Retro City Rampage (XBLA) review
Posted 04 January 2013 - 06:01 AM
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The XBLA release of Retro City Rampage is the post-patch PSN release, and since there were quite a few changes, I think it warrants a new review. If you are just interested in how this version stacks up to the other release, I'll put that toward the end of the review.
I actually still like sprites, so the 8-bit look of Retro City Rampage is great. There's lots of nostalgia packed into the game, from the look to the music. Despite being retro and blocky looking, you can actually tell things apart, so it won't interfere in the game. The in-game "cut scenes" look just as awesome as ones from the NES era. There's also tons of detail crammed into just about every inch of the game. Numerous references to games, TV shows and movies are all over the place, and I love it. I'm a sucker for things like that, so I had fun just driving around looking at all the in-jokes and references. The old school soundtrack that easily fits the theme of the game and sounded great as I drove around staring at all the billboards like a camera-happy tourist. One more note about the look is the ability to change the filter on the screen to make it look more like an NES game, Atari game, or even a Gameboy! Such a small touch shows lots of care, and I think it's really neat.
Controlling the character works really well. Running, jumping and shooting all work fine. Personally, I find shooting with the right analog stick to be much better, but the lock on function is really helpful in some circumstances. I sometimes have problems lining up the stomp on people, but that's just because of the view and my lack of practice. Switching the driving to automatic made it so much better and easier for me. The other way was too disorienting to me and made it harder than it had to be.
There are 62 missions, which includes story missions, side missions and lots of collectibles (my favorite being the invisible walls). The missions are sometimes short, but with lots of them, you will be kept busy. In case you just want to mess around in the game, there is a Free Roaming Mode. This is really something I would like in the Grand Theft Auto games. You are given max money and can just run around and do whatever with no real repercussions. You could do that in story mode, but would end up losing lots of money in the process. Plus, you can play as different characters in Free Roaming Mode, including Steve from Minecraft, which makes all the citizens have big block heads. It's two, two, two references in one!
Story missions start off easy, but can get pretty challenging. Thankfully, there are checkpoints to ease most frustrations. The side missions tend to be harder than some of the story missions. Being that there are so many references, there are several missions that will make fun of annoying mission types in other games by...making you do them here. It's a slippery slope making people do it in an attempt to say "this is annoying, huh?", and it has mixed results in Retro City Rampage. Some people are going to hate them, and the rest will tolerate it. Honestly, I'm not sure any game can pull off that kind of reference, since there is a reason people dislike doing missions like escorts, tailing and fetch quests. A lot of the humor in this game will be hit or miss, but I, for one, am a fan.
Each weapon you wield in Retro City Rampage has a challenge mission associated with it. These can be found on the map and also done from the main menu (once you have found the weapon). Depending on the weapon, I found them moderately to very challenging. I am pretty good with the rocket launcher and uzi, but I am absolutely terrible with thrown weapons like grenades and dynamite, and most of the melee weapons (because of the range). There is an achievement for getting a gold medal in all of these and the secondary sprees, which will require lots of skill or a fair share of luck. Secondary sprees range from using the power ups for kills to getting air time with the rocket launcher, and are more varied than the primary ones. The best part while doing these sprees is the progress bar at the top of the screen. It allows you to see how close (or far) you are from getting the gold. A small touch, but very helpful to me.
As mentioned before, there is an achievement for getting all golds in the sprees, which can take awhile. You get one for beating story mode and one for getting all the collectibles. There are several luck/skill ones, like hitting 4 people with 1 shotgun shot, running over 25 people in a row, and knocking one poor chump off his/her bike into another person on a bike. One that I found fun was avoiding the cops for one minute, on foot and maximum threat without taking damage. It involved lots of jumping, that's for sure, but the hardest part was surviving to max threat. A good mix of completion achievements and extraneous ones.
So, what all changed from the previous release? For one, some of the more annoying/ difficult parts of the game were made slightly easier or more forgiving. One that I noticed was the dreaded "throw dynamite at cars mission", which stopped me in the PS3 release. The number of cars to destroy was lowered, making it much less painful to do. To keep the balance, the side missions were made slightly more difficult. This I also noticed rather quickly, since I actually died on one of the early ones. I still beat it, but it was harder than it was previously. Whether or not the creator liked changing up the difficulties, I ultimately think it was for the better. It made it easier to complete the story (but not too easy) and harder to do the optional stuff, which I think makes sense.
All in all, I had fun playing Retro City Rampage. If you played games or grew up in the 80s and 90s, at least give the demo a shot. This game is so chock full of references, you have to try hard to not find one. I find most of its humor spot on, and I love all the nods to pop culture from my childhood. It really does feel like someone took VH1's "I love the 80s", put it in a blender, and poured it into this game. It's crazy to know that one guy made this game by himself (except for the music). Give it a try, you might be surprised how much fun it is!
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