Ride to Hell: Retribution is, by far, the worst video game that I have experienced in recent memory. It is an utterly vile and broken piece of software, that fails to contain even a single redeeming quality. By releasing this game, Deep Silver has revealed that minimum standards simply do not exist within their organization.
If Deep Silver had any sense of pride for their work, or respect for the customers, Retribution would have been killed long before it saw the light of day. In my book, the fact that this game now sits on store shelves speaks volumes about the kind of company that Deep Silver really is.
Before we jump into everything that is wrong with Ride to Hell: Retribution, I think it is worth taking a look at how the game got to this point. As it was originally announced back in 2008, Ride to Hell had players take on the role of a Vietnam vet turned motorcycle club prospect in the 1960s. At the time, Deep Silver promoted that title as having a vast open world to explore as players worked their way up through the club’s ranks, expanded the territory under their control, and experienced the game’s non-linear narrative.
When Ride to Hell: Retribution was re-announced last April, the publisher never clarified if the game was in fact the same Ride to Hell they debuted five years ago. With the final disc now sitting in my PS3, I can now say that there appears to be no significant connection between the conceptual Ride to Hell announced in 2008 and the pathetic excuse for a video game that was released on June 25, 2013.
If I had to guess (and I do because Deep Silver is not talking), I would say that all work on the original game was trashed when it was canceled in 2009. A few years later, Deep Silver decided to revive the name, in an apparent attempt to cash in on the fact that there is not an official Sons of Anarchy game. Ride to Hell: Retribution was then rushed though a short development cycle at Euthechnyx, pressed onto discs, and quietly pushed out to stores in an effort to avoid being noticed by critics.
Maybe it didn’t happen exactly that way, but there is nothing within the game to make me feel otherwise.
One of the few nice things about Ride to Hell: Retribution is that the game never makes any attempt to hide its true colors. From the moment you press start to open up the main menu (which takes a full 22 seconds to load up), it is clear that Euthechnyx and Deep Silver made zero effort to craft anything even remotely close to resembling a fun video game.
Upon starting a new save file, you immediately (and with no explanation) find yourself manning a turret gun and shooting at waves of incoming enemies. After killing a handful of the on-foot bikers, Jake (your character) pumps his fist in the air and the game jarringly switches to a cutscene of him riding a bike. The road scene lasts for a few seconds before Jake is suddenly thrust into a quick time event (QTE) fight with another biker. That brawl lasts for a couple of blows and then Jake is suddenly standing over, and shooting, another character. Following the unexplained murder, Jake is quickly transitioned back to his bike as he jumps over a helicopter, and then the game drops you back off at the loading screen.
The entire opening sequence is a confusing and disjointed mess. Sadly, it is also very much in line with the rest of the experience.
Following that initial loading screen, Ride to Hell: Retribution goes back in time 10 days to set the stage for the game’s story. You play as Vietnam vet Jake Conway, who upon returning to his hometown finds that a biker gang called The Devil’s Hand is now running the show. Jake’s brother is quickly murdered by The Devil’s Hand, which sets our protagonist on a quest for revenge as he decides to track down and kill the entire biker gang.
It is an uninspired and entirely predictable plot, which does nothing to distract players from the remainder of the game’s problems.
Ride to Hell: Retribution is an entirely linear affair that is broken up into several missions. While there is nothing inherently wrong with using a linear structure, Euthechnyx’ mission design boils down to a very simplistic formula that is repeated throughout the entire game.
The majority of missions play out as follows:
- Jake learns of a lead that will take him to the next Devil’s Hand member
- Jake rides down a painfully linear road, filled with repeating obstacles, to that location
- At the location, Jake will have to fight a group of enemies
- Jake then finds out that the Devil’s Hand member is actually someplace else, or they escape
- Jake rides down another linear road, filled with either bikers or cops to battle
- At the next location, Jake has to alternate between fighting and shooting his way though an excruciatingly long level
- The level concludes with a boss fight against the Devil’s Hand member
- Rinse and repeat
The other thing to note about Retribution‘s missions is that each of them contain at least one impromptu, and very creepy, sex scene. At some point during each mission Jake will spot one or more male characters threatening (either physically or sexually) one or more female characters. After killing the hostile males, Jake is “rewarded” with a short cutscene of him having fully-clothed sex with the distressed damsel[s].
I’m not inherently against including sex in video games, but the circumstances surrounding the repeated sex scenes in Ride to Hell: Retribution are extremely offensive and troubling.
The most obvious issue is that almost all of the female characters in the game amount to nothing more than objects for Jake to eventually have sex with. What is far more disconcerting, in my opinion, is that the “sex reward” is basically forced upon players. You can either leave the distressed female to get beat up and/or raped, or you can stop the attack and then have sex with her yourself. There is never any option to be a decent human being and just stop the rape.
It is a completely repulsive situation, and Deep Silver should be ashamed for letting it exist in the game.
In general, the missions are not overly difficult; however, they do become incredibly frustrating due to the game’s terrible controls. Jake’s bike is unresponsive, on-foot movement is clunky, the hand-to-hand combat is a mix of button mashing and QTEs, and the shooting/cover system is a complete disaster. Nothing in Ride to Hell: Retribution feels like it works correctly, and the entire game becomes a massive chore because of it.
On top of everything else wrong with Retribution, the game’s presentation is the worst that I have ever seen. Character models are sub-par, the animation is terrible, dialog and voice work is horrendous, sound effects are unrealistic and muffled, textures will often fail to load or suddenly disappear, transitions between sequences are extremely jarring, and you will spend far too much time reading tips on the loading screen.
Ride to Hell: Retribution‘s overall presentation is far worse than just a simple lack of polish. The game lacks any sort of standards, quality control, or even a basic respect for the medium. The fact that this pile of trash was shoved out the door in its current state is shameful, and a complete slap in the face to the gaming audience.
After forcing myself to suffer through 8 grueling hours of Ride to Hell: Retribution over the last couple of days, I came to the point where I could no longer stomach the game’s repetitive (and boring) structure, clunky controls, horrendous visuals, pathetic attempt at a plot, and offensive sex scenes. Breaking with WGTC’s review policy, I turned the game off without finishing the main story. Whatever the back half of Retribution holds, there is no possible way it is enough to justify having to endure the first half of this abomination.
Ride to Hell: Retribution will likely find its way to the bargain bin in the near future, but I would advise you to avoid it regardless of price. This game is simply not worth a single second of your time.
This review is based on the PS3 version of the game.