Rollerdrome has one of the most intoxicating and satisfying gameplay loops in recent memory, and while the game suffers from some janky moments and underwhelming bosses, there’s no ignoring how good it feels to shoot, flip, and grind through each level. We just wish there was more.
Third-person skater-shooter Rollerdrome has had me licking my lips ever since it was revealed a couple of months ago. It looked slick, it looked unique, and most importantly, it looked fun as hell – but does it manage to deliver on those fronts in reality? While it’s certainly not without its faults, the overwhelming answer is yes.
During the first 15-30 minutes of Rollerdrome, there is a very strong chance you will actually not get along with this game. The camera is a bit jarring at first, and despite some decent tutorials, it may take you a while to get into the rhythm of Rollerdrome. But, I implore you not to give up. You’ll more than likely need to go into the settings and find the right options and difficulty for you, but trust me, Rollerdrome is well worth these early frustrations.
Once you have battled past those initial stages with your skater, a Rollerdrome prodigy named Kara Hassan, the game quickly becomes infectious. Even with the limited skills and weapons at your disposal in the early levels, you still find yourself creating some epic, action movie-worthy moments as you combine backflips and grinds with the satisfying crackle of bullets from your akimbo pistols.
As Rollerdrome progresses, your arsenal and your skillset broadens, the arenas become more varied, and the combination of enemy types make doing cool shit a bit more challenging – but all of that just increases how intoxicating the overall gameplay loop of Rollerdrome really is. What’s that? Yes, I would very much like to do a 520 Pretzel Grab backflip before blasting you away with a shotgun, thanks.
There will be blips along the way, however. That camera will wind you up on more than one occasion, and trying to transfer off of ramps and rails to platforms at different depths or heights will be clunky at times. However, these moments are quickly forgotten by the time you get round to blowing a grunt up with a grenade launcher while Mantis Grinding down an escalator.
The gameplay was always going to be the make or break for Rollerdrome, and I’m stoked that Roll7 nailed it on the whole. Layer on top of that the really gorgeous art style, a pretty good soundtrack, and just the right amount of storytelling via some snappy and interesting narrative moments, and you’ve got a great overall experience.
There’s also good news for those who get as hooked on the gameplay as I did, as Rollerdrome comes with a decent amount of replayability and post-story action. Speedrunners are catered for, and I can imagine completing stages in record time will become an obsessive endeavour. Completionists get to go back through the campaign and tick off the ten challenges tied to each level. And hardcore gamers will find some sick joy in the game’s incredibly difficult Out For Blood mode, which drops you back into levels with a list of seemingly impossible objectives to complete.
This is definitely one of the most exciting and best PS5 games of the year so far, but despite that, I still think Roll7 has missed a couple of tricks.
First of all, there are only two major boss battles during the game – both of which fall flat in the grand scheme of things. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I think the game could have really benefited from more challenging and diverse fights against large-scale enemies, or even some of the other Rollerdrome competitors, which is what I thought the story was actually building up to.
I think a little bit of customisation for Kara – even if it were something as simple as various outfits being awarded for completing each stage of the competition – would’ve been a nice touch too.
However, the big missed opportunity is, sadly, something I don’t think was ever really on the cards for Rollerdrome at all: multiplayer.
This is a great single-player experience, but there is something so addictive and unique about that gameplay loop that I just can’t stop thinking about how great Rollerdrome would be with something like a 3v3 deathmatch mode or even a free-for-all. It would need refining, the slow motion and locking on for aiming would have to be ditched, and some competitive-minded maps would need to be made to facilitate it, but a gameplay loop this good and this original is, in my opinion, screaming out for multiplayer action.
I know it’ll most likely never happen – and I certainly won’t let my unrealistic desires tarnish my experience with the game – but when the whole backstory of Rollerdrome is that it’s a highly-skilled, entertaining, and cutthroat sport that the general population are gripped by, I’d love to see that manifest for real by adding a competitive element to the game.
Ultimately then, my biggest problem with Rollerdrome is that there isn’t more of it. I sadly don’t feel the need to log on every day to nail a 520 Pretzel Grab backflip, shotgun in hand, like there is with the staple multiplayer games I indulge in regularly. But, the fact that I’m hellbent on demanding something so outrageously unobtainable from Roll7 is a testament to just how good this game feels to play.