The Grand Theft Auto series is a classic by many counts, so naturally over the years it has inspired many new titles and series. Some like Saints Row have brooded quite well into their own, taking simple inspirations and growing a fan base from them. While that is an inspiration of the modern third-person perspective, another title has been quite successful at taking a spin at the top down perspective found in the original Grand Theft Auto 1&2. That is none other than Retro City Rampage, the top-down but over-the-top open world action game from VBLANK. This game has been released on platform after platform, and I was lucky enough to cover its latest release on the Nintendo Switch. Packed to the brim with humor, pop-culture references, and action galore, Retro City Rampage has clearly earned its more than ten spots on gaming platform’s markets.
You are the PLAYER, and you have one goal: RAMPAGE! Well, not really. You are a jack of all trades who can, well, high jack cars, participate in crimes, fight crime (you are one hell of a hypocrite you know), and all sorts of stuff in between. Like I mentioned, the game has clear inspirations from the earlier GTA titles. It is top down, with a focus on driving as well as on-foot traversal and gunplay. This is all fittingly decked out in retro inspired graphics with fitting sounds to compliment it. You will immediately get a feel for the carefree attitude the game has from its earliest moments. It is nonsensical, with juvenile jokes and mindless destruction to please your appetite. I did not mind these attributes one bit, as it fit the scope perfectly. The game cracks me up, and the story being all over the place with both its missions and narrative furthers that humor. While running, gunning, and driving in both side missions and main, you will be bound to run into a few familiar faces.
Batman, Hasselhoff, and Doc from Back to the Future all pop up along your travels and they are not alone. There is almost literally a pop culture reference around every corner. From billboards to stores, everything is a play on words. Lots of these naturally poke fun on their inspirations, like a store called “Flesh Prints” or another called “iPomme”. The list goes on and on, with notable references aimed at Back to the Future, Bill and Ted, Ninja Turtles, Metal Gear, Mario, 80’s rappers, and many more. The references are packed in there, and I surely missed a few across my destructive journey across the city. I love the video game references naturally, like the very Mario-esque pipes that take you across the city or to hidden destinations. There is even a mission where you play a Ghostbusters themed version of the arcade classic Tapper. In addition to the references, there are a variety of overlays you can use to keep the nostalgia coming. You can make your pause screen look like different television sets and arcade cabinets from throughout the decades, and even change the colors to match. The different color schemes perfectly represents different systems and computers, each flawlessly depicted. Retro City Rampage has nostalgia in strides which keep the laughs and memories coming.
Gameplay wise, RCR is pretty solid. You can do the traditional run and gun style, using the right analog stick to shoot your weapon in any direction. Surprisingly enough, you can actually take cover and lock on too if you see fit. This helps in the more intricate levels where fights are a bit more thought out and not just old-West shoot outs. The cover system works quite well, and while the AI is not the smartest, it still comes in handy. Same goes for the lock on system, which allows you to sort of strafe while continuing to mow down whoever happened to cross paths with you. Your arsenal of guns are only a click away at any given time. You can cycle through your guns with either the right bumper or trigger, while you can open up a full list of you your weapons by hitting the left bumper or trigger. The shot gun is the best for hitting multiple enemies in succession, while the weapon inspired by Ghostbusters “Proton Pack” is one of the coolest oddities you can use to wreak havoc. Cars double as a weapon in addition to transportation. They, like the player, can be tricked out with new duds and accessories; Nitro boosts, cannons, paint jobs and more can be added to your rides, making them sweeter than ever.
All of this can also be experienced in the free roam mode as well, which sets you up with every weapon and a buttload of cash to play how you want. It is basically like playing it with cheatcodes, minus the nifty inputs and sometimes secret codes. Aside from that, there is a challenge mode which lets you replay certain missions and challenges to go for the best score. Story is where I mostly stuck around though, for the well written narrative was always worth a laugh and the ridiculous missions were a constant source of fun. Retro City Rampage somehow has escaped me for the last five years, but I found it to be a tailor made experience on the Switch. Having only dabbled with it on Vita a few years back, I now see what I missed out on. It is not a groundbreaking game, but it is one hell of a passion project that is both fun and funny. There are so many laugh out loud moments and well written punchlines that deserve attention. The combat is not always rich or rewarding, but having the over powered upper hand in a game like this is always fun. Retro City Rampage is an awesome time killer for someone looking to let off a little steam in an open world setting. If you somehow managed to not play for all these years like myself, or just need a good excuse to revisit the city, this game is a great addition for your library on Switch.
Final Score: 8/10
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