The developer behind OlliOlli World, one of 2022’s most underrated games, still has another skating game up its sleeve this year. Roll7’s next game is Rollerdrome, which made a strong first impression with its distinct visuals and unique mix of rollerblading and shooting at June’s State of Play. While the game launches next month, I got the chance to go hands-on with Rollerdrome early.
Though it’s a bit more complicated than the simple skateboarding of OlliOlli World, Rollerdrome shows that Roll7 is still at the top of its game when it comes to making games that feel awesome to play. It’s like Skate meets Max Payne, and that’s a combination I never knew I wanted until now.
In the world of Rollerdrome, a megacorporation called Matterhorn tries to distract the masses from its seedier exploits with a massive bloodsport tournament where contestants compete to survive in increasingly difficult gauntlets. Players control a newcomer disrupting the competition and Matterhorn’s plans, and although the story isn’t super detailed with a lot of cutscenes, first-person locker room exploration segments prior to each match do a good job at world-building and demonstrating how monolithic and threatening Matterhorn really is.
Inspired by comic books, Rollerdrome’s aesthetic is very similar to that of Sable, one of 2021’s best indie games. It features stark, cel-shaded colors that pop off the screen and give each arena you fight in a distinct look. The game knows its premise is a bit ridiculous, so it doesn’t try to feel that real with its visuals, even if its narrative has themes and undertones that are certainly applicable in our world.
In practice, Rollerdrome tasks players with earning as high a score as possible as they rollerblade around large arenas and kill all of the enemies within them. Ammo is limited but refills as players pull off fancy tricks that feel like they’re straight out of a more traditional extreme sports game. Many of the challenges of each level are score-based too, so learning how the complete tricks pays off.
Skating well in Rollerdrome is just as important as the shooting, which calls back to 2000s-era shooters like Max Payne with its centered aiming reticle and slow-motion bullet-time mechanics. While Roller Champions can technically give you your rollerblading game fix, there’s nothing else quite like Rollerdrome’s single-player rollerblading action out there.
At first, Rollerdrome can be a bit difficult to get the hang of. You don’t need to hold forward to move forward if you’ve already given yourself momentum, and your speed doesn’t decrease when you crouch. These oddities, plus the fact that you need to worry about doing tricks and aiming in the direction of enemies, can be a bit overwhelming at first. Once you get the hang of it, Rollerdrome is a ton of fun. Thankfully, you aren’t required to have pinpoint precision to shoot an enemy; you just have to be pointing in their general direction for an aiming reticle to appear. Rollerdrome’s at its best when you learn to focus more on the rollerblading tricks you can pull off so you’ll have enough ammo whenever you pass an enemy.
Of course, new enemy types are continuously introduced to keep you on your toes, including snipers that force you to dodge when they shoot and enemies with riot shields that are best dealt with from behind or with a grenade launcher. The arenas these matches take place in also get more complicated, so you’ll be grinding on rails, hopping through windows, and even traversing multiple levels of an arena in order to survive. Rollerdrome simultaneously captures that frenetic energy of a shootout in Max Payne and the satisfying vibes of a skill-based skating game like Skate 3 or Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, and that’s a unique combination that you won’t find anywhere else.
With Rollerdrome, Roll7 continues to prove that it makes some of the best-feeling games on the market. It might not be quite as easy to pick up and get the hang of as OlliOlli World, but it’s an impressive second outing in 2022 for the team.
Rollerdrome will be released for PC, PS4, and PS5 on August 16, 2022.
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