Sunday 15 May 2016

Road Rash (Master System review)

Developer: Probe Software
Publisher: U.S. Gold
Released: 1994

 Road Rash is a vehicular combat racing game that was also released on the Mega Drive (1991) and Game Gear (1994).

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. The racing is slower that the 16-bit original but I'm glad the developers took this approach as it means the frame-rate is relatively stable and there's a lack of choppiness to the action. I was seriously impressed by how authentic the gameplay is with its smooth handling and great draw distance that makes it easy to spot incoming cars and objects. The sprites are smaller but this actually helps the racing as cars take up less of the road, giving you more room to manoeuvre. Instead of adopting for simpler, flat surfaces, the developers kept in the rolling hills and it's still thrilling to catch air while trying to control your bike for a smooth landing back on the road! Similarly, the combat is enjoyable, especially when you manage to knock over a policeman or grab a club from an opponent! However, I did find myself having to press the punch button a little earlier than usual to actually make contact with a fellow rider. The track design is the weakest part of the game as they're too similar to each other and don't really have any stand-out features. There's also nothing to signify how close you are to the finish line and the track distance isn't displayed before you start a race. The voice samples are missing but the music does a great job of mirroring the Mega Drive originals in 8-bit form.

Road Rash is an outstanding port and I'm amazed that despite the console's lack of power it plays just as well as the Mega Drive classic. While the track design is weak, the racing and combat are fantastic and the developers did a great job cramming so much in while making an extremely playable game.

Random trivia: Two sequels called Road Rash II (1992) and Road Rash 3: Tour De Force (1995) were released exclusively on the Sega Mega Drive.

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