Review: L.A. Rush (Playstation 2)

In this review, we take back what is ours in the Playstation 2 game L.A. Rush. We find out how well this racing game plays.

This game was released in 2005. It is the last game in this series.

We now have complete knowledge of this series. We first tried San Francisco Rush – Extreme Racing. That game got an OK score. From there, we tried Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA. That game got a rather solid score. Finally, we tried San Francisco Rush 2049 on the N64 as well as the Sega Dreamcast. Both versions got an excellent score all around. So, we wrap up with this series with this entry in the series.

Unlike previous games, this game features an actual storyline. You play as the character Trikz who has amassed a massive amount of wealth and cars. During one of his parties at his mansion at Beverly Hills, a person named Lidell shows up to announce that he is putting together a series of races throughout the streets of L.A. Trikz agrees to the racing, but Lidell feels that Trikz is going to be bumped out of the scene.

The next day, when Trikz is returning to hi mansion, he finds that every one of his cars save for his first cars has been stolen. He arrives just as Lidell’s henchmen steals his last car, a Hummer. Trikz partner hatches a plan to steal back the cars through his inside sources. Trikz then gets in his last remaining car and heads out onto the streets of L.A. to take back what is his.

The game takes place in five iconic locations throughout L.A.: Hollywood, Santa Monica, South Central, South Bay, and Downtown. Each area has its own distinct style in terms of scenery. There’s the luxury residential area. Additionally, there is the China Town area in the downtown core. Head all the way south to South Bay and you can check out the Port of L.A. You can even check out the massive highway system that connects everything. One could really go on and on about just how many different landmarks there are.

As this implies, you are actually placed in an open world environment. This environment features different traffic systems and, of course, plenty of cops depending on how much trouble you get yourself in. The more traffic infractions you do, the more heat gets put on you for the most part. The heat is on a 5 star system.

No stars means that no one is really looking for you. One star means you’ve committed some infractions such as speeding, running red lights, or getting into minor fender benders. Two stars means you’ve committed multiple infractions or you’ve gotten yourself into some more major collisions with other vehicles. Three stars means you’ve done a fair bit of different infractions, but you can also jump to three stars by crashing into police or resisting arrest. Four stars means you’ve accumulated a lot of infractions. While five stars just mean even more of the same, there is a sixth star which means the stars actually flash. This is the maximum heat that you can have poured on you.

As you can imagine, the more heat on you, the more aggressive police are to catching you. A mere one star could mean a single officer might give chase. At the other end of the scale, that sixth star means that pretty much every officer is out trying to track you down. As the games one of many hints suggest, you can hide in alleyways or somewhere else and wait for the heat to gradually get lifted. The general rule is that as long as you aren’t committing more infractions and aren’t being chased by police, then the heat will gradually get lifted. Hiding simply helps the process along.

The objective, of course, is to enter races and rake in the dough. To do this, you can simply enter different races. Most events have cash rewards while some earn you an extra car. If you hit select while in the travelling or roaming mode, you can see where you need to go next. The different colours (blue, green, red, orange, and yellow) simply denotes which area the events relates to. With the exception of West Coast Customs, your Home, and Stunt events, events that have a white centre means you haven’t qualified in that event yet. If it is filled in with the area colour, then you’ve completed that event, but entering it again for grinding or record breaking purposes is an option.

The house icon denotes your “home”. Each area has a “home”, but your main home is in Beverly Hills. In each home, you can swap out your ride for something else you’ve acquired.

Meanwhile, the flames logo denotes a West Coast Customs location. If you want, you can roll in your ride to a West Coast Custom’s location. For a fee, the crew can kit out your ride for not only a performance boost, but also an overall “pimping” of your ride. This can include a new paint job, rims, and anything else they feel like doing to it to get that ride looking, well, “pimpin'”. All this costs money, but it can be worth it if you don’t have a particularly high performance vehicle yet. In fact, a few events requires a customized ride. If you don’t have a concept car, your ride needs to have been “pimped out” first before you can enter.

