Review: Red Asphalt (Playstation)

In this review, we look for more body bags in the Playstation game Red Asphalt. We find out if this combat racing game is worth a play.

This game was released in 1998. If you are familiar with games released prior to 2000, there is a possibility this game may not ring a bell. However, if you happen to have played the SNES game Rock N’ Roll Racing (also later released on the Sega Genesis), then you have actually played the second of three games. Rock N Roll Racing for the SNES and Genesis both got quite respectful scores. In case you’re wondering, the first game in this series is RPM (Radical Psycho Machine) Racing. That game got a fairly average score. So, in this review, we decided to see how this series concluded.

While the game largely revolves around Motormouth, you do have the ability to play as one of many characters. The game will still be narrated by Motormouth, but the taunts and screams of your drivers (as well as the ending) will be affected by which character you choose. Each character has their own storyline more or less, but they all have one thing in common: to take down the overlord responsible for all of the chaos in the galaxy.

Each character has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. However, your character will start off with very weak stats overall. This is a fair bit like the predecessor, Rock N Roll Racing. The difference here is that it’s possible to gain small numbers of experience points by winning in races. You can choose to spend experience points on one of three stats. The maximum level you can achieve is 9, though chances are, you’ll only get the chance to max out on of those stats.

Also like the previous game, you’ll get the chance to choose a car. Unlike the previous game, however, all cars will be available from the very beginning. The only problem is that you’ll only be able to afford one of two or three cars with your starting cash. This actually initiates your first big decision in the game. Do you buy a slightly better car and risk racing with nothing else or do you save the cash and buy a few upgrades with the worst car in the game?

Should you go the cheaper rout and focus on buying parts, you can access the equipment section. In this part of the menu, you’ll get to choose from a small handful of ways to upgrade your vehicle. You can upgrade your engine, tires and suspension, armour, offensive weapon, defensive weapon, and nitro. This leads to another slight modification to this game. In the previous game, you can get jump springs as well in place of the nitro. In this game, this is stripped out and all vehicles will have nitro by default.

Now, what the offensive and defensive weapons are depends on what vehicle you get. On the Bomback, for instance, you get an oil slick and a pulse rifle for your weapons. Meanwhile, other vehicles might get mines, guided missiles, and pulse cannons. You don’t really get a choice once you get the vehicle, so if you get a vehicle that happens to be faster, your stuck with the weapons it came with.

Finally, there is the option to adjust a few things in the option menu. This can be difficulty or what music you want to hear.

Like the previous game, you race in a series of races for each planet. In this case, you start on Earth. In total, there are 6 races you need to complete. Complete the race with enough chaos points and advance to the next planet. Fail to reach that goal and you’ll be stuck going back to the very beginning. Unlike the previous game where you are simply stuck on that planet, the league will strip you of whatever money is left over in the process.

Like the previous game, you’ll also get a planetary boss unique to the planet in question. This opponent will basically stick with you throughout the entire race. If you fall behind, the boss will torment you at the back of the pack. If you manage to blast ahead, there is always a good chance that the boss will catch up to you to try and stop your path to victory. The other opponents, however, remain pretty much nameless.

A new feature is the ability to have a trial race. In this race, it’s just you and the road with three laps. This allows you to get a feel for the road, but obviously not a feel for the opponents.

You can also skip straight to the race where you take on 5 opponents at once. The goal is to finish in the top 3. If you finish 4th or worse, you’ll fail to earn any chaos points. There is also no cash prize for finishing in those places save for whatever scraps of cash you earned on the track (typically through fast lap times or cash item pickups). Finish in the top 3 and you’ll get a cash prize and chaos points. What those prizes are is completely dependant on what world you get. As you can imagine, the prizes do increase as you win races in later worlds.

Things have been somewhat changed up in the races themselves. Instead of replenishing your weapons supplies upon completion of a lap, your weapons will gradually recharge over time. How quickly a shot drains your supplies and how quickly they recharge depends on what level you’ve upgraded this weapon to. Also, nitro supplies carry over from race to race. The only two ways to get more nitros is through the store and item pickups on the tracks. You can only buy up to 10 in the store, but how many you can hold during a race can go even higher (however unlikely that is to achieve on most races of course).

What is new is a Wipeout style of item pickups. Apart from the aforementioned nitro and cash pickups, there are a few other items you can find on the road. A white dwarf will cause your car to glow white. Upon contact of another vehicle will mean instant death of that opponent (for a limited time). Dark matter allows your vehicle to pass through other item pickups and enemy fire harmlessly for a limited period of time. Armour replenishes a part of your armour. The red item pickup grants you a more powerful offensive weapon (instant lock on for missiles, rapid fire for other weapons, etc.). Finally, shield grants protection from enemy fire for a limited period of time.

