Also available on PlayStation 3 and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/01/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
People who know me and my gaming and collecting habits know that I like to collect and play through really notoriously horrible games. Part of why I do it is to be able to judge these games for myself. Part of why I do it is because I hate myself and think I deserve to be tortured (just kidding…but not really). Most of why I do it, however, is because I find them entertaining in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 sort of way. If you don’t get that reference, you’re too young to read this; kindly close the tab. Ride to Hell: Retribution is perhaps more infamous even than Shaq Fu or ET for 2600 and currently holds the second-lowest Metacritic aggregate score with a 16 out of 100 (the lowest is Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade for Wii U with a score of 11 out of 100).
Oh god, where to begin with this game? It’s an absolute clusterfuck. “Unmitigated disaster” doesn’t even begin to describe it. It truly, literally, legitimately is the worst game that I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of trash. I guess let’s start on the surface – visuals and audio. The game looks like a hot mess. Keep in mind that this game launched in 2013, the same year as the Xbox One. We’d already had Halo 4 and Gears of War 3 completely blow our minds with the amazing visuals that the Xbox 360 could produce, and then we get this mess that could be outperformed by the Wii. I promise that if you used composite cables for both and set both to run 480i on the same TV, you would find stacks of Wii games that look better than this. When you’ve got a console capable of 1080p against a console that can’t do better than 480p, you should never have a game on the former outdone by one on the latter especially not the same year that its successor releases.
Not only does the game look worse than Arnold Ernst Toht’s face at the end of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the disaster of its audio design surpasses its visual failure. The music is…okay…but it’s unbearably repetitive. Every track is the same three or four measures repeated ad nauseam. The real crime here – and as far as I’m concerned, it constitutes a crime against humanity – is the voice acting. Even if we include the early 90s voice acting and FMV acting, the voice acting in this game is abhorrent. When I reviewed Chasing Dead, I SLAMMED that game for its downright insulting acting, but Ride of Hell blows that game out of the water. I didn’t think such a thing was possible in a game actually sold for money on major platforms, but the acting is even worse than Chasing Dead’s. Some characters’ voice acting is physically painful to hear. The audio balance is so bad in some places that the music completely drowns out the dialogue, and some lines are just totally silent despite the character’s lips’ moving although those things might be more a blessing than a curse given the quality.
The story, while mundane and cliche in concept, had some potential to be at least passable. The execution and lack of any character development whatsoever ruined that, though. You play as Jake, a soldier who’s just returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, on a quest of vengeance to – single-handedly – destroy the entire Devil’s Hand biker gang. This gang controls literally almost the whole state (whatever state it is; from the environment, I’d guess Arizona, New Mexico, or Nevada, but the game never specifies), and this one pissed off veteran on a motorcycle kills everyone in it. I’m all for suspension of disbelief in games, but having no actual help? That’s…a bit much.
Even with how crappy the game looks, how awful it sounds, how horrible the voice acting is, and how pathetic the story is, none of those are even the worst aspects of the game (although the voice acting does come pretty close). The game’s worst aspect is performance. The damn thing just doesn’t work half the time. I mean, technically it’s playable, but it’s an absolute broken mess. Sonic Boom and Assassin’s Creed Unity both look like competent, well-polished games next to this mess. Some enemies’ arms will inexplicably stretch like Mr. Fantastic when they’re killed, dead enemies will start to have seizures, and explosions’ splash damage seems completely arbitrary. Riding the motorcycle is a complete crapshoot if hitting something will make you restart or just let you clip through it, aiming is a pain with how jerky and stiff the controls are. The load times are reminiscent of the Neo Geo CD, and textures just pop in whenever they feel like it. Or they don’t. Sometimes they don’t, and characters will just go through a whole cut scene looking blurrier than an early Nintendo 64 game. Sometimes the game will just – perhaps mercifully – get fed up with its own incompetence and crash entirely. The frame rate hits an ABSOLUTE maximum of about 25, but it normally hovers between 15 and 20 fps. Even with a frame rate that low, dips are extraordinarily common. You’d think you’re trying to run Crysis 3 on Windows XP. I mean, yeah, technically it works, and it’s possible to play the game, but dear god, good luck keeping your sanity through the plethora of control issues and downright inundation of bugs and performance problems.
I’m a really progressive guy in most cases, but I usually make pretty generous exceptions for video games at least with regards to violence and characterization. Some characters are ass holes, and that’s often necessary for the plot. A character is a raging racist? As long as the game’s entire point isn’t “black people suck” or something, I’ll overlook that because usually, a racist character is in a game to make a point or provide a character foil or something. Some of my favorite games could probably be considered downright chauvinistic with how severely anime girls are objectified. Seriously, Gal*Gun and Moe Chronicle alone are enough for people to be justified in saying that I’m a shitty feminist, and I can’t disagree. With all of that in mind as context for this next statement…dear god, this game has just about the most screwed up and offensive portrayal of women that I’ve ever seen in a game (except, of course, the infamous Custer’s Revenge and Beat ‘Em and Eat ‘Em). Every single girl in the entire game (except for one at the end) is half-naked, and they all end up sleeping with Jake (although this is, quite awkwardly, done while still fully dressed). They ALL play the “damsel in distress,” they’re all submissive to the men in the game, and none of them seem capable of doing anything for themselves; they have to have a male character to help them with everything. Like, dear god, at least the objectified anime girls in the games I love have strong and pretty independent personalities. These girls are like worst of both worlds – half-naked 24/7 AND entirely dependent and submissive.
There’s literally nothing redeeming whatsoever about Ride to Hell: Retribution. It might be entertaining to make fun of if you’re drunk and playing it with friends who are also drunk, but in terms of objective critique, there’s literally absolutely nothing about the game that can possibly be praised. The graphics are crap. The voice acting is crap. The story is crap. The characters are crap. The gameplay is crap. The combat is crap. The driving is crap. Everything is crap. This is literally the worst game I’ve ever played.