A dollar sign denotes a normal street race. While it may not necessarily move the plot along, a little extra dough doesn’t hurt. The races themselves can either be a point to point circuit race or a point to point race with a start to finish. You aren’t really given any information about what race you are entering until you enter the race. If there is a lap counter, it’s a circuit race.

The events with the star icon denotes a normal race just like the dollar sign. The different, however, is the fact that a number of them will move the plot along. Otherwise, there isn’t really any difference.

A race denoted by the “KO” icon is a circuit race. The difference, however, is that last place on each lap gets eliminated until there is only one winner. These races require your ride be “pimped out” to enter. They are also fairly expensive to enter, but you can easily get a new ride out of the deal.

The explosive icon is a retribution event. What you do specifically depends on the event, but generally speaking, you are going to engage in a little property damage. You get a time limit to accomplish a goal. Complete the event within the time limit and you’ll get a cash reward.

In addition to this, there is a key icon. These are the acquire events. You start the event with the new car you are attempting to get. The goal is to make it back to your mansion in Beverly Hills. You’ll get an arrow that points you to the direction of your home and the red finish line can be seen in the skyline. The challenge here is that you’ll have more than half a dozen of Lidell’s henchmen chasing you down (denoted by red dots on the radar). In addition, you’ll have cops on your tail that happen to be in the area. You’ll get a damage meter. Get that ride home before you completely total your ride or the henchmen block your progress. The more damage you get once you make it home, the more expensive it is to repair that ride.

A final event is the stunt courses. These have a special icon associated with them. They can be found by the green dots on the map. If they are moving, it means that you haven’t completed the event. If they stopped moving, it means that you’ve already completed the course. Collect the blue trophy icons before the time runs out. Once you collect them all, you just smash your ride through the green coin to complete the course. Winning these events means you get a new ride. Just know that you have t collect the coins in order and the time limits can be quite tight. A word of warning, you’ll be collecting frequent flier miles in these events the most.

Each car features a three boost system. To get a boost, you need to run your ride through the red N20 icons. You can activate the nitro at any time. Nitros are frequently collected during races, however, it is possible to drive around town and collect a few well hidden ones while you are at it. Nitros during stunt courses activate immediately, but you can use others that you have stocked up before the race.

Crashing your car is generally bad. You lose a bit of time before you respawn on the road. The upside is that you can’t get busted crashing your ride. If you aren’t in a race, it can be an interesting way to get a few cops off your back for a bit. If you find yourself at a standstill with the cop right in front of you, you could get busted. Getting busted means you’ll pay a fine of a few hundred dollars. How big your fine is depends on the number of infractions you’ve committed.

The menus outside of the game can control a number of things. For one, you can adjust the difficulty at any time. If you are finding that the game has no challenge, you can try hard mode and continue your game. If you are constantly picking up the rear of the pack, you can always move things down to easy. The difficulty affects not only your opponents performance, but also the aggressiveness of police.

You can also select the style of music you hear. You can select between hip hop, techno, and rock. Unfortunately, you don’t have any control over which specific tracks you want to hear or whether or not you want to hear music from multiple genres, but you can change things up if you want.

Just know that a vast majority of these options are only available in the main menu of the game. Once in the game, you can only really change up the volume levels and a small handful of other things.

What I find surprising is that this game really is a massive departure from the other games in the series. Instead of racing through closed circuit courses on the streets with a large number of opponents past various landmarks, you are getting a game that has almost nothing to do with the rest of the Rush series. Instead, it’s almost as if the developers played Driver and said, “I want this game to be that, but with racing.”

Then, part way through development, someone played Need for Speed: Underground 2 and made some last minute changes to incorporate the other race styles like the Knock Out races.

