Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Road Rash [Mega Drive, 1991] review

Let's face it: deep down we all want to be street thugs. We want to cane people across the skull with large truncheons, perform daredevil leaps over parked cars and generally kick the snot out of authority figures. Well, er, maybe it's just me then, constable? Please don't give me a fine for dropping litter!

Super Hang-On had taken the motorbike-em-up genre to a new level with its innovative "original" mode which saw you competing against rivals across winding cross country roads for cash. Road Rash builds on this idea, throwing in some good old-fashioned thuggery for good measure.

But this is far from Hang-On with knobs on: if it was at all possible, it out-arcades its arcade predecessor. Sure, it seems to plod along at first but once you get to buy the more powerful bikes it really lives up to the sheer speed of Hang-On. There's no slowdown to stop you in your tracks... the stupidly parked vehicles will do that just as well for you.

I shall stop comparing games made five years apart and for different formats, because in my book, Road Rash deserves to be regarded as a stand-alone classic. The difficulty curve is A1. The game sucks you in, and after about an hour you'll start to encounter bigger challenges - cows lying in the road, wandering deer and speeding estates begin to knock you off your bike more frequently, meaning you're going to have to master those brakes.

All the while you're racing along to a quality digitised soundtrack with excellent guitar sampling pretty damn advanced for its time. The game features a number of tunes from esteemed video game composer Rob Hubbard, who also created soundtracks for IK+ [Various] and the critically acclaimed Skate or Die [C64], to which you'll often be tempted to break out the air guitar mid-race. Like a good soundtrack, you'll also find yourself humming the tunes for a long time afterwards.

Your fellow competitors goad you before each race, making you want to get out on the track and pulp them into submission, both literally and metaphorically by sending them flying across the gravel and taking the first place berth to rub it in their faces. Each has a (mildly intimidating) name to add to the (non?) realism; Biff, Helldog, Viper, Broomhelga and er, Angel - they're all out to put your jaw out of joint.

It's highly violent stuff: high speed crashes, kicking people in the nuts, attacking police officers... and not a parental warning or BBFC rating in sight. Oh yes. See, in the 'old days', you could do that and get away with it. There are no 15-ratings here kids, so forget Need For Speed and get Road Rash instead.

Game breakdown

Recommended sequels

Road Rash II
[MD]: adds a few functions such as beating up cops, new tunes and more spectacular crashes.

Road Rash III
[MD]: a graphical update and new weapons and courses but essentially the same formula and engine as 1 +2.

Don't bother with Road Rash 3D [PSX]. Just don't, or I'll send some of my yak mates round to sort you out. Er, that wasn't a threat...

Get if: you like racing/sports games, bikes or are the casual gamer looking for some competitive action.

Avoid if: you prefer a more 'honest' type of bike racing game: go for Hang-On instead. Also avoid if you hate racing games or bikes in general - you may find yourself falling off a lot. Pays your money, takes your choice.

Game info

Road Rash [Mega Drive] - also available for Amiga, Atari ST, Game Boy, Game Gear, Sega Master System
Buy this game
  • Rarity Rating [10=Extremely rare]: 3
  • Buy @ eBay - a couple of pounds usually, might cost a bit more for sequels, especially RRIII which is a bit rarer.
  • Your local retro games store may have a copy but they might want about a fiver. You know what those shops are like, they price the games according to quality, usually.

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