This review is a bit of a weird one for me: usually, we are blessed by having review codes sent to us. A lot of the times we review games we’ve bought ourselves. For me, Retro City Rampage falls into the latter category, with a twist: while I did receive a review code for the Switch version, I’ve actually purchased the game before. Three times! I own it for PC, Vita and 3DS. So, that should kind of give you an idea of the direction this review is going.
I’m a huge fan of the game. There’s no question about that. I had a ton of fun playing GTA: Liberty City when I was younger, but I never did go back to the earlier GTA games. Thanks to RCR, we don’t have to: top down, open world carnage at its finest, there is a reason this title is evergreen.
First off, the story is somewhat vague but full of 80s nostalgia, and as a child of the 80s, I’m immediately on board that particular bandwagon. This isn’t a Shakespearean journey by any means, but a fun romp, a pulp story to the core with plenty of rose tinted glassery. And it works. Beautifully. I won’t go into too much detail so as to not spoil anything for you, but if you’ve been alive in the past 30 years, you’ll find something to relate to in the crazy missions you’ll be running in Retro City Rampage.
The gameplay is very much retro GTA on steroids: running and gunning in an open world, stealing vehicles, running over pedestrians, all the things that created the ESRB and that make a certain breed of game good, healthy fun. The shooting mechanics in particular are great, as you can auto-lock to shoot, dodge, run, hide and generally have much more control over how you approach attacking and killing and pillaging than the “12-bit” graphics would have you believe at first.
Speaking of the art: it’s fantastic. While it looks great in portable mode, having this thing on the big screen in pixel-perfect rendition is a thing of beauty. If there’s one thing setting apart this version from the previous ones I own is that I can see this on the big screen and even share it with people. There’s nothing quite like inviting your fiancee to run over some civilians and see her maniacal laughter take over. I’m scared to go to sleep now, but it’s a worthy investment, I think.
The music and sound effects are equally as great. I mean, I know I’ve been going on and on about how great this game is, but really, it’s hard to find a fault with it.
Sadly, I did.
There were some instances (most notably in portable mode) where I encountered frame-skipping and the game didn’t run as smooth as I was hoping. This isn’t gamebreaking by any means (it’s barely a minor annoyance), but I did wish the game would just 1080p60 all the way through and it wasn’t the case.
REVIEWER’S EDIT: After speaking with VBlank about the issue I was having, I got some old school schooling in upscaling and pixels! It appears that my ignorance went far beyond my knowledge on this one, so I’m attaching the explanation for what seemed to be frame jumps during certain parts of the game, straight from the VBlank’s mouth:
VBlank: Because of its low pixel resolution, there are times when objects will move 1 pixel, 2 pixels, 1 pixel, 2 pixels for example, if they’re at 1.5x movement speed, and it’s more noticeable because it’s not 1080p, it’s 180p, so each pixel is 10 pixels of movement at once (depending on the zoom mode).
That said, this is but a minor gripe with what’s otherwise a fantastic gaming experience. And much like other multi-platform games, I feel like the Switch version is the definitive version, as it’s the one that lets you rampage at home and on the go.
If you’re in the mood for a nostalgia-filled thrill ride that looks good, sounds great and plays like a fiddle, look no further. A highlight of indie game development, Retro City Rampage DX is a game I’d have happily bought a third time had I not been given a review code. That should tell you all you need to know, really.