Rollerdrome Review (PS5) – There are plenty of simple sounding and hyperbolic settings and scenarios that lend themselves to being video games. A lone samurai against a whole army, a space commander and their crew fighting an evil alien force, extreme sports.
To that list, I’d also add shooting people while rollerblading and doing flips. That’s where Rollerdrome comes in, and while it does fall into the extreme sports category, there’s a little more to the extreme side of things than anything else.
Flipping through the air while taking people’s heads off in slow motion never fails at being a good time. It’s such a simple idea for a game, executed perfectly. I’ve not been able to stop going back to each level for a higher score, or completing all the challenges.
Rollerdrome is a bombastic shooter that compels you to reach for its challenges through clever, fluid gameplay mixed in with some precise world building to add an air of mystery to it all.
Rollerdrome Review (PS5) – Rolling To The Top
Eight Wheels Are Better Than Four
It’s very fluid, though admittedly I found it had a bit of a learning curve. As the levels progressively get more difficult, how you move around each carefully crafted arena becomes a much more strategic exercise.
This really forces you to pay attention to where enemies will spawn, and to be intentional with how you move.
By that same token, in most levels it can still be easy to find yourself flying across an arena with a chaotic amount of momentum, making the best of it while you go, shooting at whatever’s in your way.
That’s at least what Rollerdrome can feel like, and though it’s definitely not the best methodology if you’re looking for a high score, it doesn’t fail at still being absolutely fun as hell.
Looking at each level more closely however ultimately feels the best, because of the different ways the gameplay feels satisfying.
There’s a layer of satisfaction for making those last-second dodges that are the difference between another kill added to a combo, and death.
Another for kickstarting the level with a planned out attack, another for doing it all while pulling off cool tricks, another for completing side challenges at the same time, and of course, another for getting a high score.
The gunplay and core combat are fun on their own, but everything stems from just how fluid and fun it is to roll around these modern gladiatorial pits.
The World’s Most Watched Sport, Behind Closed Doors
Rollerdrome doesn’t have much of a story, but it feels like it wasn’t meant to have one; at least one that went so in-depth. You step into the skates of Kara Hassan, a rookie in the Rollerdrome league, a globally watched sport set in the not so distant future of 2030, a mere eight years into the future.
Hassan joins the league and eventually does what no one thought possible, a rookie entering and winning the championship all in the same year, up against the sport’s best like Morgan Fray and Caspar Ickx.
At particular points in your journey to the final, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the participants quarters, which also happens to be near the offices of The Echo, a newspaper covering this season of Rollerdrome.
These sections are what I’m referring to when I talk about ‘precise world building.’ There aren’t any big cutscenes, or any line of dialogue from someone who isn’t a voice on the radio.
But the texts on the walls, in the paper, all begin to unearth a larger corruption, one that Hassan is defying by simply advancing and eventually winning the competition.
Things do end in an anti-climactic way in that there’s no real closure to it all. At the same time however, like I said before, it doesn’t feel like the story is supposed to be the game’s main draw.
So leaving everything ambiguous in the end doesn’t really bother me that much. I think the story up until that point is executed well, and in a way that’s easily digestible for those who want it.
It’s also clear that the story wasn’t the main pull because in every one of those opportunities to walk around the player’s quarters, you can also simply ignore everything, walk out and begin the level.
The lack of any penalty for ignoring the story also shows how willing Roll7 is to make that aspect of the game totally up to the players. If you want to experience a bit of a story, well then it’s there.
If you just want to play the most extreme version of roller derby ever, then by all means.
The combat, it should be no surprise, is one of the main draws of Rollerdrome.
Besides feeling like you can move around every arena with the fluidity of a stream of water, launching a grenade in slow-motion and blowing up a tank feels pretty damn cool too.
You start off small, with the first few levels slowly introducing new enemy types. It won’t be until you’ve made it past the qualifying round of levels until you see every enemy the game will throw at you.
At the same time, your arsenal starts to build, starting first with dual pistols, then adding a shotgun, a grenade launcher, and finally a special energy based weapon with a powerful charge shot.
It’s not a wide variety of enemies, but each of them effect how you’ll want to approach every situation. Keeping your combo up is necessary, and you do that by hitting enemies and taking them out.
You won’t go up a combo multiplier from only injuring an enemy, only from killing them.
This means that you can start shooting at a Polybeam enemy on one side of the arena, and even though they’ll teleport across the stage, any one else you can hit along the way will keep your chance of getting that next multiplier level alive.
It really encourages you to roll from one side to the next, shooting whoever you could along the way, constantly going in and out of bullet-time so you could keep your multiplier up until you took out an enemy, and onto the next.
Staying in one place or area is never advisable, and that’s part of the fun in Rollerdrome.
The combat is active and constantly happening in motion, with you slowing things down strategically for your score, and also to make something look extra good.
The levels in Rollerdrome get increasingly more difficult, even to just finish, let alone completing challenges for.
It can get very chaotic very early, especially if you’re slow to take out certain enemy types, like the aforementioned Polybeams, who can make any level far more troublesome than it ought to be.
What kept it all from feeling like too much in my opinion, are two things. The bullet time slow-motion, which I’ve mentioned before, and the other is the reload mechanic.
To reload all your weapons, you need to keep doing tricks around the arena.
It seems like an extra thing to think of when you’d rather focus on the horde of people firing missiles and bullets your way, but its the part of Rollerdrome that makes it all click together.
Needing to perform new tricks to reload made the spectacle of it all feel that much more satisfying, especially when you’re in a kind of ‘flow state’ while playing.
Perfect dodges even contribute to reloading, which created so many last-second dodges to both avoid an incoming kill shot and fire your own back.
It all works harmoniously when things are at their most chaotic, and you’re throwing everything you can at the House while it throws everything it can at you.
The cherry on top for me, was discovering a new level of difficulty after you beat the campaign once. Rollderome’s Out For Blood mode takes you back through all 11 levels, but this time no punches are held.
All enemies are available right from the start – along with all your weapons – and it cranks the difficulty up even higher than before.
It’s an absolute blast, and I much appreciated the extra little bit of replay value.
Roll7, Match Victory
There are plenty of moments you’ll create for yourself in Rollerdrome that’ll make your jaw drop with just how cool everything looks and how much fun you’re having.
When the credits finally do roll, and you’ve been crowned Rollerdrome champion, you’ll drop your jaw at learning this game was made by just 44 people within Roll7.
It’s amazing to see such incredible execution from a small team within what’s already not the world’s biggest studio. Rollerdrome is an excellent game, and that’s no small feat.
My only hope now is to see a few more arenas, potentially some new modes of play added, perhaps as DLC even. Just something to pad out the experience, as non-score driven players could be likely to blitz through everything and not look at it again afterwards.
There’s no question though that anyone who’s been a fan of Roll7’s work owes it to themselves to check out Rollerdrome, and frankly that also goes for anyone who just likes damn good games.
Rollerdrome is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by publisher.