Road Rash (video game)
Peakstar Software (AMI)
Probe Software (SMS, GG)
Monkey Do Productions (3DO, SCD)[a]
Buzz Puppet Productions (PS, SAT, PC)[a]
The Code Monkeys (GB)
U.S. Gold (SMS, GG)
Ocean Software (GB)
|Director(s)||Carl Mey (16-bit)|
Keith McCurdy (32-bit)
Dan Geisler (16-bit)
Walter Stein (16-bit)
Lori Washbon (32-bit)
|Programmer(s)||Dan Geisler (16-bit)|
Walter Stein (16-bit)
Carl Mey (16-bit)
Randy Dillon (32-bit)
Dan Hewitt (32-bit)
David Stokes (32-bit)
Emmanuel Berriet (32-bit)
|Artist(s)||Jeff Smith (32-bit)|
|Writer(s)||David Luoto (32-bit)|
Jamie Poolos (32-bit)
|Composer(s)||Mike Bartlow (GEN)|
Ron Hubbard (GEN)
Jason A.S. Whitely (AMI)
Greg Michael (GG, SMS)
Tony Porter (GG, SMS)
Don Veca (3DO, SCD)
|Platform(s)||Sega Genesis, Amiga, Master System, Game Gear, 3DO, Sega CD, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows, Game Boy|
|Genre(s)||Racing, vehicular combat|
Road Rash is a 1991 racing video game originally developed and published by Electronic Arts (EA) for the Sega Genesis. It was subsequently ported to a variety of contemporary systems by differing companies. The game is based on a series of road races that the player must win to advance to higher-difficulty races. It is the debut installment in the Road Rash game series.
Road Rash puts the player in control of a motorcycle racer who must finish in either third or fourth-place (depending on the version) or higher in a series of five road races set throughout California to advance throughout the game's five levels. During a race, the player can brake, accelerate and attack neighboring racers. The player character will punch at the nearest racer with a default input, while holding a directional button during the input will result in either a backhand or a kick. Some opponents wield weapons such as clubs and chains, which can be taken and used by the player if the enemy racer is attacked as they are holding the weapon out to strike. The player racer can be ejected from their bike if they crash into an obstacle (such as cows, deer, cars and trees) or if they run out of stamina (shown in the bottom-left corner of the screen) due to fights with other racers. In this event, the racer will automatically run back toward their bike, though the player can alter their course and avoid incoming traffic with the directional buttons, or stand still by holding the brake input button. Opponents will likewise be ejected from their bike if their own stamina is depleted; the stamina of the nearest racer is visible within the bottom-right corner of the screen. In the 16-bit versions, the color of the opponent's stamina meter changes as it decreases, while in the 32-bit versions, it indicates the racer's level of aggressiveness toward the player.
The player character begins the game carrying $1,000 on hand. When the player wins a race, a cash prize is received and added to the player's balance. Between races, the player can view bikes for sale and potentially purchase a new bike with the money they have accumulated; the bike shop is available from the main menu in the 32-bit versions. Some bikes in the 32-bit versions are equipped with a series of nitrous oxide charges, which can provide a burst of speed if the player quickly taps the acceleration input button twice. In the 16-bit versions, the player will receive a password at the end of a successful race, which can be entered at a password entry screen in a subsequent session to maintain the player's progress; in the 32-bit versions, progress can be saved at the game's main menu. When the player wins a race on all five of the game's tracks, they will advance to the next level. With each subsequent level, the courses become longer and the opponent racers become more aggressive. When the player wins a race on each track in all five levels, the game is won.
The player's bike has its own "damage meter" between the player's and opponents' stamina meters, which decreases with every crash the player gets involved in. If the meter fully depletes, the bike will be wrecked, the player's participation in the current race will end, and a repair bill must be paid. Motorcycle cops also make sporadic appearances throughout the game's tracks. If the player crashes within the vicinity of a cop, the cop will end their participation in the current race by apprehending them and charging them with a fine. Repair bills and fines become more expensive with each subsequent level. If the player lacks the funds to cover either a repair bill or a fine, the game will end prematurely.
Road Rash is primarily single-player, but allows for two players to play intermittently against each other. The 32-bit versions feature two distinct modes of single-player gameplay: the central campaign "Big Game Mode" and a stripped-down "Thrash Mode", in which the player can race on any given track at any difficulty. In the Big Game Mode, the player takes on the identity of one of a selection of characters with differing statistics. Smaller characters accelerate more quickly, while larger characters have stronger attacks. Each of the characters start with a differing amount of money, and some characters come equipped with a weapon. Between races, the player can "schmooze" with other bikers and receive gameplay tips.
Designer Randy Breen recounted, "Initially all we knew was that we wanted Road Rash to be more of an entertaining game than a pure driving simulation. I'd been into motorcycles for a long time, and we quickly realized bikes gave us lots of technical advantages. For instance, we could put more bikes than cars onscreen at once, and the bikers were more visible than car drivers, so they could be more expressive." The fighting element of the game was inspired by the behavior of Grand Prix motorcyclists, who Breen noticed would sometimes shove and kick each other during races. The Genesis version was announced on March 1991, and released in North America on September 1991.
