There’s not a lot to be said about Retro City Rampage DX on the PlayStation 4 that hasn’t already been said of the game’s other incarnations. A top-down, open world action ride with equal parts homage and parody of classic action games, the game still moves at a breakneck speed, features an inhuman level of variety, and oozes humor from every lovingly placed pixel. Despite the "DX" in the title, this latest version of Retro City Rampage doesn’t add much to the formula beyond a few balance tweaks. However, if you’ve yet to play the game at all, you’ll find it more than just a retro GTA clone, and the breakneck gameplay feels right at home on the PS4’s tactile gamepad.
You’ll immediately notice the spectre of classic Grand Theft Auto games, the likes of which permeates the overworld structure of Retro City Rampage, whether it’s in the large open world, the top-down driving and shooting segments, or the numerous stores and side activities. It might have the look of an oldschool arcade game, but it’s actually pretty modern in its overall structure. You’ll drive, fight, and shoot your way across an open city full of easter eggs and collectables and take on missions from a variety of sources in the standard open world style.
The moment to moment gameplay is actually much more varied than that description might lead you to expect. Many missions are influenced by old games, and will have you playing pseudo-recreations of history’s most influential titles. One mission might place you in a hectic scrolling shooter, while another puts you in a 2D platformer. There’s so much variety in the mission structures that it is difficult to properly explain the experience of Retro City Rampage. If you’ve played any popular 8-bit game, chances are it’ll make some sort of appearance here.
The same goes for the game’s humor, which prevails through storytelling and world design. Practically every store name is a reference of some sort. Many of the NPCs are also homages to classic game and film characters. The game can definitely be funny at times, but it also creates a weird schism between what little story the game does try to tell and the many, many references that are thrown out during each bit of dialogue. In many cases, the game feels like it mistakes referencing classics of the past with creating its own identity, and instead the story just comes across as feeling empty.
At certain points, the same can be said of the gameplay. It’s great that there’s so much variety in Retro City Rampage’s levels, as it’ll keep you coming back for more, but not all of the mechanics are executed equally. Shooting stages are generally a lot of fun - if punishing - but driving and platforming sections are often mixed. I found that I enjoyed driving around the game’s large open world discovering secrets more than I enjoyed the more strenuous and structured driving levels in many cases.
Still, the good far outweighs the bad in Retro City Rampage, something you may be well aware of it you’ve played the title in the past on other systems. The game doesn’t give you a ton of incentive to play again if you’ve already completed it in the past but for newcomers, the DX version is a solid jumping-on point. It still oozes personality and style, and there’s a lot to love in the game’s varied mission types. Not all of them hit home, but in that way, playing Retro City Rampage almost resembles digging through the rental bin at your local video shop, searching for what might become your next favorite NES game. It’s a nostalgic trip, one that’s backed by some genuinely solid design.