We really wanted to see Deep Silver's Ride to Hell at Games Convention 2008. The idea of being in a motorcycle gang in a GTA-like open-world game just sounds like it will be great fun, so we eagerly headed to the behind-closed-doors demo room expecting greatness. As the anticipation in the room grew and life-saving energy drinks were consumed we pondered just what we really wanted in a game like this. Before we got a chance to think too hard a Deep Silver rep took to the podium to reveal the key ideas behind Ride to Hell: Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll. It's as if he could read minds.
Our demonstration of Ride to Hell proved to be one of the biggest disappointments and teases of the week. Due to a technical issue with one of the PCs running the game it couldn't be shown to the gathered crowd, so we had to make do with a Power point presentation, some new screen shots and the debut trailer. These simply made us even more desperate to see what the game looked like during gameplay, but for the time being we're just going to have to use our imaginations.
Ride to Hell is all about '60s bike culture in the American West and the goal is to make a game that reflects the mood and feeling of the era - hence the Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll. The dev team also took a lot of inspiration from Hunter S. Thompson's classic book 'Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs'. At the time The New York Times apparently described the lifestyle described in the novel as "a world most of us would never dare encounter". Ride to Hell is certainly going to be a game for adults only.
Much of the storyline in the game is still under wraps but we were told a few nuggets of info about the main character. He has just returned from Nam and can't re-integrate back into society. He feels like an outcast so ends up forming a gang with other people who feel the same. You call this the Devil's Hand and throughout the game you'll recruit new gang members who will ride with you over the course of the story.
The game takes place in a huge open world based on California and Nevada. The dev team hasn't exactly modelled each area, but they will be very recognisable. Travelling distances have been cut down to avoid too much monotonous riding down long highways, but the team has made sure that there's still a sense of riding as a gang. Although much of the game is set in the desert (which is all we saw in the screen shots and trailer), you will visit towns. Deep Silver decided not to include any massive cities as they don't really fit in with the tone of the game, but you won't just be driving about in a featureless landscape looking at the sand. There will be a day/night cycle too, and a weather system, giving a feeling that you're in a real world.
Bikes quite obviously play a major part in the game, so Deep Silver has understandably focussed a lot of its attentions on that area. Bikes in the game are fully customisable to the extent that you can pick and choose every part from the frame and engine to the wheels and paint work. We are yet to see this in action, but we were assured that there would be an awful lot of permutations meaning that no one should be riding about on a bike that looks exactly like someone else's in another game.
Motorcycle gangs aren't the only groups in the game. Being the '60s you'll encounter hippies, business men, police and cowboys too. Without seeing the game in action it's hard to predict how you'll interact with each of these groups, but you can get into fights with them. Deep Silver made it quite clear that Ride to Hell is an action game at its core, so expect plenty of combat in-between riding.
Deep Silver wasn't shy about the fact that Ride to Hell is going to be a mature game made for adults. One journalist even inquired about how hardcore the sex would be in the game, with Deep Silver replying that it will reflect what it was like at the time. Drug use will play a part too, but care has been made to make sure the effects of drug taking are responsibly shown. The Hell's Angels had a no needle policy and Deep Silver is keen to make sure it doesn't over glamorise drug use.
With just some screens and a brief trailer to go on we can't make too many judgements on the game's visuals, but it seems to be looking pretty sharp. Something that might be even more important than the visuals is the soundtrack. The '60s has a very distinct sound so it's essential Deep Silver manages to put together a collection with sounds for every occasion. The publisher couldn't reveal any track names but assured us that we wouldn't be disappointed.
With a release date currently no more exact than 2009 we could be waiting quite a while for Ride to Hell. It's certainly ambitious and could end up being a refreshing change from the GTA-clones that have cropped up over the past few years, but until we see it being played (or get a chance to play it ourselves) it's impossible to say how it's shaping up. Look out for a lot more on Ride to Hell over the next year or so.