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Roadkill – Second Opinion

Daniel Weissenberger's picture

When Scott wrote his review of RoadKill, he complimented its addictive gameplay and well-designed cities. He's not wrong. As car combat games go, this is a competently-designed one that plays smoothly and intuitively. So why did I rate the game so much lower than he did? Mostly because of something that Scott only saw fit to bring up in the Consumer Advice section of the review: how vilely sexist, sadistic, and homophobic the game is.

I'm an awfully difficult person to offend. Like many people these days, I expect comedy to push the limits of good taste. Half of comedy is shock and surprise, and it's getting harder and harder to shock people with each passing day. Every person sets their own line about how far comedy is allowed to go, and I daresay that RoadKill's "comedy" will be over the line for most people in its potential audience.

My own line is a little fuzzy—I believe comedy can be as offensive as it wants to be, so long as there is some kind of intelligence or message behind it. This is why I was so disconcerted to see Scott refer to the radio show "Gear Talk" as offering the game's most inspired moments. This was the section of the game that I found the most troubling. Even though it was mostly free of the near-endless gay jokes that permeate the rest of the game, I found that the nihilistic, misogynistic and violent comedy grew unpleasant very quickly. There's only so long that you can listen to someone joke about beating up and killing unintelligent prostitutes before it stops being a joke and starts being a disturbing point of view.

So I was massively offended by the game's "sense of humor," far more so than Scott was. Of course, I've never found farting noises especially funny either, so it's possible that all of this is just a personal taste issue, and I'll move on to problems with the game of a more universal nature. There's the fact that the game is lacking a main character. Oh sure, there's an avatar to be played as, the ridiculously named Mason Strong, but he doesn't have any character at all. While imitating much of Grand Theft Auto III, it seems the designers decided to ape that game's cipher main character as well—the one difference being that RoadKill's main character actually speaks. Since his dialogue consists almost entirely of snide comments made at the end of CGI mission briefings, it doesn't do much to establish his character as anything other than "an unsympathetic jerk." The most shocking twist in the game occurs right at the end, in the obligatory 'setting up for a sequel' sequence. After killing all the people he'd set out to kill, Mason hears a distress call over the radio requesting help in dealing with bloodthirsty thugs that are ravaging a nearby town. I was surprised to see Mason leap into his car and presumably rush off to help. Up until this point, all Mason has done has acted in self-interest, working with other bloodthirsty gangs to exact revenge for things done to him. The one positive characteristic offered about him is the suggestion that he was in favor of a return to democracy. Although given that he lives in a world where people drive around running over prostitutes (improbably built women who walk around in skimpy lingerie during hurricanes) and you have a seventy-five percent chance of getting shot while trying to get to the corner store for milk, this is kind of a bone-headed idea. You can't have democracy without law and order, after all.

I was also quite a bit harder on the game's setting than Scott was, and not just because it's clichd, but because it's such an ill-conceived and badly thought out clich. There are too many errors, mistakes, and "huh?" moments to enumerate here, such as the presence of radio stations, electricity, and a monetary system in post-apocalyptic wasteland with no government to speak of, but the biggest logic flaw is impossible to miss—the abundance of intact windows. In fact, throughout the entire game, there are only a handful of shattered windows visible in the whole game. It's fairly common knowledge that in any kind of a social unrest, the absolute first thing that happens is that all the windows are broken. It's basically inconceivable that, following a plague that wiped out a nebulous amount of the world's population a very unclear amount of time ago, and the complete breakdown of law, order, and industry, there would be a single pane of intact glass left anywhere in North America.

Given how objectionable I found the comedy, and how uninteresting I found everything else, it may seem like I should have given the game an even lower score than I did. Well, let me go on record again stating that, despite the fact that everything else was wrong with the game, the core gameplay was quite fun. Out of fairness to the people who worked hard at creating the game's engine and designing the missions, I've decided to give it the rating I would have if it had been a plotless car combat game in which I played as un-skinned vehicles driving around wire-frame streets plowing over stick figures. Actually, if I'd played that game right after RoadKill I'd probably give it a six or a seven. The earned its 5.0 out of 10 rating, all right.

Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
Category Tags
Platform(s): PS2  
Developer(s): Terminal Reality  
Publisher: Midway  
Genre(s): Shooting  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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