May 28, 2009Road Rash is one of those games that will forever be beloved by everyone as a true gem of its day. The perfect blend of racing and violence, Road Rash pushed the proverbial envelope for what a racing game can offer. Set in the grunge days of the early-mid 90’s, this game reflects counterculture, subculture, and the periods’ unwillingness to conform. A progressive level system slowly reveals more to the five maps as you win races, earn money, get better bikes, and ultimately win it all. Road Rash is an amazing game that changed what a racing game could offer – and it’s a game that EA needs to get off their asses and make next-gen.
The most engaging and unique aspect of the game, fighting offers a new layer of gameplay and can simultaneously excite as you backfist someone off their bike or frustrate as you get sidekicked into a mailbox. Various characters have weapons that you may either start off with if you choose to be that character, or you may steal from them during a race with a well timed punch. The mix up of chains, clubs, and bats from both racers and cops as well as all the different punching and kicking options makes for a very dynamic way to make #1 become #10 very quickly.
The game is played all throughout the beautiful state of California which is a great model because it offers such varied terrain – from mountains, to plains, ocean vistas, to cities – Road Rash delivers great scenery and changing landscapes. The occasional option to split between paths offers even more choices for the player to make each race unique and stave off the boredom of riding the same race again and again.
At the completion of each race, be it through winning, losing, wrecking, or getting busted by the cops – you are greeted with a live action video. These videos can be funny, sexy, angering, exciting and provide a real reward for the gamer no matter the outcome of the race. Nothing’s better than the masochistic female cop who laughs as she sics her dogs after you.
The music is excellent in the game, which is great because it balances how poor the sound effects are. Unfortunately the music does not play while you actually race; instead, you are forced to hear the humming of the bikes which play like one of those really bad Star Trek episodes where they meet some alien race that doesn’t know what music is… They could have de-emphasized that with no complaints.
Although I respect the rationale, it’s still frustrating when you’ve just been racing for 15 minutes on the Pacific Highway level 5 and you have the finish line in sight – when all of a sudden you hit a shrub and fall through the sky and into the ocean – no getting up from that one. As far as cops – it seems ironic that for a game that preaches fighting and combat, you essentially give up if a cop pulls up next to you while you’re off your bike. Even more ironic when the cop pulls slightly past where you and your bike are, and you are able to ride up and kick his ass. Give us the ability to drop those pigs when they pull up next to you.
This is a two edged sword. I love the concept that you become intimately familiar with only five different maps that slowly become longer and longer races as the game progresses. However, for that very reason, it seems like a way around creating unique and diverse maps per level. I think a combination of the two would be best – maybe you alternate a set of 5 maps per every other level – this way you still become familiar with the levels, but you’re experiencing greater diversity in the level design.
I believe that everything in this game belongs. The atmosphere is great, the videos and animations are excellent, the characters are diverse and funny, the bikes are balanced, the racing is varied, the fighting is dynamic, and the overall sense from the game is a truly unique and exhilarating experience.