In 1994, EA contacted A&M Records attorney Chris Castle in a bid to license Soundgarden's music for the 3DO version of Road Rash. Castle turned down their offer due to his unfamiliarity with the 3DO platform and unwillingness to formulate a new deal structure for licensed music in video games. EA then approached the band directly. The members of the band were avid fans of the earlier versions of Road Rash and saw potential in licensing music to video games, which convinced Castle to change his mind. Seeking to "control the audio landscape", Castle obtained the band's permission to use them as leverage to incorporate other alt-rock bands within the A&M label into the game, including Monster Magnet, Paw, Swervedriver, Therapy? and Hammerbox. Castle agreed to allow each band to keep their share of the royalties on a non-recoupment basis, which would amount to half the revenue received by A&M from EA. The deal would prove lucrative to the bands involved, and A&M received an assortment of "promotional goodies" from EA.
In June 1995, Atari Corporation struck a deal with EA in order to bring select titles from their catalog to the Atari Jaguar CD, with Road Rash being among the selected titles to be ported, but this version however was ultimately never released due to the commercial and critical failure of the Atari Jaguar platform. It was announced that THQ would publish a Super NES version of Road Rash sometime in 1996, but the release was later cancelled. A version of Road Rash for Panasonic M2 was announced but never released due to the system's cancellation.
The Genesis version of Road Rash was met with critical acclaim. KITS disc jockey Big Rick Stuart, writing for GamePro, gave the game a perfect score and called it "an instantly addictive motorcycle 16-bit game with a somewhat sick twist thrown in". MegaTech magazine said "Lots of races, lots of bikes, and plenty of thrills 'n' spills make this the best racer on the Megadrive!" Paul Glancey and Tim Boone of Computer and Video Games respectively described the game as a "beat 'em up on motorbikes" and "Super Hang-On with fists and clubs thrown in"; both reviewers noted that the graphics were convincing in their creation of the illusion of speed in spite of the fairly simple visuals, and Glancey added that the aggressive nature of the gameplay "broadens the enjoyment you get from Road Rash a great deal and makes you wonder why no-one thought of it before." Richard Leadbetter and Julian Rignall of Mean Machines both praised the convincing three-dimensional effect of the graphics, with Leadbetter additionally commending the "brilliant" sound effects and Hubbard's "great" music. Seven reviewers in Digital Press gave the Genesis version 7, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, and 10 (all out of 10). Road Rash was the 9th best-selling Genesis title in the United Kingdom in February 1992. Mega placed the game at #8 on their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time. Game Informer ranked it as the 88th best game ever made in their 100th issue in 2001. The staff praised its more violent take on motorcycle video games.
The Commodore Amiga release of Road Rash received moderately high ratings, including 84% from Amiga Format and 81% from CU Amiga. The release received a lower score from Amiga Power, who rated the game a 70/100.
Bacon of GamePro gave the 3DO version a perfect score, citing improvements such as the five new tracks, six lane roads, branching routes, digitized backgrounds, humorous full motion video sequences, and new rock soundtrack. He concluded that "This souped-up Road Rash will knock the socks off experienced rashers and new racers alike." His one criticism was the lack of a multiplayer option. Digital Press gave the 3DO version their maximum score of 10. The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the 3DO version scores of 83% and 85%, declaring it a vast improvement over the Genesis Road Rash games due to the advanced graphics, high playability, and "the coolest music in gaming". However, one of them also criticized that the gameplay eventually becomes repetitive. Next Generation reviewed the 3DO version of the game, and stated that "Although the game's long-term play value is damaged by repetitive levels, this is still a near classic title that will make a worthy addition to any 3DO library." Road Rash won several awards from Electronic Gaming Monthly in their 1994 video game awards, including Best Driving Game, Best Music in a CD-Based Game, and Best 3DO Game of 1994.
In her review of the Saturn version, Sam Hickman of Sega Saturn Magazine said the 3DO version was "one of the best games of its time on any system ... Still the best version, even one year or so on." Bacon gave the Sega CD version a mostly positive review, remarking that though it is a major letdown compared to the 3DO version, it is impressive compared to other Genesis/Sega CD racers. A reviewer for Next Generation also remarked that the Sega CD version is a major step down, and that while most of the downgrades are forgivable due to the Sega CD being a much less powerful system than the 3DO, the sparse scenery and low frame rate do not hold up even to games on the same system. He concluded it to be decent but less than what gamers would expect from the by-then established Road Rash series.
The PlayStation version was somewhat less well-received than previous versions. Reviewers for Electronic Gaming Monthly, Next Generation, and Maximum all criticized it for being a port of the 3DO version with only minor enhancements to the graphics and sound, with no changes to the gameplay which had become outdated and outclassed by more recent racing games in the four years since Road Rash was first released. GamePro's Air Hendrix, however, felt that the gameplay remained exciting, and though he remarked that the controls are stiffer than on previous versions, he gave the PlayStation version a wholehearted recommendation.
Air Hendrix and Sam Hickman both commented that the Saturn version, while good fun on its own terms, offers nothing not already seen in the 3DO and PlayStation versions, and falls short of those versions in some technical aspects, making it rather outdated for the time of its release.
- In association with Advanced Technology Group for the 3DO, PlayStation and Sega Saturn versions; In association with New Level Software for the Sega CD version; In association with Papyrus Design Group for the Microsoft Windows version
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