How Ride To Hell: Retribution Was A Wasted Opportunity



 Games never go from the original idea to the final product without at least a few major changes. Mechanics and features get shelved, levels get cut and concepts do flying out the window. It happens to every game without fail, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A change in direction can save a game or make the experience much more focused. It is almost infinitely better to have a short, polished experience than to have a longer, more rough one.

Sometimes though changing a games direction and cutting features can ruin a game, gutting it of the previous style and tone. This was sadly the case with recent release “Ride to Hell: Retribution” by Eutechnyx, going from a promising 1960’s adventure to a horrid acid trip over the course of four years.

Cast your minds back five years to 2008, when the last console war was still fresh and the last time “next-gen” could be used as an advertising point. The now defunct Deep Silver Vienna, in conjunction with both Eutechnyx and Perspective Studios, announced “Ride to Hell”, a game “set in the last years of the roaring 1960’s, a time of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘N Roll”.

The game was being developed with a “movie-style production model”, being the first game ever to use a lot at Universal Studios to get the motion capture aided by Perspective Studio. This company later went on work with Rockstar to capture Grand Theft Auto IV. The dev team even had former Rockstar members Hannes Seifert and Niki Laber at the helm.

Ride to Hell had a large amount of talent behind it, perhaps enough to even out the inexperience of Eutechnyx who up to this point had been making racing and car customization games. The few pieces of gameplay shown looked promising for a game in early-alpha.

With the aim of creating a semi-gritty experience about the character Jake as he returns from the Vietnam war in 1969 to a country he doesn’t fit into, the concept blended ideas that are as rare as gold dust in the industry. Biker gangs roving the dusty plains in the era of Richard Nixon and the counter-culture backlash from hippies crying for freedom. Aiming to be more Easy Rider than Sons of Anarchy, Ride to Hell looked like the early stages of the industry taking story-telling more seriously. While not an entirely grounded game, it seemed like Eutechnyx was on the right track to making an interesting game worth playing, and not only because the concept was ripe for the picking.

Then the game fell off the map. Only a handful of previews, interviews and one trailer was ever released of a game that hadn’t left alpha. With a release date of Q2 2009 and a long period of silence it was though the game had quietly slunk off to die, cancelled in favour of other projects. The rumours weren’t helped by the game being removed from Deep Silver’s website along with the closure of Deep Silver Vienna in 2010.

It is a sad when a game gets cancelled, especially if it is one that showed promise and the touch of original thought. The game lay forgotten for almost half a decade, a memory of the early years of the current-gen.

Then they dug it up from the grave.

After a few industry mumblings and rumours the game was re-announced in April this year as three separate titles. The core title “Ride to Hell: Retribution” took the place of the original vision, an open-world game set in the 1960’s, except something seemed wrong. A story of disillusionment and counter-culture was replaced with a tepid revenge story and the first trailer somehow made the game seem more technologically lacking then it did five years before.

Removing any semblance of realism and replacing it with a grindhouse tone and art style that makes every character look like a Rockbiter from Never Ending Story married Ron Perlman. Awful animations and an equally terrible script immediately destroyed any hopes of the games previous design remaining intact after all this time.

Some hope remained however. Even with though the game may not have been fantastic, perhaps if the grindhouse vibe and care free 60’s attitude were used right the game could be an enjoyable experience at the least. Sadly not though, the game was dead serious. No longer Easy Rider, but becoming Sons of Anarchy if you replaced writer Kurt Sutter with James Gunn on an extremely bad day.

As the release date loomed thoughts of how long the game had been in development arose. How much of that five year lull had been spent on this title, and at what point had the original vision been thrown in front of a speeding bus.

In the time between the two games Rockstar beat them to the punch with Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned. While set in a modern day New York rip-off, Rockstar nailed the feel of a desperate Biker gang facing hard times as society moves further away from them. Only a miracle could give Eutechnyx a chance to rival that developer juggernaut.

That miracle never came, the game came out a few days ago and it is one of the worst games of the generation. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Not even the bike physics were safe from the games slapdash nature that in the end made it feel like Eutechnyx was forced to make this game with a gun to its head.

And It Could Have Been So Special

Ride to Hell had the rare chance of being able to grab an idea that hadn’t been explored before and running with it. It didn’t need to be ground-breaking, a game which explored the era and culture while also being entertaining would have been enough. Bikers don’t get much attention outside of being mega-macho meatheads.

In the end it feels like the largest missed opportunity of the generation. From being one of the more interesting games at the start, to being one of the generations worst at the end, the long wait only punctuates the air of disappointment. Perhaps one day another game will take a jab at making a game close to the original vision. Ride to Hell: Retribution isn’t just an awful excuse for a game, but an almost criminal wasting of a great concept.