Review: San Fransisco Rush 2049 (N64)

In this review, we check out the third game in the Rush series, San Fransisco Rush 2049. We find out if this sci-fi racing game is a worthy addition to the series.

Rush 2049 was released in 2000 as a port from the arcade version released just a year earlier. Earlier, we reviewed San francisco Rush – Extreme racing USA and have it an above average rating. Later, we reviewed Rush 2 – Extreme Racing USA and rated the game positively. So, it seems fitting that we give Rush 2049 a review as well.

Unlike the previous two games in the series, this takes place in the sci-fi future (presumably in the year 2049 which seems kind of amusing these days). While there is no real story that was immediately present in the game, the game does make a return to San Francisco which is the location of the first game in the series. Yes, you do take your car off of Lombard Street as that seems like an obligation for any street racing game taking place in that city.

You have a variety of modes in this game including death match/battle (multiplayer only), stunt mode, practice, time trial, and tournament. Practice allows you to get a good feel for the vehicle and the available tracks before you jump straight into the tournament mode. Time trial allows you to see if you can get particularly fast times. If you have a buddy or two, you can allow them to join you in a battle match, you can pick up an assortment of weapons and power ups as you try and kill each other during the “race”.

The main single player mode players can try is the tournament mode. In this mode, you join a tournament made up of randomly generated settings for each track – track order determined at random as well. The objective is to collect tournament points that are earned after each race. The better you finish each race, the more points you rack up. Winning in tournament mode allows you to earn the next tournament difficulty up as well as earning new tracks. There are six racing tracks in total. Each progressively more difficult tournament increases the number of races as well as how “extreme” the weather conditions are. While wind can alter flight paths during jumps, perhaps the most difficult weather pattern to contend with is dense fog. Fog can get so thick, you are practically required to memorize the track in order to know where you are even going – though this is a thickness reserved for the hardest difficulty.

Along the way, you can earn parts. These parts can range from a new set of tires to whole new cars. Many of these parts are earned by the number of “miles” you’ve clocked in this game whether through time trials or tournaments. The most powerful engine in the game requires the most number of miles you’ve traveled in this game.

Some cars, however, are unlocked by collecting coins. In each of the 6 tracks, there are 8 gold and silver coins that you can collect. The silver coins are basically coins that are very well hidden in the track, though difficulty in getting them once found usually isn’t all that challenging. Sometimes, these coins are hidden in hidden parking lots or in alley ways found throughout the course. Gold coins, however, are considered challenge coins. Finding them isn’t too difficult half the time, but getting them requires you to hit ramps at particular angle or speed (or sometimes both!). Sometimes, you need to land on the roof of a building without overshooting just to collect these coins.

Coins are not only found in race courses, but also found in stunt courses. When you start, you only get one stunt track which is basically a giant ring loaded with ramps and zippers. Again, silver coins are the hidden ones while gold coins are the challenge ones. You earn more stunt courses by racking up stunt points.

If you manage to get every single coin in the game, you’ll unlock the panther car. Disappointingly, the panther car doesn’t really yield anything special for players other than bragging rights and being able to race in the hardest to earn car.

One of the things that makes the Rush games interesting is the plethora of shortcuts. Sometimes, shortcuts can give you an advantage in the races, but some shortcuts are simply a more scenic rout of the track, not giving you any real benefit. Rush 2049 offers this interesting feature in quite an impressive style. Sometimes, you can find yourself traveling through loops and cork screws that make you feel like you are doing death defying stunts throughout. Loops and corkscrews was a feature in the previous Rush 2 game, but not to this extent. So, essentially, there is a sort of “adventure” element in this game as well.

An added feature in this game is the utilization of wings. As your car sails through the air, you can deploy the wings which can affect how your car is rotating in the air. This permits you to execute more cool stunts (especially in stunt mode!) and sometimes saves you from certain death if you hit a ramp funny part way through your race. Interestingly enough, drones do not use wings which give you an advantage in the races.

One feature of this game that was present in previous games in this series is the sort of “extreme” handling. By this, cars don’t necessarily turn on a dime like in some other racing games. Some people might not like this kind of style of racing, but I thought it really added a sense of realism in an otherwise quite unrealistic game. I don’t expect you to be able to turn quite as well when traveling at 180MPH as you would if you were traveling 60MPH. Still, this does present a learning curve for those not familiar with the older Rush games because tapping left or right before flying off of a ramp, for instance, will most definitely cause your vehicle to careen through the air out of control. Once you do get used to the handling (which is more forgiving in this game than in previous games), this game gives you a nice challenge in the long run.

A weakness in this game, I found, was that this game only gives you 6 drones. In previous games, you were given far more drones, yet this game seems to be skimpy in the number of opponents you can get.

Another potential weakness is the limited number of tracks – six. In tournament mode, not only are weather patterns randomized, but also the various racing modes including mirror and reverse. Mirror mode is exactly what you would expect – a mirror version of the races. Reverse mode allows you to race each track in reverse direction. Things like switches and routes can be altered as a result of this. Because of the short number of tracks, this game definitely risks being extremely repetitive. The good news is that because of the number of features in each race, you are treated to a large racing experience in each race. So, I find that the rather skimpy number of tracks in this game is not a big deal.

One thing I will say that annoys me is the requirement of hugely repetitive play in the stunt courses just to unlock more courses. Unless you’re cheap like me and did a series of wall stalls to blow through the million point goal, I don’t think many players will be all that motivated to stick to stunt mode for such a long period of time just to unlock everything.

Still, if you are patient enough and earn enough points, you’ll unlock the obstacle course. This interesting course is unique in that there are no laps. you are just given a time limit and you have to get through a large number of obstacles before getting to the finish line in the fastest way possible. By no means is this course easy and it will take a few attempts at least – even for the more seasoned Rush fans. Still, it was enjoyable to be able to race on this as it was quite challenging.

Generally speaking, even though the hardest tournament difficulty was a little bit long for my tastes, this game was certainly very enjoyable. Besides the number of drones being small, I really have very few complaints about this game. I definitely soaked up a number of hours playing this one.

Graphically, this game is very impressive. While there weren’t as many special effects as I would have liked to see, this game still presented quite a “wow” factor for me. The simulated lighting effects, the environmental changes added to simulate morning, noon, and night was excellent. This game is graphically fantastic.

The audio was also a major highlight in this game. The music is especially enjoyable. I think my favorite track in the whole game was the theme for the final race track (aka “Retro”). Unfortunately, this track is not present in the Dreamcast version which I thought was a major shame, but I digress. Many of the other tracks were also way up there in the quality. The only thing I found with the music was the overuse of one or two tracks in the stunt courses. I found the music to be a bit repetitive after a while given the amount of time spent on these things. Still, that was a game design flaw more than a musical flaw, really. The sound effects were nicely done. Sound effects get no complaints from me.

Overall, this game is a fantastic play. The only real complaints from me are the low number of drones that can play on a track and the repetitive music in stunt mode. Beyond that, this game is nothing but positive experiences. The music is excellent and can even stand on its own without a game. The various modes can keep you busy for hours. The controls have a bit of a learning curve, but are more than manageable with practice. An excellent game all around.


Furthest point in game: Earn obstacle course and completed it. Earned every course and part. Collected every coin. Just didn’t attempt death mode in championship.

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 92%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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