Video Carnage 35 – Road Rash (Part 2)

I’m back with the second half of my Road Rash series reviews.  The first five games I reviewed can be found here.

Road Rash 3D (1998)

Road Rash 3D Cover

This was the second Road Rash title I ever played, and it was one of the first games I bought when I first bought my PlayStation 2. In fact, this was one of the first PS1 games I ever played.  (Screenshots are from GameSpot.com)

Road Rash 3D 01

It’s only been recently that I’ve really come to appreciate and enjoy this game.  When I first played it, I didn’t like it anywhere near as much as I like “Road Rash 64”.  This is because of the nature of the graphics and the size of my TV at the time (I only had a 13″ TV to play my games on back then).  Like many 32-bit games, the action on-screen can be blocky and a little hard to see clearly sometimes.

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But on a better and bigger TV, the game looks nice, and the graphics are actually damn good for a PlayStation racer.  The gameplay is a lot like the previous installment, though instead of five courses, there are many thanks to the more open nature of the map system used and the ability to run them forwards or backwards.

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In addition to the Thrash and Big Game modes, there is also a Time Trial mode, which allows you to race against the clock.  You can choose from one to six players for this mode, and you can turn the AI riders on or off.

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The game takes advantage of the PlayStation’s DualShock controller and it’s analog joysticks, but sadly it doesn’t use the rumble feature.  But you get to choose from a number of different controller configurations

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The video cut scenes are better than they were on the Saturn, thanks to the PlayStation’s ability to do that sort of thing better.  The soundtrack is also pretty good, and it consists of alternative rock from the late 90s.  “Road Rash 64” shares many songs with this game.

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The driving and racing in this game is great too, probably the best just outside of “Road Rash 64” in my estimation.  The fighting wasn’t handled so well though, and it seems a little slow, clumsy and awkward at times.  But it’s still there, and this still is Road Rash.

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The usual bike upgrades are here too, and you need to win races to buy bikes to advance.  All in all this is a solid release that lives up to the name and provides some outstanding racing too.  Some people say that there isn’t enough combat in this one, but I think there’s plenty.  I never seem to avoid getting clobbered when I ride.

Road Rash 64 (1999)

I reviewed this game when I reviewed games for the Nintendo 64. This review is quoted verbatim, so if you’ve already read my Nintendo 64 reviews, you can skip this section.

Road Rash 64 box

The “Road Rash” series started its life on the Sega Genesis, and its mix of motorbike racing and combat proved to be very popular. This version is by far the best out of any Road Rash game ever made, and anyone who says differently is a fiend and a scoundrel!

Road Rash 64 01

Sorry to go all fanboy on you for this one, but “Road Rash 64” is hands down my favourite racing game of all time. It can never be bested in that respect. I have had the most fun I have ever known playing a video game while playing “Road Rash 64”, and I still get a big dumb grin on my face when I play it, even though I must have played this game over 200 times by now.

This is the game that really got me into racing games. This is the game that made me appreciate analog steering controls in a racing game, and things like speed and braking control to take sharp turns. Not to mention clubbing fellow riders over the head with metal pipes.

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When you start the game, you’re met with an “Alternative Rock” soundtrack that is actually pretty damn good.

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I can’t bear to hear the music after playing this game so often, so I always turn it off. But it’s a lot better than a lot of game music. It even features two Sugar Ray songs from before they sucked!

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And despite the word “Setup”, this part of the menu just shows you the controls. You can’t actually change them. But they are pretty decently laid out, and that Z trigger for accelerate is nice.

The main part of “Road Rash 64” is the “Big Game”. This is a circuit race through all the games courses, which are just segments on a 3D rendered island full of roads, streets, trails, buildings, hills, mountains and much much more. This was the first racing game I ever saw where you could basically drive anywhere you wanted to. There are no invisible walls here – just water you sink in and mountains you can’t climb up with your bike. Oh, and if you cut across a track too sharply and gain too much time on your opponents, the game will end the race then and there, tell you that “cheaters never prosper”, and make you lose for your effort.

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Like other versions of “Road Rash”, you need to buy a bike before you race. There are a few choices available in your price range, and there are three attributes you need to consider when choosing. Acceleration is speed, handling affects how your bike takes those sharp turns, and durability affects how many times you can crash out before you lose a particular race and have to start it again. If you can learn how to handle these bikes, then go with the fastest. This game honestly has the best driving and steering controls of any racing game I have ever played. There are reasons why I keep coming back to play it.

