Steampunk Biker Gangs vs Robotic Invaders with Steel Rats
Biker Robots from Mars?
BY HEATHER TINSLEY, JAN 3, 2019 12:00 PM
PC (Steam) and PlayStation 4 (digital download)
Half price at £7.99 at the time of writing.
Wonky controls and a lack of heft let down a combat focussed steampunk take on Unirally, with mixed results.
Steel Rats is at its core a 2.5D action arcade game; where you roam the streets riding massive motorbikes, fighting robots and smashing through scenery. The Rat Pack will have you tearing up Coastal City, a city ‘retro futuristic’ America, which was built with the vision to being the most technologically advanced metropolis in the Country. It certainly achieves that vision, however it may not be for the greater good.
As part of the Rat pack you travel through the five districts of the Coastal City which include Halcyon Isle, Lakeport, Warrensgate, Olbarrow and Felyard. Whilst racing through the districts you do not only ride the streets but also the roofs, the mines, up the walls and even the insides of the buildings.
Coastal City, is under attack! Fight your way through waves of junky robot enemies to find the other members of your Rat Pack and fight to save Coastal City!
Listen to those rats purr
Steel Rats has a well developed soundscape, from the deep rumbling of the bike engines to the clicking and whirring of the machines around you, the individual elements all complement one another and build into something that feels both authentic and atmospheric.
The noises of the bikes are lifelike whilst not being too overpowering, you hear the city around you and the sounds of the engine, or the tires, just run along-with you like an undercurrent.
The sound of a bike vertically climbing a wall is a standout, with a roaring screech as it attaches and commences the climb.
How does Steel Rats look?
What I particularly like about Steel Rats is the art direction. Everything from the bikes to the scenery has a wonderful retro but futuristic vibe about it. The developers took elements like futuristic fighting bots and mixed them up with some steampunk styled bikers on beautifully designed motorbikes.
The style of the ‘junker bots’, I think is excellent, they are a perfect blend of modern technology and well, piles of junk! They remind of horrible mental robot spider crabs and I am ready to destroy them all.
I really like the look of the characters, all the Rat Pack have been carefully designed and have their own well developed personalities which ingame translates as your stock of lives.
Each different character has a different bike, with varying special abilities and catchphrases, but there's no huge distinction between them.
How does Steel Rats play?
Control wise, I will admit I came across some troubles, the controls not a particularly intuitive. You push the sticks up and down to weave throughout the city streets, I found myself in many a head on collision after trying to use left and right instead of up and down. After playing for a while the controls do start to flow, but I found myself almost needing to relearn the system each time I turned the game on.
Coupled with the bikes which have no sense of weight or heft, unlike in Trials for example, and some precision platforming meaning progression grinding to a halt, and you have something which isn't a complete joy to control, resulting in unfair fiery deaths too often.
Power ups are unlocked between levels, which are purchased with scrap earned in game. I found myself overflowing with scrap to spend so there are no interesting decisions to make here.
Despite these misgivings, when it ditches the awkward platforming and opens up, Steel Rats can be a lot of fun to play.
STEEL RATS CONCLUSION
I enjoyed Steel Rats; it is not a groundbreaking title that will change the face of gaming forever, but it delivers a moody steampunk bike adventure that will while away a day or two.
Just remember those controls!
The Good Stuff:
- Atmospheric soundtrack
- Brilliant art direction creates a moody (end of the?) world
- The noise when you use the wheel blades to climb pipes
The Bad Stuff:
- Confusing control scheme
- Lack of weight makes the rat's bikes floaty nightmares
- Poor framerate on standard PS4 makes it chug along at times
Steel Rats review by Heather Tinsley of The Valkyries
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