Sunday 28 February 2016

Road Rash (Mega Drive / Genesis review)

Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Released: 1991

Road Rash is a vehicular combat racing game that debuted on the Mega Drive before being ported to numerous other systems.

There's five levels of difficulty that consist of five races each; the objective is to place fourth or better in each race to win cash, upgrade your bike and move on to the higher levels. The gameplay involves dodging obstacles and assaulting opponents with punches, kicks or the rare club you can steal from a would-be attacker. It adopts more of an Arcade-style approach rather than simulation as you can usually just hold a direction on the d-pad to turn tight corners. However, the controls are hyper sensitive at first so learning to tap the d-pad is key to avoiding over-steer. Each track (Sierra Nevada, Pacific Coast, Redwood Forest, Palm Desert and Grass Valley) doesn't have much in the way of personality but unlike many other racers of the time they feature rolling hills and shy away from flat surfaces for a more realistic appearance; it looks amazing and it's still a thrill to catch air and beat up fellow racers while you're up there! However, it also means there are many blind corners and while it does keep the action intense it does result in some unavoidable crashes with incoming cars. The frame-rate is a bit choppy but the combat is fun, especially when you knock an opponent into an oncoming car and then peak at your rear view mirror as he crashes! The difficulty is just right as it eases beginners into the short and simple tracks while upping the ante for veterans with longer tracks and tighter chicanes. A two player mode is included but disappointingly you can only take turns. The gritty, yet catchy music perfectly compliments the action, and while the graphics are functional there's some nice scaling effects.

Road Rash is starting to show its age (particularly in regards to its frame-rate) but it's still an entertaining racer that excels in the combat department. It definitely got the series off to a flying start and it's easy to see why it went on to inspire many other titles with its innovative fusion of gameplay styles.

Random trivia: A couple of sequels were released on the Mega Drive called Road Rash II (1992) and Road Rash 3 (1995).

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