If there was any particular game that made you want a PlayStation at launch, it was Psygnosis' WipEout. Previously, racing games were mostly cutesy kart racers or realistic simulations. In 1999, they did it again with its spiritual successor - the blisteringly fast Rollcage series.
While WipEout was developed in-house, Rollcage was created by Attention to Detail who also developed it for the PC as well as the PlayStation. Both racing games do have a lot in common. Both take place in a futuristic racing league, both feature weapons and extreme speed and both utilise a simplistically modern art design. It is perhaps this similarity that caused both games to languish on the shelves, with Wip3out stealing its thunder being released later in the year. Psygnosis even poured more advertising budget into their own series.
Another cause for the games slow sales could be the huge difficulty curve. The game takes some time getting used to. You control a buggy-like vehicle with large tyres on either side allowing your car to flip. This is useful considering it comes equipped with some type of anti-gravity technology that allows you to race on walls and ceilings. This can be very disorientating making it very easy for you to drive in the wrong direction with little ability to turn around. Lucky there is an 'autocorrect' button when playing on easy which will spin your car to face forward again. You have to be exceptionally skilled to make any progress on any harder modes without putting in the practice time.
Despite the lack of sales, the game scored big with reviewers which lead to a sequel being commissioned. Perhaps getting cold feet after the sales figures rolled in, they asked the developers to change certain elements that went against their original vision. The final game, while still an entertaining and challenging racer, felt a little lazy and by the numbers. Psygnosis quietly slipped it into the marketplace with little fanfare and again the sales suffered. The developers can take solace in the fact that it did score highly amongst gaming journalists and enthusiasts but this was the final nail in the coffin for the series.
That was until 2014 when Robert Baker of Attention to Detail discovered the codes for both games and re-compiled them to work on modern PCs with improved graphics and widescreen support. If you want to read more about his work on these games and other fascinating topics, you can do so by visiting his blog.
These versions run flawlessly under Windows 7 and 8 with a smooth frame rate and crisp visuals. For those only familiar with the PlayStation versions, you'll see a great increase in the draw distance with no details popping up. The games support the XBox 360 controller as well as the keyboard and play great with both. You can even tinker with the control scheme if you so choose - something that a lot of games should take note of even now.
These updates are excellent and could easily pass for full retail releases on sites like GOG. It is very welcome that Robert chose to release them for free on his website. Now there's no reason not to give it a go.
To play the games, download them from the official site below.
Download Rollcage Redux at Official Site
Download Rollcage Extreme at Official Site
Rollcage is © Psygnosis
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me