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Game Review

Road Rash (1996)

Road Rash was always one of my favorite games when I first got my Genesis. The only memory of my Grandma ever picking up a controller was when she and I sat down and she finished a race in Road Rash, she stayed to one side of the road, never lane splitting and only got ran off the road once. But she finished it. 

Road Rash, takes the motorcycle racing game formula and adds a lot of personality. This is the first time I ever played more than a few minutes of this version of the game. Right off the bat there are many new and exciting changes to the game, but they are minor to the actual gameplay. 

The game starts off with an FMV intro (FMV standing for Full Motion Video) and really pushes the envelope of what you perceived as a game back then, or what games and consoles could do. At the time it was neat and innovative, but with today’s standards, it might come off as more cheesy and lame than anything else. I still get a kick out of seeing these intros and little clips of whenever you win, lose, get busted or wreck your bike. They really do add to the overall presentation of the game itself. They will repeat fairly often and now since they are just not as interesting or novel as when they were created I found myself skipping them more often than not, unless it was a new one, like moving up to a new level. 

The main menu and the presentation is really what knocks this game out of the park in terms of its predecessor. The art direction here is just something to be seen. A bit of a claymation/twisted sense of reality, like something right out of a soundgarden video. The facial features are deformed in a way that is artistic yet somehow a bit unnerving as well, and really gives this game a sense of charisma and style you just don’t see much anymore. There are two main places you can go, the Bike Shop, that will allow you to trade in your old clunker bike and plop down some cold hard cash for a suped up super bike, or you can go to the local bar.

At the bar, you will be able to “talk” to a couple of characters. This is a different take on the original game, where one or two characters would give you a blurb of info. Sometimes a harsh “Back off before I take you out” or even more rarely a helpful tip. The characters here are pretty one note, you’ll only get about three or four characters who will talk to you, and more often than not I had them say the same thing to me most of the game. I came and visited them after every race and they usually just had the same stock sentence being displayed. There were times where I was able to get someone so mad, they changed their attitude and demeanor to mean and were flinging out threats, but that only happens a couple of times, and again, it was the same vague threat every time. 

Once you talk to the group of well wishers and thugs, you can go to the bulletin board and choose one of five races. The city, the 

The levels are all pretty deep with a lot of hazzards, much more than the original Genesis games. The riders are more aggressive and even the cars seem to have it out for you. Littered throughout the roads are pedestrians that make for some fun mayhem that you can run right over. Again, this was more fun back in the day when really all we had was GTA 1 and Carmageddon to run over innocent bystanders.Now they serve more as a slight annoyance than anything else.

Once you place in either of the top three slots of any race, you become qualified, which basically means you beat it. Once that happens, and you qualify each level, you progress to the next level, where the bikers are meaner, and the bikes become faster, and the levels become more treacherous and much longer. And that is the heart of the game, after getting past the first level, you see the tracks change in a way, sometimes with splitting or branching paths, and it really becomes much harder to maintain a constant speed and keep your place. Several races I was near the end and messed up slightly, hitting a sign or car, and watched as I went from 1st to 5th almost instantly. 

Road Rash, is nearly identical to its original Genesis version, in every major way, but this newer one does add some odds and ends to differentiate itself enough to make it a competent follow up. The FMV and the licensed soundtrack with bands like Soundgarden, Paw, and Hammerbox really bring the life the 90’s feel of the game. The only real issue with the game is the menus and how long everything takes to load, input lag of up to two seconds can feel like an eternity when trying to navigate the settings to turn the engine noises of… Oh yeah, the mix of the game’s music and Engine noises are brutal. No sliders, just full on or off. The engine noises drown out all music completely and the famous screams of being hit by an oncoming car, or the victorious “YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!” of finishing in first place are gone as well. 

Simple little tweaks here or there would have added much to this game, but even though I missed out on it when it initially came out, I am glad I was able to play the game fully now. I appreciate it for what it is, but it is not something that I think stands out as the best. Maybe its the nostalgia or rose colored glasses, or maybe its just the sweet memory of playing a rough and tumble motorcycle racing game with my grandma, but I still think the first original Road Rash was my favorite in the series.