Review: Road Rash 3: Tour de Force (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we test our brawn in the Sega Genesis game Road Rash 3: Tour de Force. We find out how this combat racing game plays.

This game was released in 1995. It is the third game in the original Genesis trilogy. We already have some experience with this franchise. Previously, we reviewed Road Rash 64. That game garnered an excellent score despite some of the graphical limitations. In addition, we played Road Rash 3D for the Playstation. While the game featured an extended music library, it was only pretty decent. So, we thought we’d give this game a try to see how it shapes up.

There really isn’t much of a storyline in the game itself. Instead, you are merely a “Rasher” taking on other opponents. You battle the elements, wildlife, obstacles, and your opponents for racing supremacy.

The goal in each race is to place in the top 3 positions. If you place in the top 3, you’ll be “qualified” for that track. You’ll have 5 tracks on each level to contend with. If you qualify in all 3 tracks, you’ll advance to the next level. Using the track selection screen, you can replay any track you wish – even the races you’ve already qualified on. Races you’ve qualified on will be denoted by the checkered flag that replaces the country flag.

While you do start the game with a bike and some cash, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room with that limited cash reserve. In addition to this, your bike apparently has all the power of a leaf blower. You have two choices in this instance: blow the cash on a few limited upgrades or take on the course without and have a cash reserve in the event the worst happens. It is certainly possible to beat the first race without any special upgrades.

Going into the races themselves, you’ll start with your bare knuckles and your powerful kick. As you race, it is possible to swipe an opponents weapon. While punching has the least impact on an opponents health, you can not only swing more quickly, but you can also steal an opponents weapon.

Kicking is a more hidden offensive weapon. The good news is that you can use it at any time regardless of whether or not you managed to obtain a weapon at a five finger discount. To execute this move, you hold down the down arrow and attack. This attack pushes another opponent to the side of the road. While difficult to time, you can easily kick the opponent into oncoming traffic or into a few fixed objects on the side of the road. Often, though, you can slow that opponent down by simply shoving them onto the dirt as dirt typically slows anyone down.

There are a number of weapons you can obtain. This includes general combat weapons, defensive weapons, and stun weapons. General combat weapons can include the crowbar, baseball bat, and billy club. They generally cause damage and can often temporarily stun an opponent. Defensive weapons are weapons that you drop behind on your bike. While it is a limited charge, you can presumably slow an opponent down. One example are the tacks. Stun weapons stun your opponents for longer periods of time. This includes the cattle prod and mace. Apparently, they have limited charges as well.

You have two health bars: your rider and your bike. If you get hit by an opponent, your rider takes the damage. Run out of rider health and you’ll wipe out. Meanwhile, if you wipe out or crash your bike into something, your bike will take the damage. Run out of health for your bike and your bike will explode, eliminating you from the race.

If you wreck your bike, you’ll either be forced to pay repair fees or be forced to take out an opponent. If you have the cash, you’ll just pay the repair fee and move on. In the event that you are broke, then the mechanic will allow you to play a separate race where your goal is to take out a particular opponent. Complete the quest and you’ll move on. Fail to do so and it’ll be game over for you.

Another way you can be eliminated from the race is to get busted by the police. This happens when you crash your bike in the presence of an officer. It happens regardless if it’s a police cruiser or a bike cop. The only exception to this rule is if you crash your bike into a parked police vehicle.

In any event, if you get busted, it’s the same idea as getting wrecked. If you have the cash, you’ll pay a fine. In the event you don’t have the cash, you’ll take on a police officer quest. Fail to complete the quest and it’ll be game over for you.

Now, it may be confusing at first to figure out the progress of your race. All you may know is that you’ll just randomly complete a race at some point. While you can figure out that you’ll generally complete a race in a certain length of time, there is actually a way to tell how far you are. In the track select, the length is given. In your dash is an odometer. If you reach the track distance, you’ll complete the race.

In total, there are 15 opponents in each standard race. Some opponents will attack you with their weapons. Other opponents will kick you. Some, however, will simply not attack at all save for pushing you around with their bike (in and of itself something that can be a powerful weapon). After each race you complete, a random opponent will pop up in the end race screen. Sometimes, they offer you advice. Other times, they’ll insult you. Sometimes, however, they will compliment you in their own twisted way.

As you can imagine, as you progress through the levels, the game gets progressively more difficult. The first thing you’ll notice is that the track lengths increase gradually. In addition to this, opponents bikes will also increase in power. Traffic can get more and more hectic on the road. Obstacles become more plentiful. Cops come out with increasing numbers. Also, more opponents will be willing to either attack you or run you off the road. Naturally, increasing your bikes power is a must just to compete eventually.

There are two ways to increase your bikes performance. The cheapest way is through parts upgrades. You can enhance 5 different parts of your bike. Those parts include performance, suspension, and armour. You can only upgrade each part once, but there will definitely be a performance increase.

The second way to increase your bikes performance is to trade up for a more powerful bike. While it is the most expensive way to accomplish this, sooner or later, this becomes a necessity.

