In my five years of reviewing games for Destructoid, only twice have I ever been flat-out informed by a publisher that review copies of a game were not being made available. Some companies may dance around the issue, others may delay sending until the day of launch.
It never speaks well of the game in question that a publisher is outright unwilling to hand it to critics.
Ride to Hell: Retribution is one of only two games I've known of that reviewers have had to purchase themselves, and it's evident within seconds why.
This is one absolutely despicable game.
Ride to Hell: Redemption (PC, PS3 [reviewed], Xbox 360)
I died within seconds. The game jumped straight into a stereotypical turret gun sequence, but before it was even done displaying the basic controls onscreen, my tattooed protagonist was flung violently from his gun, and I'd been informed I'd failed the mission. What mission? What failure? I hadn't even been given the chance to fire off more than three shots and I'd died. There was no context for my failure, nor for even the "mission" it spoke of.
It happened again on the second try.
The third try, I managed to avoid dying without reason, and I don't know why. I was then suddenly transported from the turret to a brawl in the desert, with as much context as I'd been given for the gun sequence. This brawl consisted of hammering some remedial quick-time-event button prompts. Then the game began.
I had no idea what on Earth was going on.
After this confusingly disjointed opening, the game settled into a lengthy cutscene to explain the basic story. It's the "roaring Sixties," and you play a cross between Kurt Russel and Stretch Armstrong, whose brother is unceremoniously killed by the Devil's Hand motorcycle gang. Cue a rampage of revenge in what I think is a game trying to be Kill Bill, but so obviously isn't Kill Bill.
To say the game feels unfinished is to prove inadequate at portraying exactly how clunky, ugly, and downright broken Ride to Hell is. Rather than unfinished, I'd suggest the game feels barely started. Each cutscene shimmers with multiple screen tears that flicker in unison. Textures don't so much pop in as consistently phase between existence and oblivion. For a game that places a heavy emphasis on riding a motorcyle, there are no real motorcycle physics to speak of, the slightest nudge sending your bike flying into the air or through solid concrete floors. Combat predates the original Max Payne. Over-saturated QTEs move at such a pace you'd think you were learning shapes on Sesame Street.
Imagine the classic PS2 game Total Overdose, but stripped of its charm, openness, and ambition. Imagine it interspersed with pitiful attempts to look like Road Rash, only the thrilling bike combat has been replaced by prompted button mashing. Imagine the cheeky Grindhouse style of The House of the Dead: Overkill, only drained of all its joy.
Joylessness, in fact, is a word that lends itself so well to describing the Retribution experience. It is joyless in its dour story, joyless in its overwhelmingly brown color scheme, joyless in its drab, flat, downright depressing presentation.
Oh, and we haven't even gotten to the casual misogyny yet!
At regular intervals, our cop-killing, drug-running hero will meet various women in various states of undress, whose only purpose is to have sex. If they're not already prostitutes (most of them are), they'll still willingly give up a quick shag for the tiniest of favors, resulting in a silent, fully-clothed (because rendering undressed characters would be just too much work), shoddily animated few seconds of what a child might believe sex looks like. This, by the way, is the total contribution of all female characters to the plot of Ride to Hell. Walking fuckboxes, who exist to get kidnapped, rescued, and screwed.
One wonders whether the fine people at Eutechnyx actively hates women, or merely views them as subhuman toys. I'd love to find out. The developers certainly cannot hide behind the idea that it's a parody of the era, considering the rest of the story tries so desperately to make us take it seriously, and there's absolutely nothing provided to let us believe any attempt at humor is ever made during the course of the game.
Now, if all this sounds like one of those "so bad its good" experiences, where you just have to play it for yourself, I sincerely warn against it. At its very worst, Ride to Hell is offensive on philosophical and intellectual levels, but for the most part, it's mind-numbingly tedious. Slow shootouts against cookie-cutter enemies, brainless button-mashing brawls, and long bike rides across stretches of brown road make up the majority of the experience. Over and over, the game repeats these miserable sequences, with all the nuance and evolution of a game released ten years ago. One can't even enjoy this game ironically, because it's so fucking boring.
And, of course, it barely works properly. From punches that regularly fail to connect with enemies, to a consistently confused camera and a player character who regularly gets stuck on pieces of flat floor, everything you'd expect to find in a rushed, half-baked, amateur hour production can be found here. My copy also regularly crashed out into the PS3's XMB, so there's that to look forward to as well.
I spent six hours with the game, eventually deciding I'd had my fill with a boss that relied on me using the woefully inadequate dodge controls to survive. I'd ask for my money back, but that's nothing compared to the six hours of precious finite life I've wasted on this puerile insult to the medium of videogames. This is the kind of game that does damage to the credibility of companies, consoles, and the entire industry. The kind of game that typifies exactly why the used game market is so damn popular, if not necessary. The kind of game that makes the case for more policies in favor of refunding digitally purchased goods on the grounds that they're witless, opprobrious trash.
One should never make assumptions about people, and one shouldn't judge an entire group of people by the games they make. I won't do that. I will, however, say what Ride to Hell: Retribution appears to be, and it appears to be a sad little game made by sad little men. Sad little men who think it's clever and grown up to shoehorn contextless drug collection and sex scenes into a game, because that's what "mature" games do. Sad little men who haven't met real human beings, if they think human beings talk, move, or even look like they do in this masterpiece of artistic indignity. Again, I'm not saying this is what the developers are. It is simply what their "work" says of them. I'd be shocked if anybody was proud of this game.
To Deep Silver, I can say only this: how dare you? How dare you charge $29.99 for a game that would be theft at a third of that price? How dare you resurrect a game that should have stayed canceled in 2009? How dare you? Any goodwill you may have earned from customers in your years of existence will be absolutely ruined by the release of this squalid little mutant of a game.
No word exists for the level of disgust I have for everybody involved in its blasphemous making.
THE VERDICT - Ride to Hell: Retribution
Reviewed by Jim Sterling