So, this past Saturday we started a new show on Twitch called Senstaku's Artisanal Critique, a show where I play bad games and try to derive at least 5 cogent thoughts that can be used as lessons moving forward in the realm of video game development, and boy was it tough limiting it to 5. So, without further ado, here are our 5 Lessons learned from Ride to Hell: Retribution.
A bit of a content warning: If you are sensitive to talking about sexual violence towards women, you may wish to skip this blog post. The game has certain sexual violence themes in it that I address in the list below, not going into any detail, but it is still a potential trigger for those among you who are sensitive to that. Please, if it will upset you, don't read any further.
#1 - World Consistency
So the first lesson we've got here is about the consistency of the world you're creating. As a game dev, you have a near unlimited amount of ability to craft the world your game takes place in, and the most crucial aspect of that is to make sure that your world - No matter what it is - is consistent internally.
This means; If you're making a game set on Earth in the modern world, you need to make sure the world functions like Earth does. I.E; Motorcycles don't float. When an object impacts another object, it makes sounds. Ride to Hell: Retribution fails to do this, and more; There are several times when riding on your motorcycle that you notice the bikes do not actually make contact with the ground, they don't even try to keep up the pretense. So, either these bikers have found some mythical noclip technology - Or the game devs fell asleep.
#2 - Story Consistency
The first lesson dealt with the world, this one deals with your story; Let me pose you a hypothetical question. If you were a member of the military stationed at a base, would you know the ranking members of that base at least by name or face, if not on a personal level? Certainly. That's not unreasonable. Now, if you also had a brother whom you cared about enough to chase after when he runs off, you'd show some sort of reaction when his life is threatened correct? Of course you would. And finally, if two people leave a location on two bikes, it stands to reason they both would still have those bikes upon arriving elsewhere, barring a crash, right? Yes.
Since I bothered to list out those three things, you can be sure that Ride to Hell's devs forgot about them. At the beginning of the game you are shown in a military base, you are addressed directly, and then you apparently leave. Later when you return to that very same base, nobody apparently recognizes you and you recognize nobody. Also, your brother gets a machete put to his throat and you have no emotional reaction, and when you and your brother are trying to flee from some gang members, your brother's bike suddenly dematerializes and is never spoken of again.
#3 - Gameplay Consistency
So, in this first one we're talking a lot about consistency but that's mostly because the devs of Ride to Hell don't know what the meaning of that word is. The opening of the game showcases elements of the gameplay; A turret section, a quick time event fist fight with a character named Anvil, and then you jumping over a Helicopter and not dying. In this section, it is entirely possible to die - very quickly and for no apparent reason - and to have to start it all over again. That's not how you do intros.
Also, the events in the intro appear to be a 'flash forward' with bits selected apropos of nothing from the game itself, however the scenes depicted never actually happen. For instance, it shows us having a fist fight with Anvil but in game we chase him down on a motorcycle and gun him down from a distance. That's not to mention the fact that sometimes the mechanics of the game do not work as intended - I.E. power sliding under an object but the game still registering that you hit it instead, and holes in the ground that can only be used once as an environmental kill - Because one body apparently fills up the empty space below it, never to be used again.
#4 - Learn how to Sex
First of all, just because you want your game to be mature doesn't mean you have to put sex scenes in it. It's not necessary. That being said, if you're going to put them in, at least learn what Sex is. At the bare minimum, you should know that you don't have sex through denim. the Ride to Hell devs have a lot to answer for, but this is one of the more blatantly obvious missteps. Whenever your "Hero" gets the "Reward" of Sex from a pretty lady, they spend a half a minute grinding against each other while fully clothed, behaving as if they are having the best sex of their life. Speaking of rewards...
#5 - Sex is not a Reward.
Finally, the most critical issue I have with this game is that it teaches the player that sex is a reward you are owed for doing any amount of kindness to a woman. Any amount, from rescuing her from a potential abuser, to murdering her ex husband - and there is an awful lot of the former in this game. No matter how much the woman in question was telling the previous guy 'No', all you've got to do is beat the shit out of him, and she's all of a sudden ready to ride you like a prized stallion, without so much as a "How are you" or "My name is".
Sexual violence towards anyone is abhorrent, a perversion of what is normally a natural physical experience meant to bring pleasure that instead brings both physical and emotional pain, and more often than we'd like, death. It should not be treated as frivolously as this game treats it, nor should your "reward" for stopping it be the very thing that was stopped. This is at the bottom of the list, because there is nothing worse than this particular aspect of this game.
There was so much wrong with this game that it took me longer than it should have to type this up, and the more I talk about this game the more I go from just being irritated by it to actively loathing it. Just writing this has made me hate the game more than I did previously. So, game devs, and anyone who ever wants to design pretty much anything - These rules apply to film, books, or any other media that requires you to construct a world and story - please learn from those that came before you, and remember - Sex is never a reward owed to anyone. I can't believe I have to spell that out.