Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ride to Hell: Redemption - 20/20 hours

In the end, I got to 86% completion. I was almost tempted to go the whole way. If I'd gotten to 90%, I may have. That, I think, would have been too tantalizingly close for me to pass up, even in a game of this caliber. I have something of a fraught relationship with video-game doodad-hunting. Part of me hates it, because it is obviously a massive waste of time, but another, stronger part of me can't resist. What I usually wind up doing is deliberately ignoring that part of the game . . . unless there exists some way of making the process systematic, such as an in-game collectible finder or hint system, or a well-written guide.

Speaking of which, someone actually made a collectibles guide for this game. It truly is an astonishing age we live in. I'm not sure anything on the internet will surprise me any more.

You can find three types of collectibles. Paint cans let you paint your bike various different colors, which doesn't seem like much of a reward to me because the default colors are more than adequate, but I suppose that's actually a point in the game's favor (seriously, fuck you Fable 3 and your putting black dye into a DLC - IT'S THE MOST BASIC COLOR OF FASHION!)

Then there are two decks of collectible playing cards. Blue cards have pictures of the game's various levels, characters, and weapons - you know, pretty boilerplate video game optional swag. Red cards, however, featured pictures of what I can only assume are the creators of the game.

And that made me kind of sad. I know you can't tell much from a picture, but they looked like a pretty nice bunch of people, and something about the way many of them attempted ineffectually to adopt a badass-biker pose made them seem like a very relatable group of nerds. And that threw me into one of my pensive spirals.

What was it like to work on this game? There must have been passion there, and love. It must have seemed like an amazing thing, the opportunity to bring to life the romance and the danger of a storied criminal sub-culture. How cool it must have been, to sit down in front of a computer and render a kick-ass skull motorcycle, or paint the stark and rugged beauty of the game's southwest backdrops.

So, when did it go wrong? When did the dream of Ride to Hell begin to wither and fade? I worry that it might not have been until the reviews, that the team sent something to market that they were proud of, and it was only in the light of its harsh critical reception that they woke up and realized what they really made. I know that experience - pouring your heart and soul into a work of art, only to find that it holds no value for other people, because, at the end of the day, it simply isn't very good.

But then I think of this image:

And there's no way someone works on that (from what I understand about computer animation, that sequence must have taken hours, or even days to complete) and doesn't realize they are making schlock. I just don't understand this game at all. How did it get made? How did the makers' professional pride not rebel against what they were being asked to do?

The only thing I can think of is that there was no one person with a unifying vision of the game. That each group of people worked on their own tasks, and were either underfunded or rushed for time, and assumed that their mistakes, shortcuts, and placeholders would be cleaned up in a future version that never came.

I've said some unkind things about this game, and I don't regret any of them, nor do I think they were unjust. Nevertheless, I cannot look into the faces on those playing cards and wish them ill. Here's hoping that Ride to Hell: Retribution did not ruin any careers, and that the people involved get another chance to make something they can be proud of.

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