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After you buy a bike, you will get an offer to join a certain gang, which changes depending on which bike you’ve chosen. If you pay your admission fee and your dues, you’re in, and the gang will protect you as you race.

This is how its supposed to work, but it doesn’t actually work in the game. Sadly, I think this aspect of gameplay is just broken, so it’s best to just ignore the gang part and save your money. You get beat up just as hard whether you ride solo or as part of a gang.

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Then you get to go race, but you can actually choose which race to ride, and you can ride them more than once if you want. One advantage to this is that you can make a little extra money and buy level 2’s faster bike while your opponents are still on level 1 bikes, for instance.

Another advantage is picking up weapons. Unlike other games in the series, “Road Rash 64” places weapons like power-ups along and just off the track so that you can pick them up just by riding through them. So if you miss getting the nunchuks at the top of the ramp and silo in the first race, you can go back and get them again. The nunchucks fucking rule, by the way.

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Before you begin, you can insert the rumble pak. The game will send shocks down to the gamepad when you get hit or when you crash, which adds a nice layer of depth to the gameplay.

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And here we see the basic view, with the weapon and damage status at the top left. The top bar is your personal damage, the bottom bar is the bike’s. The bottom left shows the distance between you and the next rider. Green means you need to catch up, red means they’re behind you. The speed indicator in the bottom right completes the view.

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You can also see that the selected weapon and my place in the race appear near the top left. The weapons available in this game are your fist, bat with spikes, tire iron, metal bat, billy club, sledge hammer, pool cue, monkey wrench, cattle prod, tazer, mace, nun-chucks
and a chain. Not only can you hold all of these at once, but you can hold up to four of each of these at once. That’s pretty realistic while riding a motorcycle and racing and fighting other riders, right?
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The fighting in this game is damn glorious too. You can hit forward and back, and you can kick too. Which side depends on where the nearest opponent is. Also, a quick tap of the button will result in a quick punch rather than your weapon being drawn and used. This kind of attack is useful when someone is very close to you and you need to get them away fast.

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You can also jam rigid weapons like the pool cue into someone’s front tire and watch them go flying. It takes timing and you lose that weapon, but damn it’s a hoot!

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To advance from level to level, you need to “qualify” in each of the 8 races. To qualify, you need to get either first, second or third place in a race.

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And after each race you get to see a rap sheet (accompanied by delightful collision and slamming sounds) that show you how much damage you’ve caused (or has been caused to you).

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Then the score is tallied up, and you can see how beating up on the other riders really pays off.

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Then it’s off to the second race, or back to the first if you want to get some extra cash or pick up extra weapons.

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The races start off very easy and short, and eventually things like traffic and cops are introduced.

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And even I crash into telephone poles when I play this game!

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Some weapons are worth going out of the way for, like that monkey wrench flashing red over on the right by that farm house.

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I got it. And the quickest way to recover from this position off the track is actually to crash. Unlike other “Road Rash” games, there is no time spent watching your character trot back on foot to go get his bike, stand it up, get on and then ride from that position again. Admittedly, that is way more realistic, but it sure is a drag.

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“Road Rash 64” puts you back on your bike automatically after you crash. And those crashes are spectacular. The physics in the game are great for driving, exaggerated for jumps and just out to fucking lunch for crashes. The first dozen or so times I played this I laughed out loud at the way the bike and rider would be sent flying in random directions after a crash. It’s so goofy and unrealistic that it can’t help but put a smile on my face.

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Along with the weapons you can get, there are actual power-ups, which will multiply the strength of your weapon hits by 2x or 4x. Here I am approaching one now.

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And here I am with 4 times the clubbing power. This poor cop doesn’t know what’s about to hit her.

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And after you qualify on all races on a level…

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Time to buy a new bike. Again, I’m going with the fastest.

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And again, I’m going to decline this dude’s offer. If there were some way to ask for a refund after the race was over, I might consider it.

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Yay! Note the “password” code to get to level two from the game start.

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There are some spots on certain tracks where you can literally cut corners.

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The game will notice when you’ve done it, and it will send you a message. But other than that there is no effect. You can also see that I’m about to hit a pedestrian. The game keeps track of how many pedestrians you’ve struck per race, but they don’t add to your cash, and they actually slow you down, so it’s best to avoid them.

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Here’s me catching some air. I don’t think this would be a very good idea in real life. The jumps in this game are actually crucial to avoid oncoming traffic that suddenly approach when you can’t see them coming.

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Here’s an example of why this game never won any awards for looks. This is the inside of a building, with part of my tire sticking through the building wall under the name “Pops”.

