is pretty blurry across the board. The various vehicles featured in Roadkill are mostly pretty good. Plenty of originality was undoubtedly mined to bring some of these creations to life. The visible body damage to the cars as they get roughed up do a good job of giving the player an immediate representation of how much punishment they can take before blowing up. There are also some nifty explosion and weather effects to keep your peepers preoccupied during all the mindless destruction.
The soundtrack is filled with 80’s head bangers ball tracks, which is actually very fitting to the overall influence of the game. Among the many classics you can look forward to is the cowbell-driven Blue Oyster Cult tune, “Don’t fear the reaper”. Sound effects get the job done, though the generic representations for things like crashing, shooting, and skidding across the road do seem ripped right out of every other driving game we’ve ever played. Voice acting is hardly worth mentioning. Most of the dialogue performances are chock full of cheese and sub-par scripting.
Roadkill is limited in terms of lasting appeal, mostly because the power difference between you and the sentinel cops (X-menesk) is quite unbalanced in your favor. This is tandem with items that practically give you full health and are strung about willy-nilly across any given environment. The multiplayer mode allows you to go head-to-head with up to three other players in a Twisted Metal style deathmatch. There are a few different power ups that can be found in multiplayer battles that are absent in the main story mode, but nothing to get excited about.
The overly simplistic gameplay, re-hashed visuals, unbalanced level design, and generic storyline all factor in to make this hybrid of yesteryears best selling, finest games, a low rent middle class knock off. Nevertheless, the sheer visceral excitement of blowing stuff up and witnessing ultra-violent, unapologetically brutal cut-scenes and road rage is hard to deny. Consider Roadkill a perfect candidate worthy of the $3.99 at your local rental hut.