In this review, we work on becoming a veteran thrasher in the Sega Genesis game Road Rash. We find out how well this combat racing game plays.
This game was released in 1991. It would kick off the Road Rash series. We are getting quite familiar with this series. Previously, we reviewed Road Rash 64. That game got an excellent score and is currently the best we’ve played so far. We then played the Playstation counterpart, Road Rash 3D. That game got an alright score, but was comparatively disappointing. We then started rolling this back by going back and playing Road Rash 3: Tour De Force. That game got a great score. So, we decided to roll things back even further and try the very first game in the series to see where this series began.
You begin the game as a novice “thrasher”. Your goal is to work your way up the ranks to join the veteran thrashers. Challenge and beat the veteran thrashers and you’ll win the game.
You begin the game with the weakest bike in the whole game. While you won’t be going very fast, you’ll get some good steering capabilities. So, really, this is a pretty decent bike for a beginner. In addition to this, you’ll be going up against novice thrashers on the shortest tracks, so this really isn’t a massive deficit in the grand scheme of things.
You start on level 1. In total, there are 5 levels for you to advance in. Each level has the same track locations: Sierra Nevada, Pacific Coast, Redwood Forest, Palm Desert, and Grass Valley. The good news is that you can complete them in any particular order. The only thing is that you must place well in all of the races to move on to the next level. In case you are wondering, yes, you can re-race on tracks you’ve already won. This allows you to grind for cash early on. While this gets a little boring after a while, this also gives you a huge advantage in terms of cash reserves in the long run.
In the races themselves, you go up against 15 opponents. You get to be in a batch of opponents at the start line. Beyond that, opponents start in different positions. So, spending the first third of the race catching up to other opponents is not an uncommon thing.
Another thing to note is the fact that you start every race with bare fists. This means that you only have three kinds of attacks.
For a regular punch, you simply tap “C”. This cuts down on a chunk of your opponents stamina. If you are steering towards your opponent, you can actually cut down on the health much further – even knocking them off their bike entirely if you time it right. To kick an opponent, hold the down button, then press “C”. This attack does cut down on opponent health, but the more important thing is that it shoves them in a particular direction. You can use this to force opponents off the road or get them to collide with traffic. The final attack is the timed punch. Hold down up and “C” and you’ll be able to ready an attack. Release “C” and you’ll unleash a punch very quickly. This helps with the timing if your punch, but a sharp turn will cancel this.
While you always start without a weapon, that doesn’t mean you are forced to run every race empty-handed. On occasion, opponents may have a club to hit you with. If you see one getting ready to strike, you can drive up to them and execute a punch. If you are successful, you’ll be able to swipe your opponents weapon and even use it against them when the need arises. A club general removes more stamina from your opponent and even adds a little range for your attack. The difference of regular “C” and holding up and “C” applies to the weapon as well.
Finish lines aren’t very distinct. Often, they are at an intersection, but sometimes, they are between a set of houses. Since you pass both regularly throughout the race, it is hard to really tell where the finish line is based on physical appearance of the road. Instead, you need to rely on your odometer. If you notice the distance of the track during the track selection screen, then you’ll be able to tell how much road you have left before crossing the finish line.
Other things of note is the health meter on the left above your name. This indicates how much stamina you have left from various beat downs along the way. This will gradually go up if you take any damage, but run out of stamina and you’ll make a face to face appointment with the asphalt. The second meter above “bike” indicates how much health is left in your bike. If you run out of this, then you’ll not only lose the race, but be faced with a repair bill to fix it after. The meter on the right indicates the nearest opponents health. Drain that meter and you’ll see your opponent separate from their bike.
You’ll have two rear view mirrors helping you see what is behind you. In addition to an odometer, you’ll also see a number to indicate what place you are in during the race.
While on the road, you’ll be faced with a number of obstacles beyond your opponents. The tracks themselves have a general twist and turn look and feel to them. While this isn’t that big of a deal in the early levels, the turns and bumps in the road become more and more problematic as the bikes get faster. By the end of the game, the road almost becomes a suggested path that can be ignored from time to time. Some turns require you to drive into the ditch just to make it without losing too much speed. Other turns practically demand you to slow down even if it means opponents are gaining ground on you.
Another obstacle are other vehicles on the road. The vehicles travel in both direction on the road, but the only time you’d have to worry about vehicles coming up from behind is if you’ve already wiped out and the car pushes you further down the road away from your bike. When things get dicey are when you travel through an intersection with vehicles travelling on the other road. Bad timing can easily mean you find yourself becoming a temporary decal on the side of another vehicle as you slam into it. Things also get dicey when you happen to pass between two vehicles passing each other. It’s possible to squeeze between the vehicles, but you can also slow down or simply travel on the ditch to evade them altogether.
