Rollcage was a game I hadn’t thought about in quite a while. Originally released by Psygnosis in 1999, Rollcage was a futuristic racing title for the original PlayStation. Set in the 2400’s, the game centres around a colourful troupe of illegal street racers called “Rollcagers” who drive special double sided futuristic vehicles. These vehicles are not only equipped with WipeOut/Mario Kart style weaponry but they can also race at speeds in excess of 400KPH. Combined with a dancetastic soundtrack featuring Fatboy Slim and a dystopian future design to the race courses, Rollcage had all it needed to be a critical success and it was commercially successful enough to see a sequel in 2000.
What has brought the game back to the attention of myself and others has been the announcement by a group of developers called Caged Element that they have begun working a spiritual successor to the series. The new game is to go by the name of “Grip” and a Kickstarter has been set up to fund the project. I’ll post links to the games website below and I believe there’s also some work being done on putting together an actual feature on Grip itself on the main Gaming Respawn site, so stay tuned for that.
So with the game once again hovering around my consciousness and no other Saturn games to currently review, I decided to pick a copy of Rollcage up from Amazon and give it a play for the first time in over a decade. When I inevitably acquire some more SEGA games I’ll re-start Rings of Saturn again. Until then though, I’ll be bouncing around various retro consoles to bring you a new feature every week. So, without further ado, let’s take a goosey gander at Rollcage!
Picture Courtesy of www.giantbomb.com
Every vehicle on the game is rated out of four categories; Acceleration, Top Speed, Strength and Grip. In all there are 6 vehicles you can choose from, each with their own specific driver. Each vehicle in some form mirrors it’s driver. For instance, the ruthless and aggressive Lenny has maximum strength at his disposal where as the much more measured and tactical Jet has a high grip score but has much lower strength. This leads to a tactical edge in deciding who you want to go for. I normally found myself going for drivers with a higher grip score but if you’re more of a drive first, as questions later, kind of person then there are drivers such as Tony who will cater well to your desires.
Even if your racer has a high grip rating, it will take a few races before you get used to the high speed of the game. On more than one occasion during my first race I was swerving all over the place as my racer pitifully lost control as I sped down the race track at unnatural speeds. Braking has to be timed perfectly or you’ll be sent careening to your doom against the side barriers of the track before you know it. Most of the time I found it was better just to ever so slightly decrease the accelerator and make corners without braking at all. However, as you get further into the game and the tracks become more narrow and insidious, this will become less of a viable option.
The tracks themselves are fiendish and well designed. My personal favourite was a volcanic type one which appeared to be set on Mars. The graphics are very good for a PlayStation game from the late 90’s and most of the scenery is destructible. When you crash into certain objects they dissolve in a fiery explosion and your progress is slowed somewhat. On the very first stage you can knock out the pillars on buildings causing them to collapse into fiery rubble along the course. Being that the vehicles are double sided, tracks with tunnels become an anything goes free for all with some racers zipping along the roof liable to fall on those below at anytime.
Picture Courtesy of www.fulloyun.com
Strewn about the courses are power ups for weaponry and special abilities that you can use to assist you in victory. There’s the standard fare of rockets and boosters but there’s also the ability to slow down time for every racer other than yourself as well as giving yourself a temporary shield to protect you from other racers attacks. There’s even a Blue Shell styled missile that will home in on whoever the unfortunate racer in first place is. All in all I liked the power ups and thought they added an extra element of fun to the overall gaming experience. Combining them with the intricate track design makes races an exuberant and hectic experience.
The games soundtrack suits the general mood very well and it adds to the experience. It’s funny when I think about a game like Scorcher and how badly it was trying to ape WipeOut with both its futuristic theme and techno styled dance music. It ended up looking like a pale imitation of a vastly superior game. Rollcage is in the same vein as WipeOut to, but it is original enough and good enough to stand on its own two feet. Both WipeOut and Rollcage are dystrophic futuristic racing games with dance soundtracks, but they attack the theme differently and as a result both are unique and exciting to play. Both are also immensely playable and know what they want to be and how to achieve it. Scorcher is a terrible game that plays awfully and brings nothing to the genre as consequence.
Rollcage is a game that I would recommend anyone who has a PlayStation to hunt down. I think it belongs with WipeOut, Ridge Racer, Collin McRae, Moto Cross GP and others in the “must have racing games” category of the consoles gaming library. It’s well designed, innovative and thoroughly playable to boot. I really don’t have much if anything negative to say about it. It uses the password system, which is a bit of an arse considering passwords were archaic even 5 years before the game came out. Alsom there could possibly have been more characters to choose from, but these factors don’t detract from the game too much.
Picture Courtesy of www.cagedelement.com/grip
The game looks good thus far
I certainly hope that “Grip” is able to match Rollcage when it is finally released. With two of the original development staff working on the new game, I have every hope that Grip will be able to live up to its spiritual predecessor. Even if it doesn’t, I’m hopeful that the release of Grip will bring more awareness to Rollcage and the game can continue to dwell on gamers minds as it has done for the past 15 years.
I’ll post some footage of Rollcage below.
Thanks for reading
You can find footage of Rollcage on YouTube courtesy of chaffXgrenade by clicking HERE
You can take a look at the website for Grip by clicking HERE
You can take a look at what Gaming Respawn Staff have been playing by clicking HERE
You can take a look at Sean’s most recent 5 Points of Gaming by clicking HERE