My roller skates come to life, thrashing hard on the concrete, before drowning in a murderous symphony of shotgun explosions and rocket explosions. I swerve to avoid a hail of gunfire, place my skates on rails, and then flip through the air, my guns blazing as I perform a flashy move to get the crowd on their feet. I hope this run creates a big enough death combo to reach a high score and unlock the next stage, where more powerful weapons and enemies await. It’s Rollerdrome, a skating-shooter that blends the move system of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater with Doom 2016’s kill chain to create a thrilling dystopian experience that makes you feel like a god on wheels.
Roll7, the team behind the Ollioli series, is locked into every aspect of the sport, offering fascinating skating freedom, challenges requiring devotion, comic-book visuals that leap off the screen, and a fascinating sci-fi The narrative vision is stripped right away from 1970s cinema. Rollerdrome is a love letter to James Caan’s classic film roller, following a similar theme to the corporations ruling the planet and using the poor as competitors in the blood game. Even the skaters’ uniforms are similar in design and colour. The retro vibe and inspiration work well to create an eye-catching backdrop to skate. When playing rollerdrome, comparison points to other sports and entertainment are obvious, but they unite to form something unique.
The gameplay concept is simple: Skate or Die. If you stop moving, a sniper will pick you up, or a mech will blow you up to come state. You travel the world in different arenas, each designed like a skate park with a sea of ramps and rails to help you speed up and fly higher. You use these playgrounds to attack terrorist groups hired by the mega-corporation to earn profit points. They are disposable and are here to highlight the skills of the contestants. You assume the role of a rookie named Kara Hassan, who you never take a good look at because she always has her back to you and is wearing a helmet, but her skills are undeniable and more importantly, displayed. Lots of fun to do.
When Kara breaks into an area, chaos ensues with applause and it doesn’t calm down until the last body falls to the floor. His movements are fast and fluid, and the most important actions are easy to perform, such as launching a half-pipe or moving through the air while simultaneously firing a machine gun. The Roll7 did a phenomenal job with the controls, making them intuitive to the extent that they quickly become muscle memory and require no more than a button press. The timing windows for specific moves are also great, making escaping sniper fire not only a cinch but an integral part of the combo system. If you can perform to avoid completely, your total score goes up.
In the first few levels, I skated with the sole intention of winning and moving on to the next stage. But the game’s progression system requires much more than that. To reach the second stage stages, Kara must first complete a specific number of smaller objectives. These tasks range from achieving high scores to taking down specific types of enemies in special ways. These goals are similar to those of a pro skater, but there are some disappointments if you don’t want to try your hand at the same fight multiple times.
I was a little disappointed in the later levels, yet I recognized how the challenges led me to find and execute huge combo strings to reach a high score. The combo meter multiplier only advances on kills, so you must figure out how to reach and kill enemies in a timely manner. These enemies roam the entire arena, and your ammo stock only fills up when you make moves, so you’re constantly trying to dazzle the crowd or bring down an opponent. It is a phenomenal mix of two different gaming disciplines. Gunplay fits in well with skating, thanks to one of the most generous lock-on targeting systems. The focus is on getting the ammo and timing shots, which is great considering your character’s dangerous speed and they are often thrown into the air.
The retro sci-fi setting is action friendly, but don’t expect much from the story. You’ll hear voices in the locker room that advance specific plot points and gain greater insight into the world through notes and newspaper clippings, but they don’t add up to much — all the excitement is in the zone.
The rollerdrome clicked with me right away, and I ate everything. As polished and fun as the experience is, it feels like the Roll 7 is dipping its toes in the water. I hope this talented studio gets a chance to make a sequel to further this unique concept with more detail in the story and more player progression. Regardless, the rollerdrome is a great first step. I loved the campaign gameplay and think my friend group will be using this unique title for late night scoring competitions.