In a dark, broken city, there is a gang of four mysterious bikers hiding in the shadows. These four live in a hidden base created to keep out of sight of the invading Junkbot forces. This group has weaponized their motorcycles in an effort to fight off and repel the Junkbots, and hopefully reclaim Coastal City for the people. Get ready to rev up and rock with the Steel Rats.
Steel Rats revolves around four bikers doing all that they can in order to save their home from the invading Junkbot forces. The campaign takes place over five districts, composed of between three and six missions each. These missions involve performing tasks such as wiping out enemy forces, powering generators, escaping a myriad of dangerous situations, and more. The end of each level is indicated by a job done sign, which is broken and falling apart.
The gameplay is essentially like a side scrolling platformer, but there’s some depth to the level design. You can move farther from or closer to the screen in order to traverse the levels, and in many cases, it’s necessary. This aspect is handled very well and the fluid movement of the motorcycles meshes perfectly with it. The one downside is that some of the pitfall sections can be frustrating. If you time your moves incorrectly, you’ll get hurt and end up back at the last checkpoint. While the level design can be a bit shaky, the controls offer many different techniques. By pressing circle, you perform a U-turn; once you get the hang of the controls, you can quickly and easily round corners without sacrificing speed. In addition to the U-turn, you can also jump with triangle or perform a wheelie by holding back on the left stick. As with many vehicle based games, you accelerate with R2 and brake with L2.
One of the coolest tools at your disposal is the wheelsaw. By holding down X, you turn your front wheel into a chainsaw that can slice through almost anything in your way, including enemies. Activating the wheelsaw even causes you to move faster, which is more reason to use it. The wheelsaw doesn’t cost any energy to use and it can be used endlessly, so go nuts. In addition to destroying obstacles and enemies, the wheelsaw allows you to travel on pipes. By holding down X, your bike attaches to pipes that you’re making contact with, allowing you to drive on walls and ceilings. Seeing your character speeding along defying gravity is pretty cool.
The Steel Rats gang is made up of Toshi, James, Randall, and Lisa. You don’t start the game with everyone, but you’ll slowly unlock the rest of the crew as you beat levels with Toshi. Unlike most games where you’d have to decide which character you want to play as, Steel Rats lets you have access to everyone whenever you want. Your crew is shown at the top left of the screen, with your currently selected person highlighted. By clicking R3, you can instantly switch to the next character, which is amazingly seamless. If you’re driving as James and realize you want Lisa for a group of upcoming enemies, you can do that with just two clicks.
Each character has their own health, energy, and abilities. This is really helpful, as it essentially gives you four lives per level. If one character dies, you just restart the last checkpoint as one of the others. There are several different types of attacks: primary, charge, spin, and ultimate. Pressing square performs your primary, holding down R1 activates the charge, double clicking circle performs the spin, and holding down circle is the ultimate. The primary and charge take a little bit of energy, the ultimate takes three bars, and the spin costs nothing. To name a few attacks, Toshi has a Junkbot pet that shoots lightning for his primary, while Randall shoots a harpoon. For ultimates, James spins in a circle and sends out a seismic wave, while Lisa creates a large fiery explosion. These moves are amazing and make you feel even more powerful after wiping out everything around you.
One of the most important aspects of Steel Rats is collecting junk, which can be done by destroying enemies and obstacles. This junk is used to buy upgrades, which are unlocked by earning a designated amount of points in each level. These upgrades include things such as more health, more energy, extra damage, and much more. Each character has their own set of upgrades to work on, which further makes each character feel unique.
Steel Rats has smooth, enticing gameplay that combines fast-paced driving with intense combat. The controls take some getting used to, but it’s a great time once you’ve got it down. The game takes you through a bevy of run-down locations, ranging from city streets to construction yards to mines and more. The dour atmosphere of the world is conveyed fantastically through the lovingly created graphics and finely tuned soundtrack. It made me wish that I could turn to the left and explore more of the city that existed in the background. I was excited to keep moving forward in the hopes that I’d learn more about what happened and eventually reclaim Coastal City. In the end, if you’re aching to rev up and do some damage, then hop on and join the Steel Rats.
Steel Rats is an awesome 2.5D platformer that makes great use of motorcycle based combat. The team of four bikers are badass and unique, prompting you to try them all out, and being able to switch between them on the fly keeps gameplay fresh.