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This game can be a little ugly in some spots, and the best looking thing about it is actually the road.

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The scenery changes up a bit for some variation, but you’re not going to see a lot of stunning vistas, well-known landmarks or grandiose landscapes.

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And here’s another short cut between two buildings. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve smashed into that building on the right…

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Yes game, but look, I’m 153 feet ahead of Dez!

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And just for fun let’s do some off-roading. Where did all the textures go?

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The problem with going off the track is that even with the direction arrows pointing the way, it’s very hard to know exactly where to go to get back.

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So it’s faster to crash and start again on the track. Note the sky-blue digital void that I’ve torn away from reality… I hope this world doesn’t end because of it.

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Here’s the end of a race, though not the one where I went off the road, that was a lost cause. I like the skid marks that stay visible, and the fact that the cows moo when you jump over them.

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Another level, another bike.

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And sometimes at the end of a race, when the riders come to a halt near each other, you can swing your weapon at one who’s stopped next to you. If you’re within striking range you can hit them and crash them off their bike, and get points for it even though the race is over.

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And of course you need to avoid getting crashed off your own bike by the police. Too much of this and you won’t be able to afford the next bike or worse. If you run out of money completely it’s game over.

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Now we’re playing with power. The game starts off pretty fast, but each level gets faster and more hectic as bikes have more speed, traffic gets more congested and more cops try to spoil the party.

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There are two courses in particular that feature an overwhelming number of cops, and this changes the gameplay drastically. The object of the game for these courses is basically to survive the cops.

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Remembering that getting crashed off your bike just once ends the race, I’ve found it’s best to just kind of hang back and let the cops do their thing ahead of me.

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And I was the only one who survived. I like this stage. It’s tough, but it gets the adrenalin pumping.

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Here’s some more air! “Oh Shit” is right – sometimes I don’t land this jump.

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Now we get to the final bike for the final level.

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There is one more bike actually, but it’s so expensive that you need a cheat code to get it and it’s so fast and uncontrollable that it’s not worth riding.

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Another race with way too many cops! wish there was one like this on every level.

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Level five is hard as balls, but I know all these tracks off by heart, and I also know that it’s best to ride behind the pack until just before the end to avoid getting beaten into a pulp.

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And as a consequence, I did no fighting.

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Just a lot of hard racing.

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This is the elaborate winning screen… not much to it.

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And after you’ve beaten the game once, you can race as a cop. If you beat the game twice you can race in “scooter mode” which unlocks these small, slow and funny scooters you can ride.

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“Road Rash 64” also has Thrash mode, which is just straightforward racing & fighting. The weapons in this mode appear more frequently and more directly in your path.

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You can customize the options for racing, including the strength and number of opponents, the number of cops, traffic and pedestrians.

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There is also Cop Mode which allows you to race as the cop and bust other racers.

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You can leave the default cop look or change it to one of the other couple of dozen pre-rendered looks. Is that sexy or what? Her face looks like the sole of a shoe with makeup.

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This can be kind of fun for a change, when you’re sick of hearing the sirens after you all the time…

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…turn the tables and club those riders yourself!

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Not bad.

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A summary is shown after the stage.

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The Multiplayer mode of gameplay can also be played by one player, and it has some interesting and fun ways of playing this game that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Of course there is straight up multiplayer.

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You get a split-screen view and select your appearance. Bike speed and attributes are all evenly matched in this mode.

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Had this been two-player, the screen would be split horizontally.

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Also in Multiplayer mode are the 1 Lap, 3 Lap, and 7 Lap arena races.

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These take place in separate tracks that don’t feature in the Big Game or Thrash modes.

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This first one is a figure-8 track with counter-clockwise turns.

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The object here is the same as Thrash – race and fight.

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Weapons appear randomly throughout the track, and can be picked up by anyone.

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Short and sweet.

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You get a rap sheet in this mode too.

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The next track is an indoor mezzanine.

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This one is narrow and tricky.

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At least I found it tricky to stay on course while trying to knock other riders around.

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It sure looks like you can drive through that, doesn’t it?

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Next we have some kind of underground sewer type area.

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Or maybe just some water drainage area.

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I’m not too sure but there are a few cool jumps.

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After that comes the same figure-8 as before, only with clockwise turns.

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And finally a giant sandbox.

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This one’s like taking your big motorcycle out to a nasty mess of a dirt bike track.

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You can get the highest jumps in the game in this track, as you can see ahead of me.

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I scared the hell out of my rider, it seems.

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To round out the Multiplayer mode, we have “Ped Hunt”, which is about hunting pedestrians.

