When talking about games on the Build Engine, there are three major ones: Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood. These are usually considered the best Build engine games, but right behind them is Redneck Rampage.
Developed by Xatrix Entertainment and published by Interplay Productions, Redneck Rampage was released in 1997, right around the time that 2.5D shooters, were slowly falling out of style. While the gaming industry was innovating with 3D graphics, almost all of the Build Engine games offered more interactivity and in turn, has a unique style.
The plot of Redneck Rampage is fairly simple, and it follows two brothers Leonard and Bubba who find themselves amid an alien invasion. You will traverse through Hickston, Arkansas, battling aliens, rescue your prized pig Bessie and if possible stop an alien invasion.
Like most of the Build Engine protagonist, Leonard also has one-liners that he will say, when you kill aliens, pick up weapons/items and comment on various things. These are done well, and the voice actor really put in the work, which only adds to the charm. Also, most of the one-liners are crude, toilet humor, and while humor is subjective, they all add to the atmosphere.
The interesting thing about Redneck Rampage is that the protagonist isn’t a marine, an assassin or a legendary gunslinger. Instead, he is an average person dealing with the alien invasion, something that you usually won’t see in FPS games.
The aesthetics are realistic and represent a small rural American town, the level design is not that good. The levels all nail the atmosphere of the game, they are often confusing. Usually, the levels require that you find keys to progress, but the problem is that the keys are small and easily blend in the environment, making them easy to miss. To make things worse the keys are all in the same color (grey).
The other problem is that levels can get confusing to navigate, and it seems like the developers wanted to encourage exploration, but this could have been executed better.
For instance, in the first level, you must blow up the part of the barn to progress, and there is only a small “target” painted on the side. This can easily have you stumped if you don’t pay attention and new players can find themselves easily lost. Like most Build engine games, Redneck Rampage has a destructible environment that you can blow up in order to progress or find secrets.
Yes, there are secrets in every level, and they will usually have ammo, power-ups or weapons.
The weapon arsenal is rather interesting and fits the theme of the game. You start with two weapons: crowbar and a rather weak revolver. Soon you will pick up shotgun (which will become your go-to weapon), hunting rifle (an automatic rifle), dynamite (they act like pipebombs from DN3D), crossbow (which acts like a rocket launcher), RipSaw (which can be used as a melee or ranged weapon). You will also pick up several unique weapons such as an Alien Arm Gun (which can be picked up from a giant dead alien), Bowling Ball, Powder Keg and Alien Teat Gun (which acts like a minigun).
Here you will be faced with one of the flaws of Redneck Rampage, is the weapon damage. Hit scanning weapons have a problem where their damage varies and is all around the place. For instance, the shotgun is excellent in close range combat, but sometimes it will take you from one to three shots to kill an enemy. Now, you can have an explanation like Leonard is inexperienced with weapons, but it can get frustrating when it takes more shots to gun down enemies. The higher tier enemies are stronger, deadlier and more precise, and it’s best to take them out with heavy weapons.
Like most Build engine games, you can also use items that you collect throughout the level. What’s interesting is that items act like health packs, but you can’t go around spamming them whenever you’re hurt. One of the interesting concepts is the Alcohol and Gut meters and if you fill them too much, you can experience inverted controls and in some cases complete loss of control.
You can pick up: Beer (a small health item), Whiskey (medium health item), cow pie (a small health item, that can be used up to six times), moonshine (a berserk power-up), snorkel, wading pants (giving you a speed boost in the mud) and Del-Lishus Goo goo cluster (similar to DN3D atomic health). The idea was good, and if you take a piss or eat cow pies you could reduce your alcohol or gut meter, which forces you to be resourceful.
One of the minor flaws of Redneck Rampage is that the enemy variation is fairly low, and there is something around 15 enemies in total. In the first episode, you will encounter the same enemies in the begging, and the introduction of newer enemies could have been done much sooner. All of the enemies are unique and over the top, as they came out of some action B-movie. The constant presence of lower-tier enemies is explained as part of the cloning effort done by the aliens, which is a nice explanation (you even find cloning chambers in the game, too).
The best thing about the game is its soundtrack. The soundtrack was actually done in most part by two bands Mojo Nixon and The Beat Farmers and features cowpunk and psychobilly themes. The music really adds to the over the top atmosphere and only enhances the experience.
Redneck Rampage was released for both MS-DOS and Windows, and it had an add-on and an expansion pack. The cuss pack is an add-on, that would add stronger language for a more immersive experience. Suckin’ Grits on Route 66 is an expansion pack that adds 12 new levels, locations, textures, and a new ending. The levels in the expansion are much better than in the base game, and it seems like the developers saw and fixed their mistakes.
The game also received a sequel, Redneck Rampage Rides Again in 1998. The game also uses the Build engine and has new weapons, enemies and much better levels.
Redneck Rampage is easily available on Steam and GOG (on GOG sold as a collection), and it supports both Windows and macOS. For a more smoother experience and better graphics, you can get several source ports such as Rednukem, Redneck GDX or Build GDX, which all make the game playable on modern systems and feature high-res graphics. The original games are also still playable through DOSbox if you want to experience the original game, but I would strongly recommend that you get one of the source ports.
If you are looking for a unique game and over the top action, give Redneck Rampage a try. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but the atmosphere makes up for it and creates a memorable experience.
* All screenshots are from the source ports