Review: Rush 2 – Extreme Racing USA (N64)

By Drew Wilson

The second iteration of the Rush series released on the N64 is Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA. The game would carry on the momentum that the original San Francisco Rush game created. We take a look at how well it did and how well it has held up over time.

Released in 1998, Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA would become a sequel to the game San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing.

Like the original in the series, Rush 2 offers a number of tracks. However, unlike the original, Rush 2’s tracks are based on various landmark cities across the United States rather than simply area’s found in San Francisco. Tracks include Seattle, Uptown New York, Las Vegas, and Hawaii. Alcatraz (AKA “The Rock”), which was known for being one of the most elusive tracks in the original game, becomes a regular appearance in this game.

One feature of this game that would make a reappearance is the hidden keys throughout the various tracks. Notably, the keys are more numerous than the original game. These keys unlock various features found in the game. Along with these keys, however, are Mountain Dew cans also hidden throughout the various courses. Like the keys, Mountain Dew cans also unlock something as well. Each course contains 4 cans with the exception of Hawaii which contains a phantom 5th can that cannot be collected. Adding to this adventure side to the game are the numerous paths one can take in each course. There’s, naturally, the main rout, but one can find numerous detours throughout each course. Not all of them are particularly good shortcuts, but some are there just to allow that extra challenge for the player where, if the player survives the shortcut, can find themselves several seconds ahead of where they otherwise would be. The alternate route’s and hidden area’s seem more elaborate and interesting than the previous game as well, I found.

Another returning feature is the varying drone difficulties. The difficulty of opponents can change depending on what the player selects in single races or how well the player is doing in the circuit. If the player is doing poorly during these circuits, the drones will actually gradually drop in difficulty, allowing the player to catch up in the overall standings. If the player is doing well, the drones can simply match the players speed throughout each course, thus creating a good challenge for players with much more experience and practice. This, to me, is an overall positive attribute of this game as players have a harder time being bored because the game is either too easy or too hard.

Like the original game, the circuit is a main feature of this game. The player obtains points based on placement of each race. At the end of the circuit, the player’s final placement in the standing depends on how many of these points the player accumulates in all the races combined. Beat the circuit in first place and win the game. Finish in anything less, well, there’s room for improvement. The player can also activate death circuit via the option menu for an additional challenge. If the player uses this feature in the game, then any death/crash in the course will end the race, resulting in a loss of circuit points if the player is in the circuit. A particularly difficult mode to be sure.

Another returning feature is the constantly varying elements throughout each course. This is namely whether the track can be reversed, mirrored or simply normal. There’s also the wind and the fog that can be modified throughout the races. In single race mode, you can choose the number of laps you want to race, the difficulty of the drones and even whether or not you want to race the checkpoint system (opting out of this simply adds all the time and gives you one lump sum at the start of the race instead. You can’t avoid the timer that always threatens to make you lose the race). While interesting, it’s heavy use makes me think that the developers are sort of artificially inflating the number of tracks even though there is only a handful of tracks that are really available.

There are also special tracks in this game that are not playable in circuit mode. Two of these tracks are unlockable tracks. These tracks include the stunt course, Midway course, half pipe course, crash, and the particularly difficult to unlock pipe course. The most unique course of these is the Stunt course. Here, the player simply performs various stunts in this track with the various track features to accumulate a score. In any course, landing tricks (whether intentional or not) will cause the sound of an audience going “ooo” or “ahh” to be heard. One thing’s for sure, when I heard this the first time, it was particularly funny to me after I straightened out the car and kept racing. I thought this was another good peripheral feature of the game.

An additional feature of this game is the various cheats a player can unlock. The codes to unlock them can easily be found in the various FAQs around the web. Some of these cheats help players grab some of the more difficult to reach keys while others simply offer some extra eye-candy such as changing the fog colour.

One thing I will consistently criticise this game is the length of the circuits. While the circuit seems great after the first dozen races or so, the game starts getting a little dull after racing enough courses. You have to go through 28 races in the circuit (which is 4 races more than the original) before completing these circuits. Considering the number of tracks, this is an exceptionally long circuit – especially since courses like Las Vegas seem to be rare throughout (at least, I didn’t get Las Vegas very often, but I certainly got New York and Seattle far more often it seemed). It’s simply 28 races, take it or leave it. By the time I got to the end of the circuit, I was more relieved that it was finally over. I certainly didn’t race too many circuits to say the least.

One positive attribute to this game is the nice selection of cars. There is a nice plethora of customizable cars in this particular game which I liked. There were several new ones as well as tributes to the old cars that were present in the previous iteration of this game.

The graphics, I found, were a marked improvement over the previous iteration of this game. They seemed, somehow, less muddied than the previous version. While the graphics were seemingly decent, they were often covered up by the fog – perhaps to try and soften the edginess to some of the textures. The graphics weren’t exactly mind-blowing, but they were pretty good for a game of it’s time.

The music, I found, was a great feature of this game. The breakbeat style of the music really went a long way to making this game pop for me. While most of the songs were good, I particularly like the Tinkletoon track (default song for Las Vegas). That song had a particular shine that I liked that elevated it over the rest. The sound effects, many of which were a carry over from the previous game, was still a pretty nice touch to the game.

Overall, there’s a lot of content this game borrows from the original Rush game. That fact doesn’t really detract from the overall experience. There are improvements over the original game that made this game a nice step up from the original version. While the advertising was a little annoying at times, one can easily ignore it as it isn’t too obnoxious (minus the Mountain Dew cans and the Mountain Dew car). So, if you’re up for a retro racing game, you could do a whole lot worse than playing this game. A solid entertaining game all around.

Overall

Furthest point in game: Unlocked Pipe and completed circuit and death circuit.

General Gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 72%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85



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