Police are another obstacle in this game. While they may not do a whole lot other than try and push you off the road, they do present a challenge in this game. If you happen to wipe out near a motorcycle cop, you will get busted. You’ll face a fine along with losing the race. You’ll even get a nice insult to top off the humiliation. In later levels, you’ll also encounter police blockades. This often just takes the form of a police cruiser being partially parked on an intersection. So, really, it’s just a fixed obstacle you’ll have to worry about.
Wildlife can prove to be an unexpected obstacle. Sometimes, they are cows crossing the road. Unless the cow is sitting down, then you’ll find yourself getting a face full of beef. You can get lucky and take a jump off of a cow, but that also means you’ll be in the air. Hope that you don’t find yourself going into a turn afterwards. There are also deer on the road as well that you’ll have to avoid.
Finally, there are puddles on the road. On lower levels, these typically end up being some additional textures on the road more than anything else. Unfortunately, on higher levels, you can find yourself sliding down the road on you rear end unexpectedly if you hit one the wrong way. The puddles basically take away grip on your bike temporarily. If you are turning hard, you can almost instantly lose traction and wipe out. Driving through straight is no big deal however as they will harmlessly vanish in your rear view mirror.
Wiping out in and of itself isn’t the end of the race for you. It does add damage to your bike, however. How much damage depends on the crash. If you simply hit a sign or steer too hard for too long, the bike will take minimal damage. The downside is that you’ll find yourself running back to your bike and losing a whole bunch of time. On the flip side, you to run square into another vehicle, you likely won’t have much running to do. Unfortunately, you can take a third off of your bike damage meter in the process. Wreck your bike, however, and you’ll lose the race and face a repair bill.
At the end of each race, you’ll get a chance to look at not only your ranking, but also the take home pay of the winners of the race. Winning races will, of course, grant you the most cash per race. It isn’t really clear in the game, but this is also where you get a chance to upgrade for a better bike. To buy bikes, you need to hit “C” in the end race menu to visit the store. “C” allows you to buy bikes and hitting start will take you back to the winning circle. For the most part, bikes will improve on a linear basis. The more bikes you can skip going up the ladder, the better, but you’ll find yourself buying a number of them along the way to victory.
As the levels increase, the difficulty of the race increases. Opponents will travel more quickly, turns will be harder to take, traffic will increase, police presence will go up, track distances increase, and more wildlife will try to cross the road. As long as you have a plan for upgrading your bike, the difficulty will only moderately go up until the 5th level. From there, good luck winning every race. Good thing you don’t have to place first to beat the last level. 3rd place is actually sufficient.
One thing I didn’t like about this game is the lack of an ability to build up a weapon arsenal. I found this to be a bit irritating as it almost defeats the purpose of any emphasis on weapons in the game.
Another problem is that this game does have its glitches. Sometimes, landing on an obstacle means you are hopelessly being bounced around for much longer than necessary. In a few instances, I found myself hitting a vehicle when the clear path I was taking was in the other lane. This doesn’t happen very often, but if there are enough opponents on screen, these glitches can happen.
A final complaint is the hit and miss menu system. In some cases, the menu system is practically self explanatory. A diagram is on screen showing you the effect every button has if you sit and watch it for a small period of time. This is great and made things more user friendly. Unfortunately, the winning circle screen is very user unfriendly as there is no explanation or even hint that you can go to the bike store. Trial and error eventually allowed me to find it, but it’s more than possible for others not to find it.
Otherwise, this game has a lot going for it. The addictive racing and well thought out difficulty ladder works quite well. With so many opponents and obstacles, there is almost never a dull moment – even on the marathon races. The winding road can be a bit repetitive after a while, but this is a bit of a minor issue I have. The ability to pick your own tracks along the way is a nice touch as well.
Overall, this is a very solid performing game. While it is a little glitchy and the menu systems are pretty hit and miss, the gameplay itself is quite solid. The difficulty curve is nicely thought out and the track selector is well done. For the most part, I had a good time playing this game.
Graphics is a very big shining feature. The first person perspective, while not unprecedented, is an impressive sight to see. This is especially true for the level of detail being displayed here on a console game for the time. My only quibble I have with it is that some tracks have a pretty bad drop in frame rate. Otherwise, it is quite impressive.
The audio pis pretty decent. The music is pretty decent. The main menu screen probably has the best music in the game, but there are some pretty decent racing tracks as well. The sound effects are nicely done and complete with voice samples even. Pretty solid effort all around.
Overall, this is a well performing game. There are glitches along the way, and a few menus aren’t the greatest. I also would have liked to see an ability to stockpile weapons in some way. Otherwise, the races themselves give you a lot to work with. There’s a lot of fast paced action to be had here. This combines with a well done difficulty curve and some nicely done cut scenes. the graphics are impressive for a game of its time and the audio is a very solid effort as well. A fun game well worth playing to say the least.
Furthest point in game: Won 2 races in first place on level 5. Placed second on a third and nabbed third place on the remaining 2 races. (beat the game)
General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 8/10
Overall rating: 80%