If you manage to complete all of the main races in the game, you’ll be taken to a final track. This track is known as the circle of death. You take on the games nemesis himself on an oval track in a death match. If you die in the process, you’ll earn the games bad ending. If, however, you are victorious, you’ll get one of the games many good endings. To win, you must defeat all three phases of your opponent (better hope you can stock up on armour item pickups along the way!).

The first problem I have with this game is that, in terms of atmosphere, its such a radically different game. Sometimes, change is good in a game series. In this case, not so much. At the time, games like Carmageddon and Twisted Metal were already on the market. So, this game winds up being just another racing game revolving around the destruction of Earth and the only thing people have left to do is race and destroy in post-apocalyptic environments. Had this game chosen to stay true to the previous game of just rocking out in a sci-fi environment, it would have been a cool unique game. As it stands now, it has a very dime a dozen concept backing this game.

The second problem I have with this game is how approachable this game is. While I do understand some games going for a very arcade feel for racing, the difficulty of this game still puts new potential gamers off. All players get is a single track to get a chance to get used to the vehicle. After this first 3+ minute race is over, players are thrown into much more complex tracks as if they are instantly experts in the tracks themselves.

Whats worse is that these first batch of tracks are forcing players to race in vehicles with the worst ratings in the entire game. This means that not only do you have to make some of the tightest turns in the game early on, but also make them in cars that can’t turn worth a darn.

Compounding the problem is that, chances are, you’ll be lucky to complete the first few tracks in third place. At first, I thought this was because I’m just not used to the controls. After completing the game, I went back to the first few tracks to see if my skills could lay waste to my opponents. Not so much.

Ironically, the hardest tracks are generally found on the first two worlds. On some of the later worlds, the turns smooth out. The straightaways become longer and the turns become much more predictable. Save for the second to last world, the tracks are quite manageable. In the last world, it is expected. So, the difficulty curve of the tracks are actually quite all over the map as you progress through the game.

On a more positive note, this game does manage to tweak a few things for the better. The complete car shop being available from the beginning is a nice improvement over the limited selections found in the previous game. The lap bonus cash is a nice added touch to the previous game. While a lack of track positioning is annoying, the radar does give a general sense of who is behind you and where.

Still, the weapons do leave a bit to be desired. The guided missiles take pretty much forever to lock in a racing environment. Unless you have an end game weapon, a slight hill or turn will completely stop your attach dead in its tracks on top of it all. I can see the need for balance in the weapons system, but there has got to be a better way to balance the weapons out outside of making the guided missiles nearly completely useless.

When I first found out about this game, I honestly got quite excited over it. I didn’t even mind the idea of changing from a top down point of view to a third person perspective. The previous game had a lot going for it and the series had a lot of potential to knock out another very solid game because the second game got so many fundamentals right. I was left disappointed.

Even worse is that game competition was fierce when this was released. Games like Gran Turismo, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, Rush 2 – Extreme Racing USA, Mario Kart 64, Extreme-G, and Diddy Kong Racing were already tearing up the video game racing scene by the time this game came out. If there was ever a time for this franchise to stand out – especially with the name change – it was during the release. Unfortunately, it failed to connect on a lot of fronts that made the previous game such a joy to play, let alone step up its game to compete against the best the era has to offer.

While there is some general game play to be had here, don’t expect a lot of miracles. The game features somewhat clunky controls, a steep learning curve, an erratic difficulty curve, and a flawed weapons system. The excitement of combat racing is certainly there, but it isn’t exactly top notch quality you can expect for racing games back then.

Graphically speaking, this game starts off pretty weak. The first two worlds are largely a mess of grey and brown textures. This can make seeing the road a challenge at times – especially when there are quick turns involved. Some of the later levels, however, do step up the quality somewhat with a more colourful atmosphere. Still, the grainy textures are noticeable. It’s OK, but nothing to get excited over.

The audio has its hits and misses. Some of the music is actually half decent. Other tracks wind up sounding like more general rock tracks that merely ticks the boxes of what is expected in a rock track. The sound effects and voice work is OK, but nothing special.

Overall, this is another game series whose first foray into the 3D world didn’t go so well. In this case, it might have killed the official series entirely which would be unfortunate because it had a fair amount of potential. The controls can be clunky, the learning and difficulty curve is pretty steep, and the weapons systems have their faults. Some of the elements that were found in the previous game do give this game some interesting entertaining moments, but it just doesn’t compare to the more successful Rock N Roll Racing. The graphics are OK, but nothing special. The audio is decent, but nothing much better.

If you are a fan of the RPM/Rock N’ Roll Racing/Red Asphalt series, this game might satisfy some curiosity in where the franchise ended up. As for general racing fans, this game offers something different, but nothing too exciting. If you play this game, you get to add another notch into the played list, but otherwise, you’re really not missing much if you missed this one.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game on the default difficulty.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 62%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: