Developer: Tate Multimedia
Publisher: Tate Multimedia
Rating: T for Teen
Tate Multimedia is a small Polish indie studio best known for their Urban Trials series. Steel Rats was first announced in late 2017 and since then has been making its way through trade shows, winning a couple of gameplay awards. For this game, they’re keeping the momentum going. Steel Rats is a 2.5D game about motorcycles. However, Tate Multimedia bumps up the carnage, destruction, and heart-pumping action for this title and builds a sci-fi story most people will enjoy.
Those familiar with Urban Trials and are wanting a similar experience will need to look elsewhere. While not completely devoid of tricks and stunts, Steel Rats focuses on combat, simple platforming, and rescuing the city from aliens. Personally speaking, I enjoyed this game simply because it was something I could pick up, put down, and not invest hours of time like the rest of the rest of the games released this time of year.
Steel Rats is a vehicular combat game. While not as violent as Twisted Metal or Carmageddon, it still contains violence. The protagonist is able to wield weapons such as a handgun, shotgun, machine gun or rocket launcher, as well as the motorcycle itself which uses a circular saw blade for a wheel. However, the weapons and combat are never focused on humans, but rather against hordes of alien robots, which Steel Rats affectionately names “junk bots.”
In addition to combat, Steel Rats will occasionally contain adult language. Thankfully, Tate Media didn’t push the boundaries of their rating with this title. Also important to note is that there is tobacco use by one of the characters. Therefore, in most cases, this game would be okay to play around the family, but use your parental and Christian discretion when deciding to play around children or weaker brethren.
After playing Steel Rats, I wouldn’t say Christian themes are readily present. But I would say if you are wanting a game to play to have fun with or a game to get away from the deep AAA titles, Steel Rats is a nice break for many people. While this may be a spoiler for some, the good guys win at the end, which is always a nice touch to a game dealing with aggressive invaders.
As I’ve mentioned, the story of the game involves a motorcycle gang named the Steel Rats. The game takes place in an alternate retro-futuristic 1940’s era in generically-named Coastal City. When the story begins, you play as Toshi, a Japanese genius who reminded me of Donatello of TMNT. As the opening levels unfold, you unlock the remaining characters: James, the leader, Randall the stuntman, and Lisa, the fastest racer. Overall, the cast offers little to the story or, quite honestly, the gameplay. Each character has a special move, but that alone is not compelling enough to make them a must play character. In addition to the Steel Rats, the game is full of junk bots. The bots range from small to more robust and difficult robots. However, after playing for an hour or two, players will have seen almost every enemy type Steel Rats has to offer.
Steel Rats gameplay, while fun, can be frustrating, especially when controlling the motorcycle. This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that you ride the bike the entire game. During straightaways, jump sections, or even combat sequences, the controls seem intuitive. However, when you must escape the “killdozer” and either descend or ascend, players will quickly find themselves repeating these sections over and over again. Now, as a seasoned Dark Souls enthusiast, I’m used to playing sections over and over—I’m accustomed to bonfires. The killdozer levels seem to be missing checkpoints or “bonfires,” meaning the entire level must be replayed even if you failed at the beginning or only centimeters away from the finish line. I found myself frustrated having to turn the game off and coming back after a short while.
This brings up two other issues: level design and pacing. Some levels can be completed by simply driving through, fighting no one, and having abundant checkpoints. Other levels seem to be gigantic, with only one or two checkpoints. Again, this game is fun, but it suffers from an issue with pacing. I feel the overall game length is perfect coming in at around 6-8 hours depending on how much of a completionist you are. Steel Rats is loaded with secret sections, moves to unlock, and challenges to complete. There are even five areas to unlock which are jam-packed with several more levels to play and replay.
Steel Rats is visually and audibly gorgeous. Even though the areas and enemies seem to be recycled throughout the game, they look stunning. One of my favorite things in the game is the water and fire effects. Steel Rats also sounds cool, especially as you extend your wheel blade and climb up or down a wall. The blade cuts through the steel, sparks fly and sounds like a buzz-saw, ripping its way through your television set. Steel Rats soundtrack is dark and moody, but full of great music and was enjoyable to listen to throughout my time with the game.
Overall, Steel Rats is a fun game with a steep learning curve. After playing it, I feel it’s a game players will either love or hate. Gameplay is fun, but frustrating. The story and characters are cool, but generic. If you’re looking for a fun challenging game or a game to step away from the big AAA titles, give Steel Rats a try. It’s a game that will be missed by many and that’s unfortunate because despite its faults, it’s a diamond in the rough.
The Bottom Line