Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Thanks to Tate Multimedia for providing a review code for the purposes of review and coverage.
When it comes to motorcycle-based games, most gamers will often think of beautifully rendered and seamless worlds where players can freely roam on their motorcycles in a 3D setting. Steel Rats however, the latest release from developer Tate Multimedia, is a visceral and groundbreaking evolution of the 2.5D action-arcade genre fusing destructive, octane-fueled, motorbike combat and death-defying stunt gameplay. With such a description, it proves to be possibly the most daunting aspect of the entire experience-its 2.5D world. But while certain elements are original and live up to the promise that Tate Multimedia gave repeatedly in their marketing campaign, the rest of the game ends up becoming a hollow, bland experience that frequently felt recycled in the game’s meekly short 5-hour campaign. But even as such, due to the developer’s respectable decision to price the game at a discounted 20-dollar price, it saves the failing graces of the experience, resulting in a mildly enjoyable and respectable 2.5D time that attempts to blend a bold world and seamless gameplay but ultimately falls short due to recycled levels and a hollow progression system.
The stand-out and center aspect of the experience is undoubtedly the campaign, grounded by a thinly written campaign showcasing a four-member gang of motorcycle riders collaborating against an extra-terrestrial enemy. This synopsis and effectively the entire story are unfortunately just as clichéd as it may appear at first glance. The story at points is practically non-existent with the only notable storytelling being seen with the transition between the worlds. For an experience that is solely reliant on this 5-hour campaign, it was confusing to say the least that the story was so off-handedly included.
In addition to the overarching story, the writing on display here is both thinly written and reeking of manufactured clichés. From overbearing attempts at puns to stiff lines of dialogue, there was not a single line in the game that ever set off any sort of charm or attachment to these characters. The detachment I felt with the four central characters wasn’t helped by the somewhat lackluster voice acting.
As for the gameplay, this is clearly where most of Tate Multimedia spent their seemingly limited budget on. The gameplay isn’t revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination as it replicates and harkens back to traditional motorcycle games such as Excitebike for the NES. However, it innovates on those ideas and formulas, fusing its relatively stunning world and characters with physics-breaking tricks and stunts able to be performed by the player. Players are able to drive up seamlessly on walls and pipes and also do full U-turns, jumps and flips, all of which being mostly controlled by the player. In addition, the control scheme is quite simple and easy to grasp after a few hours of experience as it can be frustrating in the first few hours to have to frequently ignore the left analog stick as the game so insists that you do.
The combat present in the game is mostly against the alien robots that morph into spectacular designs. Most of these creatures are introduced in the first two hours, but due to the visual variety of their designs, they never became overbearing in their repetition. As for the system itself, it’s quite shallow. Using energy bars to temper excessive player attacks, the developers made the odd choice of including so many weapons and options to the player. The enemies are so easy and non-threatening as to where any additional weapon outside of the spin and gun feel unnecessary and pointless. It all contributes to making the game far too easy and with no apparent option to change difficulties, it makes the experience all the more forgettable.
In addition to the main campaign, Steel Rats is rather barren in content. It features a robust customization system that feels unnecessary and a ridiculous hassle for the player to manage, given the sheer simplicity of the game. There is a scoring system in place for players who feel as if they need to achieve all three stars, but it doesn’t go anything beyond what is necessary to be considered standard. But while in a full retail price experience these aspects would have been criticized far more, in an experience for a mere twenty dollars, it makes the lack of these features far easier to swallow.
As a collective whole, Steel Rats is a simplistic, unnecessarily overbearing, and mediocre experience that doesn’t fully live up to either the ambition or promise of the project. But a reasonable price, it makes the experience and its excessive faults far easier to digest, resulting in an overreaching title from Tate Multimedia that will be serviceable for a few hours of simplistic action.
Score: 6.2 out of 10