IGN Preview of Ride to Hell: Retribution
"It's Easy Rider, meets Hell's Angels, meets the '60s; that's the one sentence that [describes] the game the best," said Martin Fhilipp, Developer Relations Manager at Deep Silver, the studio behind the creation of Ride to Hell.
Expanding on the introductory summation by Martin, Ride to Hell is an open-world biker game set in 95 square kilometers of California's most attractive real estate. In it, players take the reins of Ray, a Vietnam veteran who has returned to his home state to find that the conservative '50s have been swept away by something known as "the hippie movement." And the world was never the same again.
Struggling to find his place in this new "progressive" society, Ray -- who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam -- turns to the Devil's Hand (who wouldn't?), a local biker gang. Of course he needs to prove his gusto before being accepted and he does so in a nicely stylized cutscene and the obligatory introductory missions that follow.
As soon as the Deep Silver PR representative fired up the game, Grand Theft Auto's influence was clear. After all, Rockstar Vienna developers left the studio to form Deep Silver and make this very game. Everything from the art style of the avatars that adorn the main menu to the dramatic manner in which cutscenes are shot, making expert use of close-ups and camera swings, is straight out of Rockstar's biggest franchise.
As you'd expect, Ride to Hell is drenched in '60s culture that is presented both subtly and a bit more heavy-handed as you make your way through the roadways. Sometimes it'll be as simplistic as a groovy road sign or radio commercial, other times it'll be a coke-filled porn shoot in a skeezy backyard pool. That very flesh-fest was home to our first look at one of the more inventive activities in the game. Ray plays the part of a photographer and the scantily clad vixen strikes poses that you'll need to capture for points. You can then send your photos to your friends online to see who can get the most "creative angle" of the model or simply pieces of the environment and bikes.
That's about as far as Ride to Hell's multiplayer portion extends. There's no co-op mode and no competitive multiplayer. Instead, the game is an entirely solo experience that tells the tale of Ray trying to get his feet under him and, in the process, rise to prominence in Devil's Hand and making a name for his new band of brothers.
As with most of these open-world style games, Ride to Hell is mostly about completing missions to expand the gang's control of territories within California. Of course, within those territories are several business and players will reap the benefits of claiming ownership, supposing they can meet the requirements. The one example we were given was a gas station. Unlike most other open-world games, your mode of transportation -- which is not always a bike -- has a gas tank. The gas depletes as you go and you'll need to fill up periodically (no telling what the penalty is for running out of gas). Claiming and defending land with a gas station nets you a free spot to fill up. No word yet on if you'll have to pour your own gas.
An interesting item to note is that there's no money in Ride to Hell, only respect. That means that you won't get cash or parts for your bike by completing missions, instead you'll get respect (and will be rewarded with parts). The way characters act towards you is said to change as you progress through missions, and since the entire world is open to start, a grandpa sitting on his porch might react differently to you roaring by at the beginning of the game then at the end. Characters will also react differently depending on how you decorate your ride. There is said to be an "infinite number" of permutations and you can tweak everything from your gear parts to different pieces of the actual chassis of your bike.
It's obvious that Deep Silver is keeping an eye on the little things, meaning the small details and additions that could either sell Ride to Hell as being ripped straight out of the '60s or make it feel like a bad Easy Rider remake. Things like including news reports and blurbs about events like Woodstock, the Civil Rights Movement and the ongoing Vietnam War. The developers have also licensed over 300 songs from '60s, including a reported 15 songs that everyone will know; one of which is "Born to be Wild."
As you'd expect, combat plays a significant role in Ride to Hell's gameplay, but unlike the rest of the open-world gameplay which is heavily influenced by GTA (the default camera angle and GPS systems appears nearly identical) the combat is almost entirely devoid of gunplay. There will be times when a shotgun is necessary but the bulk of Ride to Hell's combat is of the hand-to-hand variety and it can take place either on-foot or on your hog (Road Rash memories anyone?).
Players can make use of fists, brass knuckles, chains, crowbars (among many more) as well as environment pieces. Deep Silver is aiming to make the combat in Ride to Hell as interactive as possible meaning that you'll be able to throw people into the side of buildings, stacks of boxes, tanks of gas and other prop pieces that will hopefully produce the desired effect. The combat that I was shown was extraordinarily clunky thanks to it coming from a pre-alpha build. Hopefully everything will smooth out a bit as we near release.
In fact, the world as a whole still needed additions and refinement. The driving and exploring that we were shown showed a land rather devoid of interesting life. There were houses and buildings to be seen in the distance but we were never shown what driving is like in a city setting or in a neighborhood, instead it was long expanses of what appeared to be desert with random signs of life sprinkled throughout. Ride to Hell is said to feature major cities, coastal roads, and small towns, but given the relative commotion of those locales compared to the calm and relaxed desert, it was likely for the sake of performance that things were limited.
My first time seeing Ride to Hell in action was one of the experiences that left me thinking that I wanted more. Not necessarily more of what I saw, but more of what this game has the potential to become. The foundation of high production values is certainly there and can be seen in some of the rough cutscenes that I was shown, but the game world needs to be much more fleshed out. Then there's the concern that Ride to Hell treads a bit too closely to GTA, but there are certainly worse things than reminding players one of last year's greatest games.
Ride to Hell is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2009 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, but from what I've heard the game is looking more like a July or August release. Stay tuned to IGN.com for more news as it comes.
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