What I find irritating is that there is already a perfectly acceptable formula the series has already come up with. Create some circuits that allows players to race backwards and forwards. Throw a whole bunch of secrets and shortcuts and add in a few collectible items to challenge players beyond the race system. This game seemingly represents the developers simply trashing this formula and desperately trying to incorporate whatever the latest trends in racing games are. The end result became a Rush game in name only. The only legacy left behind were seemingly slipped in in small quantities to the point that they are barely recognizable.

All you really are left with is a hollowed out game that doesn’t even compete well with other games in the years leading up to it. Even the previous entry in the series completely blows this one out of the water.

A major problem in this game is the repetitive nature. A good 90% of the races depends on a point to point system. The only variations is whether you are collecting coins, going through checkpoints on the street, or if you are playing in a circuit race. If you do well, this gets very boring and repetitive after a while. If you lose a number of races, the grinding only adds to the repetition of this.

The AI does leave a bit to be desired. The opponents can easily swerve in and out of traffic. Really, the only time you are going to see them crash is if you deliberately find a way to shove that opponent into traffic in the first place. This is definitely a tall order, but it is possible. The police can be extremely annoying at times. Sometimes, they don’t bother giving chase. Other times, they will simply drive straight into you, knocking you out with a fast last minute turn. There are even moments were the police literally rain down on you. You might challenge the game up to a certain point, but chances are, the only way you’re completing this in any reasonable way is to tone this thing down to easy at some point.

I get that part of the challenge of acquire events is to make it long distances to your home. Beyond that, though, the long distances between races can be tedious at times. While it is great that you can select your destination in the select map and have the game map out a rout for you to get there, you’ll easily get disheartened when you see the distance read as something like 5.2 miles. I would have liked to see some sort of fast travel system incorporated into this game, personally.

Finally, the menu system is plain awful. It is hard to appreciate all of the features in the game because they are so well buried in the main menu options. I didn’t even know that there was anything other than hip hop music in the game until after I completed it. The ability to change difficulty at any time is certainly… interesting. Can’t say I can go in either direction on that thought train. It’s just a shame that so many non-game dependent features are locked out of the pause menu while in game. I think this game would have been better served to have the ability to customize your listening experience in the pause menu. As such, I felt the menu systems were a bit convoluted.

Generally speaking, I find myself asking, “what were they thinking?” while playing this game. So many great features such as car customization and closed circuit courses were scrapped. Instead, you get a nearly exclusively point to point system on an open world map. Not a bad concept at first, but it gets repetitive – especially with travel and if you lose a number of races part way through. The AI leaves a lot to be desired and the menu system needs a lot of work. I will say navigation is pretty reasonable in this game if you know how to use it.

Graphics are definitely the strongest part of the game. Some of the vehicles such as custom rides and pimped out versions of each ride can look downright fantastic looking. The models of different people and different objects also work quite well. Also, the environments work quite well. My only nitpick is that there isn’t much for special effects. The slow motion crash scenes isn’t gets repetitive and boring after a while. That can’t even be skipped either, just fast forwarded with the acceleration button. It’s great, but could be better.

Audio is a bit of a miss for me. The sound effects and speech samples are OK. Meanwhile, the engine sounds are OK, but nothing big. As for the music, it’s OK, but nothing special. What really holds this back, though, is the fact that two thirds of the music is practically hidden in the menu system. Even for me, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t hearing most of the music on top of it all. The short list of tracks gradually adds to the repetition of the game for me.

Overall, this game is definitely a missed opportunity. Almost all the trademark features that make the Rush series great have been stripped out. It has been replaced by some bizarre desperate attempt to copy various racing trends in more modern games. The end result is a hollowed out bland repetitive racing game filled with more race to race events then most people can handle. While the navigation system is more than workable, the games shortcomings such as a convoluted menu system, weird AI, and repetitive gameplay really overshadow the experience. Graphics are great, but the audio is a bit of a miss for me. So, an overall mediocre play that just leaves me disappointed about what this series might have been.

Furthest point in game: Beat Lidell and earned a 93% completion rating. Played the first area and a half on medium before switching to easy to polish off the game.

General gameplay: 12/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 52%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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