There are three bike classes: Rat, Sports, and Super. Rat bikes are the dirt cheap bikes. They will allow you to beat some of the earlier races without being forced to spend a fortune. The downside, of course, is that they are the least powerful bikes available. Meanwhile, the sports bikes are basically your middle of the road bikes. While they are generally more powerful, the prices will go up by quite a bit. They will allow you to beat some of the mid-game levels, but you will have to pay for it. Finally, there are super bikes. These bikes are amongst the most powerful bikes in the game. They squeeze every last ounce of power out of your bike to get you across the finish line. Be prepared to pay a pretty penny for these bikes, though.

One thing to keep in mind is that the price doesn’t necessarily reflect overall performance. The single most expensive bike in the game isn’t actually the best bike in the game. This in spite of the fact that the more expensive bikes in the game are the best ones available. Instead, you have to try different bikes out for general racing feel. You get two hints on the bikes performance: weight and HP. Unfortunately, everything else is guesswork. So, either buy a bike hoping it will carry you through several races or use a guide to determine which bike is likely right for you.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that some parts will also increase in price as you get the higher performing bikes. Armour doesn’t actually increase in price, but things like general performance and tires will increase. If you choose to buy a bike, this is something to keep in mind. Do you buy a bike with $20 left over in your wallet or do you replay one of the levels easier tracks to be able to pay for a few performance increases as well? What about leaving some cash behind in the event you wreck your bike? All of these can easily play a role in figuring out whether or not you want to buy that next bike upgrade.

If you beat level 5, then all the tracks in that level will reset. So, you basically beat the game if you complete all 5 tracks in this level.

While there are 5 tracks in each level, the location varies. Some levels have you speeding through Britain. Other levels get you to race in Japan. Some even get you to blast through the outback of Australia. While the location varies, the number of tracks stay the same. Also know that the variations in the track are limited to hills, curves, scenery, and police sirens. Despite the description of Japan as racing through a concrete jungle, you’ll be racing on rural roads still.

On a final note, losing a race is actually not a bad thing. The biggest penalty you face for losing a race is a lower cash reward, an insult from a fellow “Rasher”, and the requirement of racing that track again. The bonus is that you’ll be able to increase your cash reserves a little better earlier on in the game. As long as you aren’t wrecking your bike or getting busted, you are making progress in the game. The exception to the rule is if you already have the best bike you can get your hands on with all the upgrades paid for. At that point, losing a race means you have to start over.

One thing I did find about this game is that the difficulty is pretty decent. The last level is next to impossible, but the beginning races do allow new players to get into racing. The earlier races aren’t quite as forgiving as they could be. This is because a single wipe out can easily kill your chances of qualifying. While it isn’t impossible to win an earlier race while wiping out, this becomes a tall order quick. Otherwise, the difficulty curve is actually very well thought out.

Another thing I noticed is that there is that general fun factor I experienced playing the later Road Rash games here. I honestly wasn’t sure I would get that because I have played great games on weaker systems and wind up getting disappointed. A great example is Driver. The Playstation version is great. The Game Boy Color version? Ehh, not so much. So, I was nervous about this one since I played versions on more powerful systems first. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this game plays.

Having said that, this game does have its flaws as well. One minor problem is the collision detection. Sometimes, you can barely miss a vehicle and you’ll ride on harmlessly. Other times, you can just barely clip something be seemingly passing by with the same distance. What’s worse is that if your opponents are far enough ahead, collisions don’t really happen much, if at all. Sometimes, opponents can travel right through obstacles or traffic without a problem. This end up being a little annoying.

Another problem is that your opponents can hit you while stunned. As long as your opponents initiated the swing, it’s possible you will be struck anyway even if you strike your opponent. Sometimes, you can bounce your opponent away with just the right timing, but if you are riding side by side, you can easily expect to get clubbed while doing the clubbing. A little buggy if you ask me.

Still, this game is quite solid. The general concepts are quite sound and allows for some very entertaining moments. While collisions and combat can be a bit on the buggy side, there is still plenty to enjoy in this game.

The graphics in my view are great. It’s unfortunate that it can be a little choppy at times as that gets in the way of the action sometimes. While a third person perspective racing game may seem groundbreaking, there is something to keep in mind here: it’s been done before. In the game year, the SNES released Dirt Trax FX which features basic 3D polygons. Also in the same year, Ridge Racer was released on the Playstation. That game featured a full 3D environment. Let’s not also forget Top Gear 3000 on the SNES, Doom on the 32X, or System Shock on DOS. That’s not to say this isn’t impressive, but it’s not unprecedented at this point in time. The graphics are great, but not the most mind blowing for the year.

The audio is pretty decent. While the music is pretty decent in the intro, some of the in-game tracks are, well, average. Still, the sound effects like the pop of the bat or the crack of the crowbar really adds a nice satisfying pop of sound. The riders celebration is pretty decent as well, so I would definitely give this game a passable grade on this front.

Overall, this game packs quite a punch when it comes to overall entertainment value. If you are like me and played Road Rash on later systems, this game is definitely worth playing. That level of fun you got on the other systems can also be found here. The physics are a little bit wonky – especially with collision detection on opponents. Also, the combat is a bit buggy. The earlier stages may also be a little less than forgiving. Otherwise, it’s a pretty solid game. The graphics are great, though the frame rate leaves a bit to be desired. The audio is pretty decent – highlight being the sound effects. So, overall, a great game to play in my books.

Furthest point in game: Beat all 5 level 5 tracks after several attempts.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 80%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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