Skateboarding games are their own vibrant subgenre, with room for the arcadey Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, simulation Session, and even a skateboarding bird in Skatebird. But we’ve historically been deprived of great inline skating games aside from the classic Jet Set Radio. As one game now available for free with an Xbox Game Pass subscription suggests, maybe what was missing the whole time was rocket launchers.
Hear me out: Rollerdrome launched last year on PS5 and PC, combining sports and arena shooters in such a compelling way that even someone who doesn’t care about either of those genres (like me) fell in love with it. Now, it’s bringing its roller derby meets Quake vibe to Xbox Series X/S. It typically costs $29.99.
Rollerdrome is as thrilling as it is stylish — which is to say, extremely.
Rollerdrome could probably skate by on its intriguing premise even if it half-assed the execution. Fortunately, that’s not what happened. Both Rollerdrome’s trick-based skating and its combat feel fully fleshed out on their own, but it’s the flawless way they meld that really makes the game sing.
On the skating side, things proceed a lot like Tony Hawk, just with more wheels. For each level, you’re plopped down in an arena starting with a simple skate park and working up to more elaborate multi-leveled environments. Each stage is full of ramps, rails, and other surfaces to either grind on or launch into the air from to do tricks. Again, it’s very Tony Hawk, with button and direction combinations corresponding to tricks.
The difference is that you’re absolutely strapped with weaponry. From pistols and shotguns to laser rifles, there’s an impressive array of firepower available — which you’ll need to take on the armed goons and giant robots you share the arena with.
Rollerdrome is a visual spectacle with substance to back it up.
No matter how sick your tricks are, a round of Rollerdrome doesn’t end until you’ve dispatched all of your foes. Just as your own arsenal grows, your enemies graduate from cannon fodder to brutes holding missile launchers, teleporting snipers, and — in one of Rollerdrome’s most spectacular fights — a walking tank with a quarter pipe on its back. The real magic of Rollerdrome comes from the difficult dance of dodging enemy fire and thinning their numbers all while performing tricks to refill your ammo.
Rollerdrome can be exceedingly difficult, especially in later levels that force you to deal with multiple different enemy types at once. Fortunately, it also comes packed with some handy assist options. At any time, you can adjust how much damage you deal and receive, gain infinite ammo, or even make yourself invincible. Even with a combination of these effects toning down the game’s difficulty, its mix of acrobatic gunplay and high-speed skating is a joy to play.
There’s just nothing cooler than dodging a missile while on roller skates.
I wasn’t expecting much of a story from a game about a gun-toting roller skater, but Rollerdrome has a surprisingly captivating narrative trying its matches together. In short first-person segments in locker rooms, TV studios, and train cars, you follow newcomer Kara Hassan as she rises through the ranks and explores a conspiracy behind everyone’s favorite bloodsport. I’m not going to tell you it’s the greatest story in games, but I found its corporate satire and intrigue a nice way to get more invested in the world around the carnage-filled matches. If it’s really not your thing, you can also just skip straight past story segments to get back to the action.
As you’ve probably noticed yourself if you’ve looked at even a single screenshot, Rollerdrome is also gorgeous the whole way through. Its cel-shaded style keeps its murder-based sport from feeling too grim, and it really shines in motion — when the screen is full of explosions and enemies, with Kara back-flipping through the midst of it. That’s all accentuated by a pulsing synth score, which matches the frantic speed of the game and makes the whole ordeal feel like a joyously schlocky ‘80s action movie.
Now is a great time to get in on the action if you’ve got Xbox Game Pass. Rollerdrome is available on PC, Xbox Series X/S, and the Cloud, so you can drop in on its stylish action however you play.
Rollerdrome is available on PC, PS4, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S for $29.99, and free through Xbox Game Pass.
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