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The Rollcage games are cult classics and are an influence on some of the more recent arcade racers like GRIP and Redout. One of the standout features of the Rollcage games is the ability to drive on walls and ceilings. The first Rollcage showcased an awesome physics system and required mastery of the controls and mechanics to even have a chance at winning. Developed by Attention to Detail, Rollcage Stage II was released on for PlayStation and PC in 2000. For this review, I played the PC version, specifically Rollcage Extreme which is a “reboot” of Rollcage Stage II. It’s an updated version of the game designed to run on modern hardware and includes bug fixes. It was created by the same guy who created Rollcage Redux. He was also a coder for the original games.
Much like the first game, Rollcage Extreme is all about moving at blistering speeds, driving on walls and ceilings, being able to flip and keep going, and using weapons to combat your opponents. There are numerous vehicles to select from, most of which need to be unlocked. They come from different manufacturers and there are multiple types with different active weapon systems, and they have different stats in power, acceleration, top speed, strength, and grip. I’m happy to say the game is not as difficult to master as the first game. It’s much more accessible. There are numerous single player game modes as well as multiplayer which I didn’t get the chance to try. The latest update indicates the network multiplayer option was removed. I don’t know why. However, the game does support up to four player local split-screen. The game does seem to have a bit more personality than its predecessor and there is a “help” button you can click on before starting a race which will provide you tips and information. At the end of each race, you can see your race and lap times and have the option to watch a replay.
Rollcage Extreme is a combat racing game. There are numerous weapons and powerups at your disposal and you acquire them from the pickups scattered around the tracks. You can store two pickups and use them at any time. You can also upgrade a weapon or powerup by picking up the same one twice. Many of the weapons from the previous game return along with some new ones like bullets which allows you to rapidly fire bullets at your foes and a plasma beam that fires straight ahead and if it makes contact, the target vehicle will briefly be suspended in mid-air. The Electric Cutters is another standout weapon. It results in electric bolts emitting from the sides of your vehicle. There are some others that give you an advantage during a race and they are nice additions to the arsenal.
I did play the game using an Xbox One controller and there appears to be a bug when mapping left and right to the left joystick. I had to map it to up and down for it to map correctly. I also tried it with a wired Xbox 360 controller and encountered the same issue. While Rollcage Extreme is much easier to pick up and play than the first game, I would still recommend you start out by playing through the training courses first. Each one teaches you something about the game’s mechanics and after completing all of them, you’ll unlock something. There’s a lot more content to unlock in Extreme like difficulty modes, campaigns, tracks, vehicles, game modes, and more options. Scramble is a mode consisting of a series of obstacles courses designed to test your driving skills. Honestly, I don’t really care for the mode. They are trial and error courses and there’s nothing fun about not getting to the end in time or falling off the track again and again, forcing you to do all over again each time. The campaign mode is where you’ll unlock a good chunk of content. There are three campaigns and you must beat them in order. Each campaign takes you through numerous leagues consisting of multiple tracks. You can choose to participate in a classic race or TOTAL race. A classic race rewards you with points based on your finishing position. A TOTAL race rewards you with points for combat and destroying things on the tracks in addition to the points you earn for your finishing position. If you have enough points at the end of a league, you’ll have to win a knockout race to actually win the league cup.
The Arcade mode is where you can race just for fun or for practice. You choose the track, vehicle, how many laps, and the difficulty of which there are three – beginner, expert, and master. The latter two need to be unlocked. Time Attack is a mode where you try and set record lap times on any track of your choosing and the only pickup you can acquire is turbo. The final three single player modes include Survivor, Demolition, and All Tracks. In Survivor, you need to finish in first in as many tracks as possible. If you lose, you fail and have to start all over again. In Demolition, the goal is to destroy everything on the track or score as many points as possible within a specific time limit. And in the All Tracks mode, you race alone on all the tracks and try to set record times and like Time Attack, you can only acquire the turbo pickup. You’ll want to play through all the modes to unlock as much as you can.
The opponent AI is aggressive and will utilize weapons to slow you down and ram into you to try and cause you to lose control. There is a “Catchup” option that can be enabled or disabled from the options menu and I assume it’s related to rubberbanding. It’s much easier to stay on the track and recover from crashes this time around. Although, some of the faster vehicles will require mastery of the controls and mechanics or you will wipe out frequently. There are numerous worlds that vary in theme and each world consists of multiple tracks, all of which are pretty short. There’s a lot of diversity in the tracks which does help to keep the races and visual presentation interesting. You’ll speed through a lot of tunnels and along ledges, you’ll drive off jumps, and have to avoid plenty of obstacles. You can destroy buildings and structures, some tracks include branching paths, and there are shortcuts you can find. The speed pads on the tracks will give you a speed boost and they will often guide you to a shortcut or alternate path. You will have to avoid crashing into things, falling off ledges, and some environmental hazards like electric bolts.
Visually, Rollcage Extreme does look a bit better than Redux. Both games are basically updated versions of the originals but they still hold up rather well. Extreme does offer a great sense of speed and includes a lot of detail. The vehicle models look good and are diverse, there’s plenty of color, and the different themes of the worlds give the game a cool sci-fi feel. In the backgrounds you’ll see ships flying around and distant planets, some tracks include rain, and there’s a lot of lights and futuristic looking scenery. As the vehicles speed along the tracks, smoke will trail behind them, and buildings and structures can come crashing down in fiery explosions. The only downside of the visual presentation is the pop-in but it’s easy to miss when your travelling at over four hundred miles per hour. The soundtrack is full of techno-sounding songs and there are a few catchy tunes that can really help get you into the fast-paced racing. I’m not the biggest fan of this music genre but I did enjoy the soundtrack here more than that of the first game. The sound effects are a bit lackluster but they do get the job done. On the default volume, I could barely hear the sound effects but after raising it, I could heard the roar of the vehicles and the sounds of weapons more clearly. On the technical side, the only bug I encountered was a mangled display after alt-tabbing. But it didn’t happen all the time and restarting the game resolved the issue. The frame rate was solid throughout my entire experience.
I did some research and learned that many players out there prefer the first game. I have no nostalgia for the series since I’m playing these for the first time and I can honestly say I prefer Rollcage Stage II or Extreme. Sure, the learning curve isn’t as steep but I love the new content and diversity of tracks and vehicles. There’s more to see and do and I just had a lot of fun with this. However, I will say the reward or sense of satisfaction for winning isn’t on the same level as that of the first game. Probably because its easier. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The series gimmick of letting you drive on walls and ceilings adds a neat dynamic to the races and Rollcage Extreme maintains the addictive quality of the first game. The quality that keeps me coming back.
Rollcage Stage II or Extreme is a fantastic follow-up to the original and I would highly recommend it to fans of the original or arcade racing games. Driving on walls and ceilings, the weaponry, and sense of speed make for some exciting high octane action that’s just not found in many other racers. Rollcage Extreme includes more charm and personality than its predecessor, it adds more weapons, vehicles, and tracks, and is an all-around great racing game with plenty of diversity and game modes to enjoy. If you enjoy fast-paced arcade racers, definitely check out Rollcage Extreme.