Road Rash 64
WARNING: Please understand that I am an avid fan of the Road Rash series. This is both a good and a bad thing. It is good because you can rest assured that I played the hell out of the game. It is bad because I have a soft spot in my heart for these games so I tend to be more forgiving than others may be. With that in mind, think of Road Rash 64 as Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. It may be ugly and homely but once you get past that fact, the tree is still a pretty good tree that just needed a little love.
This is the first incarnation of the series on the N64 and instead of the original creators of the series, Electronic Arts decided to license out the name and idea to THQ. Both companies actually worked together on the project in an attempt to keep the games roots to heart. The gang concept was carried over from the PSX version of Road Rash 3D, only scaled back. You will battle your way across 200 miles of tracks to determine if you are the ultimate Rasher out there.
Here is the quick two minute tour of what Road Rash is all about. It is a motorcycle racing game unlike any other racing game out there. This racer is full contact. When I say full contact, I don't mean that you can ram into the other racers either. I mean that you have tons of weapons that you can use if a racer gets too close. A quick smack to the head with a spiked club usually gets them off your back. And oh, yeah, since it is a race, the object is to make it to the finish line in one piece. If you make it one piece, finishing in the top three positions qualifies you on that track and allows you to move on and adds some cash to your bank account, used to buy new bikes. That pretty much sums it up. And, in my opinion, this one of the best series of games ever made.
So what makes Road Rash 64 different from any of the other Rash titles in the past? That is an easy question. The answer is that combat is now the main focal point with the racing almost as a side note. In games past, you would not get in many combat situations and you would normally be the instigator. If a computer-controlled opponent attacked you, it was rare that they would stay and beat on you. He would usually take a shot at you on his way by and head off. Not any more. Now the computer opponents hunt you down and pound you until you fall off your bike. They are just downright vicious. There were times that I just wanted to make it to the finish line so I did everything in my power to avoid fights but they were relentless and just would not leave me alone. It was aggravating during the race but looking back at it, it was also pretty cool.
Another difference in this game is that you are never too far ahead nor are you too far behind. They basically forced all of the riders together in a large group, which is why there was so much combat. I actually thought this was a bit lame because the game is still a racing game but they took out all of the consequences for crashing early on. I knew that if I crashed, it would be a very short time before I was back in the middle of the pack. This was the same with first place as well. I was never far enough in the lead that if I were to crash, I would hold my lead. Crashing was an instant trip to the back of the pack but since it was so easy to catch up, the racing aspect of the game almost got lost.
One thing that did carry over from the last PSX game was the concept of gangs. The PSX version had four different gangs, which were determined by the type of bike you were riding. The theory was that other members in that gang would protect you or at least not beat up on you as much. It was a great theory but I never really noticed a difference in treatment between the other riders. Well, this issue has been addressed in the N64 version. First off, there are two gangs or you can choose to be independent. You have to pay dues to belong to a gang but it is money well spent. I started out playing the first three levels as an independent and then joined a gang and it was amazing how much less I got attacked. See, your gang members really did leave you alone and protect you. It was cool to see this actually working as advertised.
Another neat thing that was added for this game is that after every race, you will see stats for different actions that were performed during the race. For example, it counts up the number of accidents you caused, officers you assaulted, etc. The more mayhem you cause, the better your bonus you will receive. I thought this was really cool. My only complaint with it was that it did not count up points for running over pedestrians. Come on, if you are going to put them out there as targets, let me earn cash for running them down. Also, I thought that the bonuses were a little small (averaged less than $50). If I could have earned more money, I would have been more inclined to start more fights.
One last thing worth mentioning is that while the controls were tight when it came to standard maneuvers, there were times that they just did not feel right. On sharp corners, I was constantly spinning the back end of my bike around. It is really hard to explain the feeling that I got but it is just not right. On gradual corners everything works great.
This game also offers some serious multiplayer action for those who enjoy that type of gaming. The multiplayer modes include Thrash, which is a race against human opponents with up to four players; Laps which allow you to play in special multiplayer arenas for a specified number of laps; Deathmatch, which awards points to players for completing laps and takes away points for crashing a player; Tag, which gives points for crashing the person that is "it"; and my favorite, Ped hunt, which gives players points for running over pedestrians. You gotta like that.
Remember at the top of this review, I said to think of this game as Charlie Brown's Christmas tree? For those of you that have never seen the Charlie Brown Christmas special (is there anyone in the world who has not seen it at least 40 times?), Charlie Brown is in charge of picking out a tree and he picks out the ugliest, most homely tree. Everyone gets mad at old Chuck and says that it is the worst tree ever. After a while, people start to appreciate the tree for what it has to offer, not so much what it looked like. So what am I getting at with that? This game will never win any awards for graphics. It has terrible fog problems, draw in problems, and it is very plain looking. But like the tree, if you look past these physical shortcomings and accept it for what it is (a game focused on fun gameplay), you will be better off. The game does use the RAM pak, but you would never know it.
Being the long time Road Rash fan that I am, I walked away from this game satisfied. It is not the best ever version of the game but it offers up some new twists and still follows the old formula. Look, the graphics suck but don't let that discourage you. Actually, if the graphics bother you, call Nintendo and complain to them about their hardware because that is the problem. All in all, if you are a Rash fan, check it out. If not, give it a rental and see if it fits your gaming style.
Review Posted On 7 October 1999.
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