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As before, you can select some options, then you race and beat opponents while trying to strike the most pedestrians with your bike.

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Then there is Deathmatch. Each rider knocked off a bike is 1 point. First one to 7 points wins. These take place in the arenas.

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Finally… good old Tag. You start as “It”, and take it from there. These also take place in the arenas.

And there you have the finest racing video game ever made. That’s my opinion, of course. And I’m judging this only on the amount of fun I have while playing the game. I’ve seen this game overlooked and disrespected because of the way it looks, and I really think that’s a shame. This game has so much to offer, and I do think it’s one of the outstanding titles that the Nintendo 64 should be remembered for.

If you’ve never played “Road Rash 64”, check it out. The cartridge can be had fairly cheaply, and so can the N64. You can also try it out on an emulator if you want. I use Project 64 version 1.6 to play my N64 games. There are some different choices as far as Nintendo 64 emulators go, so read up on them to see which one might work best for you.

Either way, you have to experience this game.

Road Rash Jailbreak (1999)

Road Rash Jailbreak Cover

The final Road Rash title to be released on a home console was a bit of a disappointment.  All the basics are there, they’re just kind of thrown together in a sloppy way.  And there are cut scenes with a midget… and a storyline.  It’s Road Rash.  It doesn’t need a storyline.  (Screenshots are from GameSpot.com)

Road Rash Jailbreak 01

The graphics take on a goofy, cartoony kind of look.  That wasn’t a hindrance for me in “Road Rash 64”, but I found that game to be outstanding in so many other ways that it didn’t bother me.  Here it feels like a step backward.

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I think the reason that the cartoony look bothers me here is because it doesn’t have to look this way on the PlayStation.  This is an artistic style choice that I just personally don’t like.

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Other than that, the gameplay is about the same as Road Rash 3D, with a bit more emphasis on fighting.  Some people give this game flak for being just more of the same, but really, it’s Road Rash.  You have to stick to that simple formula when you’re making a Road Rash game, don’t you?  If you don’t then you’ve got something different.

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The gameplay mechanics offer analog steering which is great, so it has that going for it.  Controls and settings are pretty similar to Road Rash 3D for the PlayStation.

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The game is split up into single and multiplayer modes, and single player offers Jail-Break, Five-O and Time Trial modes.  Jail-Break lets you choose between one of two teams to race for, then you proceed to try to win races to eventually free your leader from Jail.  Just the way it works in the real world.  You can choose to race as one of a few preset “Aliases” with their own bikes in this mode.

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Five-O mode lets you choose one of six fugitives, gives you a time limit, and sets you on a course to catch them and their accomplices.

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The Time Trial mode allows you to race on one of only three courses at a time, but you can choose from three difficulty levels (or Ranks) and one of four bikes.  Two of those bikes offer “arcade” style riding and two offer “simulation” style.  You can also set whether or not you want to race with opponents, traffic, or cops.  There’s also a trophy room feature that lets you view and compare your race times.

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Overall, it’s a decent Road Rash game, but it’s not the best.  The graphics are a mixed bag.  On the one hand, there are some nice touches, like the animations the rider performs while riding, and the lack of noticeable pop-in.  On the other hand the art style might not appeal to everyone.  I personally don’t find it appealing at all.

Sound is also mixed.  The sound effects are well done, as there’s really no excuse to mess them up in a game released on the last day of 1999.  The music ranges from mediocre to good though.  It’s all “indie” stuff, and one nice feature about the audio setup menu is that you can disable and enable individual songs if you like.  You can also turn the music completely off, as well as adjust the volume levels of your engine, opponent’s engines, sirens, voices, etc.  I think this is a great feature, because as much as I love Road Rash, sometimes the constant blaring of sirens makes me reach for that volume control.

If you like Road Rash, you will probably enjoy this one too.

Road Rash Jailbreak (Game Boy Advance) (2003)

Road Rash Jailbreak (GBA) box

This is the last official Road Rash release.  The title is the same as the PlayStation game, but the game is different.  It’s still Road Rash, though, and it’s pretty good.

Road Rash Jailbreak (GBA) 01

The premise and structure are much the same, of course.  The art style is cartoony again, but it doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it did on the PlayStation version.

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There are three main modes of gameplay: Wild Race, Cop Patrol, and Time Attack.    Survival brings up a password screen, and multiplayer is self explanatory.  Tips will display some info and strategy hints about gameplay.

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Starting the Wild Race mode lets you choose one of three characters with different attributes.

