The word “retro” is thrown around a lot in this generation. By definition, Retro is typically an aged or outdated style, fashion, mode, etc. Anything from more than 15-20 years is typically considered “retro”. Sometimes ideas challenge that definition and present the question: Can a modern game with modern ideas and innovation be classified as “retro”?
Retro City Rampage is one of those games that stands up to the challenge. Does it succeed or does it fall flat like the sprites it emulates?
Retro City Rampage features a long and robust campaign mode that continuously hammers your memories with references from the 80s and 90s. Some of these references are hilarious while others are primarily designed to make you reminisce of not just video games, but pop-culture as well. I can’t count how many times I caught myself thinking about the times I first played the games that Retro City Rampage was copying.
In addition to those modes, Retro City Rampage also provides “rampage” side missions. I haven’t gone on one of these types of missions since they were last used in the Grand Theft Auto series: Vice City. Essentially, they are score chasers, which I have never been heavily into with any game. RCR, on the other hand, successfully captures what I liked with the GTA rampages. These challenges are the perfect excuse to bring your 8-bit chaos fantasies to fruition.
When you start up the game, the very first “retro” reference that you are shown is the presentation of the game. You play in a top down, over-head view similar to the original Grand Theft Auto. Occasionally the game will give you a different camera view similar to the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game (which is also referenced multiple times). Retro City Rampage constantly introduces new game play elements into the fray that can make the player confused. Having a brief tutorial would have been nice, considering the game tosses you into the frenzy and expects you to know what you are doing. This aspect could potentially put some gamers off of the game and that would be a shame.
Much like GTA, RCR has a wanted level system displayed by a meter where the color green means you are safe and the cops don’t care if you exist. However that meter will quickly climb as it seems that every little mistake you make (like bumping into another car when a cop is near) pushes you further towards the red, essentially meaning you are screwed. Luckily, there is a way to get rid of the wanted level. Scattered about the map (usually in alleys) are items called: “Stealth Coins” which, once you collect one, makes the police mysteriously blind to your actions for a limited time allowing you to make your escape.
Another issue that proved to be annoying was the lack of detail on the in-game map. The map places little color filled circles on places of interest on your map, but this is a little frustrating when you are cruising around or trying to find a specific shop. If you don’t remember the general location of that store, you could be forced to wander the streets until you stumble on it. I had this issue after I completed a mission that required you to wear a propeller hat. I couldn’t remember where the hat shop was, so I had no choice but to wander the streets.
When you decide to take a break from all the 8-bit violence, there is an in-game arcade that has several games waiting for you to play outside of RCR’s many mini-games. Of these arcade games, a plump, meaty, and for lack of a better word, “drippy” character makes an appearance in a game with Virtual Boy graphics. (You can draw your own conclusions from those hints)
(Sound & Visuals)
Compared to modern day titles, Retro City Rampage may not be something that spectacular, but it wouldn’t be fair to compare this game to anything other than a game from the generation that it mimics. Both the sound effects/music and visuals of RCR successfully recreate the presentation of the best games of yesteryear. The sound effects are the same that you would expect from the 8-bit era of gaming, just slightly enhanced to maintain the authenticity and to make sure that the game won’t drive you crazy from the bleeps and bloops.
One of the things that makes this game stand out is that it gives you the option to adjust graphic filters. You can apply an old time (80s’ish) TV that surrounds the screen with all of the glorious knobs that you had to turn to change the channel (unless you had one of those ugly slider cable boxes). You can select graphic filters that make the game look like it’s being played on the Gameboy’s green and black dot matrix LCD screen or you can set it up to display as classic VGA. There are a crap-ton of options that allow you to customize the game’s graphics to suit your nostalgic needs.
Retro City Rampage has a total of 14 trophies and of those, you have your typical “Do this just because it’s possible” trophies: “Feeling Groggy” requires you to “get ‘sick’ off of milk.’” Not all of the trophies are that easy. You also have your collectables which consist of loot bags, pay phones and invisible walls. (I know, it sounds weird, but it works with the aesthetic.) There is a trophy called “Death Cam, No death” that requires you to complete a mission called “Death Cam VHS” without dying. The name of this mission may be stirring up some thoughts in your head right now and if you are wondering, “Death Cam VHS” is similar to the arcade classic “Smash TV”.
(Conclusion & Thoughts)
Retro City Rampage is Brian Provinciano’s open love letter to a long gone generation in our gaming history. With all of the content and constant references to the 80s and 90s, you can tell that Brian’s heart and mind belong to video games. Retro City Rampage proves that a modern game can be “retro” when it’s being developed with the creator’s love for a long gone generation as the constant focus. When you purchase Retro City Rampage from the PlayStation Network, you’ll see that Retro City Rampage is a part of the “cross-buy” program. So you get both the PlayStation 3 version AND the PlayStation Vita version all for the low price of $14.99.
9.0 out of 10
Very close to absolute perfection
The ultimate 8-bit nostalgic game available for home consoles
A ton of content and customization options
2 games for the price of one through the cross-buy program
Epic in-game arcade games
The controls can be a bit confusing at times. A brief tutorial to introduce new game play elements would have been nice
It can be difficult to find some of the shops without a map with a little more detail