Game of the Week (1/14/18) – Road Rash

I have to admit I was never a big Road Rash fan when I played any one of the 3 versions on the Sega Genesis. It just felt like a standard 16-bit racing game on motorbikes with some fighting elements thrown in to differentiate itself from the rest. I liked playing them in small doses but never got too excited to pop a Road Rash cart in. I heard good things about the Sega CD version’s improved audio but have yet to play it so when it came to time to pop in my 3DO copy of Road Rash in order to really dive into the game play, I was hopeful that it would at least sound as good as what I believed the Sega CD version to sound like. Then I actually saw and played the game and any doubt that this was the best version available at the time of it’s release (early 1994), was immediately erased.

Once you get past the relatively lengthy load times, you are treated to some FMV scenes of actors on their motorbikes essentially being their badass, lawless, and iconoclastic selves to the adrenaline pumping sounds of Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage. Well, this game is off to an excellent start! Road Rash on the 3DO offers two styles of gameplay, which boil down to arcade style (Thrash mode) and career (Big Game mode). You are provided a nice selection of male and female characters to choose from as your racer, all drawn in an oddly warped animation style. The game’s developer, Electronic Arts, was clearly inspired by early 90s alternative and grunge fashion and art (MTV’s Liquid Television anyone and 120 Minutes anyone?)

As far as gameplay goes, you are given a variety of courses to choose from and all of them look very good. After recently playing The Need for Speed on the 3DO and being impressed with those graphics, I would say Road Rash compares very favorably and in many ways surpasses in that department. The game’s controls are another very strong element to this version. It’s easy to maintain control of your bike and I found myself using my brakes very infrequently, which for me, is a sign of a fun racing game. In the Big Game mode, the character you select is the character you ultimately try to build up their skills, weapons and upgrading bikes by entering in races and winning money by placing in the top 3. You race against your “buddies” I use this term loosely because while you may all hang out at the local bar together and talk smack to each other, ultimately you want to kick their ass, literally and figuratively, while in a race. Probably the most memorable aspect to the Road Rash games is the ability to attack your opponents during the race, using your legs, fists or even weapons. While this part of the game can get really intense in a 2 player mode, it really doesn’t add much for me when I’m playing against the computer. I rarely find myself in a situation where attacking my opponent is the most logical means to an end. I tend to just try to outmaneuver them on the road and only attack when I have a clear shot as attacking takes away your concentration needed to stay on the road while avoiding obstacles such as other cars and pedestrians. However, I will attack police unprovoked as it’s fun to knock them off their bikes with no consequences.

When the race ends, you are treated to a FMV cut scene that indicates your outcome. For example, if you don’t place, you’re branded a loser and your fellow bikers will humiliate you in some form or fashion. If you place, you are branded a winner, earn cash based on your place and you’re treated to a similar style cut scene showing what spoils await you. The most interesting of these cut scenes is the one where a female biker (I assume, especially since this game came out in 1994) approaches a man holding a cup full of cash with one hand while his other hand seductively looms close to the crotch of his leaving nothing to imagination jeans (think the cover to Rolling Stone’s Sticky Fingers). Instead of grabbing the cup o’ cash, she grabs on to his belt and pulls him away for what we have to assume is a post race romp. It’s such a 1990s, women’s sexual liberation moment and fits perfectly within the context of this particular game, where it may come off as cringey and inappropriate on a different game.

Road Rash for the 3DO looks amazing, plays smoothly and intuitively all the while sounding great thanks to the grunge and alternative music played during the menus and cut scenes. I just wish the adrenaline pumping rock music would play during the races themselves instead of the generic video game music. I understand that EA chose to improve the graphics during the races instead of including the licensed music and ultimately, that’s a trade off I can live with.

Rating: A

Currently in my collection: game, manual, case

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