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You can also choose which difficulty to race.  You need to unlock the courses as you go.

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The graphics are surprisingly good for a Game Boy Advance title, and  I think this is one of the best looking racing games that system had to offer.  Still, due to the small size of the screen and limited resolution, it’s not ideal.  Things move at a fast pace, but they can look a bit messy at times.

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Because the GBA had fewer buttons than a PlayStation or N64 controller, the gamplay mechanics have been simplified.  A accelerates, B punches, R kicks and L uses your limited nitro boosts.  I wish this layout could have been configurable.

There are obstacles and rewards along the tracks too, like crates with weapons inside and dollar signs that you can ride through to get cash.  This gives the game a more arcadey feel than other games in the series.

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And like all Road Rash games, you can be beaten and busted by the cops.

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You get a lifebar as usual, but it’s also integral to the  game in another way.  When you crash into vehicles and other riders, you don’t get thrown off your bike.  Instead, you are slowed and usually halted, with some damage taken off the lifebar.

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I don’t really mind this change as much, though I’m sure some Road Rash fans will  miss it.  When your lifebar is depleted, you are out of the race.

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Cop Patrol mode lets you ride as a cop and bust the other riders.

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You have position arrows on the screen to let you know if they are behind or ahead of you.

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Time attack mode doesn’t feature all of the options that the PlayStation version features.  You ride alone in the traffic against the clock.  There are checkpoints along the way, and if you don’t make them, you’re out.

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This is the screen you see when you select the Survival option from the start screen.

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And this is one of the many tips you can scroll through.

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Considering the portable GBA hardware, I think this is a worthy addition to the series.  I don’t play it nearly as much as any of the others, but it is a fun little title, and it has all the basic elements that go together to make a Road Rash game.

Road Rash Revolution (2004)

Road Rash Revolution 1

This isn’t an official release… and it isn’t really a racing or a driving game.  It’s pretty odd to behold unless you know what the “Beats of Rage” genre is.  Beats of Rage is a game engine based off of “Streets of Rage 2“.

So this is a beat-em-up… in the world of Road Rash.  It’s actually quite fun.  My version is for the Dreamcast, which is why I don’t have my own screenshots to show you.

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The game takes its graphics, sounds and music from the original release of Road Rash for the Sega Genesis way back in 1991.  When the game starts, you can customize some options, which include brightness settings and controller configuration.  Selecting “Start” will give you the choice of three difficulty settings.

You can then select one of four riders: Slater, Biff, Natasha, or Ikira.  The goal is to ride through the game’s five courses while fending off and defeating the numerous other riders who will descend from above and attack you as they ride with you.

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Road Rash Revolution has more in common with beat-em-up games than it does with racing games, unsurprisingly.  There are power meters, lives, continues and boss fights.  You can punch and kick by pressing the X button.  To jump, press the A button, and to use your special attack, press Y.  The special attack is a powerful club attack that will instantly defeat your enemy, but will drain your power a lot, so use it sparingly.

The joystick or D-pad moves you around the road, and you don’t have to worry about the driving.  Steering is irrelevant because the road is always straight.  Remember, this is not a race, this is a fight.

When I first read about this game, I didn’t think it would be very impressive.  I thought it would be good for a quick laugh, if anything.  But this is a surprisingly good beat-em-up, and it’s really well constructed and fun to play.  It’s challenging too, and there is enough here to keep me coming back to try to beat it.

I would definitely recommend this one for fans of Road Rash.  It’s a hoot.

The future of Road Rash…

I know I’ve said before that this series needs to be revisited on modern hardware.  Something I’ve seen recently has made me rethink that.  There’s a project going on called “Road Redemption” that strives to recreate the gameplay and recapture the magic of the original Road Rash on modern hardware.  From what I’ve seen, it looks awful.

Road Rash was about a kind of unrealistic pretend violence, like the kind that could only exist in something like a Tom and Jerry cartoon or a 1990s video game like this.  Nobody died, nobody got maimed.  I watched a gameplay trailer for “Road Redemption”, and as soon as I saw somebody pull out a shotgun and blow another rider away from afar, I knew that this could be no spiritual successor to Road Rash.  That is not what Road Rash was about.

Maybe Road Rash can’t be made for modern consoles.  Maybe the demand for realism means that the over-the-top crashes and the monkey-wrench beatings of days gone by wouldn’t sell unless they were just another Grand Theft Auto clone.  I think that would be sad, but that might be the case.  It might be best for Road Rash to exist in the past.  We can always fire up our old consoles and emulators when we want to ride again.