Review: San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (N64)

By Drew Wilson

This is the first iteration of the Rush racing game series. It was released on the N64 and, since then, more games were released in a similar style to this game. We take a look at what started it all. That game is called San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing.

The game was released in 1997 and would be a ported version of the original Rush game that started this series.

The game offers numerous tracks and cars that the player can use or experience. One of the characteristics of this game is that the cars are pushed to a certain limit in terms of speed which means the ability to turn is reduced. This causes the player to have to strategize on how to navigate around certain bends in the road including hairpin turns and steep hills.

One of the features of this game is the various keys hidden throughout the tracks. Collecting these keys enables the player to unlock various hidden vehicles on each specific track including the taxi and the hot rod. Doing well in the circuit mode enables you to unlock the F1 racer as well. Some keys require a certain degree of skill like hitting a ramp in a certain way or entering an area in a particular fashion. Other keys are just cleverly hidden because they are tucked away on a certain corner of the race track hidden behind something like trees or hidden inside a building several floors up.

Another subtle feature of this game is that the drone difficulty depends on how well you are doing in the race. If you are doing particularly poorly, the drones will drive more slowly around the course, giving you a chance to catch up on the score board. If you are doing particularly well, the drones can all simply race at your speed packed so tightly together, that there’s less than a second separating them. In a nut shell, the circuit mode responds to your skill level and adjusts accordingly.

Contrary to what is suggested on some sites, it is possible to play the Alcatraz level in this port. There’s only two ways to get this level – either use the special (and convoluted) code to unlock the track that can be found on various FAQ websites or activate a game shark cheat. The level has an unfinished feel to it, but all the necessities are there.

One of the things I didn’t like about this game is the sometimes buggy landings you can experience. If you are landing at a particular angle, you’ll hear the car landing several times in rapid succession without actually landing. This does not allow you to steer and you will likely just crash into a barrier somewhere. It’s certainly more of a bug than a feature.

There is one element I’m not sure is good or bad. The good part is that the game allows you to play each track in either mirror or reverse mode. Great for an extended experience, but it’s also bad because it artificially inflates the size of the game. In fact, you’ll spend very little time playing the tracks in normal mode if you play this in circuit. It will just randomly generate various conditions including the amount of fog and wind as well.

Another thing I’m not a fan of is the length of the circuits. In all, you have to race 24 times to complete one circuit. It sounds like a fair bit, but when you actually play, it feels like it takes forever to get through a single circuit sometimes. It also means you won’t be completing very many, so you’ll probably have had enough racing by the time you complete the first circuit. I thought the circuit could have been a little shorter.

An additional thing I didn’t like was the design of the 6th track. When you travel along the freeway, it can be difficult to tell whether you should be turning into the side road or just hammering it straight through and heading around the bend. The true direction you should go depends entirely on whether you are racing in normal or reverse mode. The mirror modes don’t tend to help this confusion either. It’s only having raced the track numerous times that you can just remember which street to go down at either end of the highway. The only dead giveaway is when you are way behind the other drones and you can just follow their lead.

The graphics were nothing special. Compared to other racing games released at around this time, this title actually lags a little behind the curve. Fortunately, the fog can hide some of the mushy graphics and textures, so it’s less noticeable.

The audio was a big bright spot for this game. A lot of the tracks like Night Hunt, and Desert Walk were both really good tracks. I’m not so sure on the Rush Rave track though, but my understanding is that it’s an acquired taste more than anything else. Sound effects were nicely done in my opinion.

Overall, I would say this is a good game mostly due to the game play in general. Between the keys and the responsive difficulty of the circuits, it’s not a bad game to play at all.


Furthest point in game: Beat circuit mode and death circuit mode. Collected all the objects including what can be found on Alcatraz (AKA The Rock).

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 4/10
Graphics: 4/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 66%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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