Road Rash II (Genesis) review
"Thereís little you canít do, and there isnít much that canít happen, especially over the course of a full race. Fight off the aptly named WAR HAMMER with your bare fists or with an available weapon; swerve in and out of the lanes, avoiding traffic and, on rare occasions, wildlife; and outrun the law to avoid being busted, disqualified from the race, and fined."
So Iím on my motorcycle, doing about 120 on some twisting backwater hick road in southern Vermont. I, smartly enough, am in the right lane, while a fellow racer who incessantly insists that the others refer to him as ďP.E. No. 1Ē is attempting to overtake me in the left lane. Oh, sure, weíre taking some swings at each other, but only so much as keeping a firm control on our bikes allow. It wasnít my fist that downed this silly goofball and ended the race for him; it was a white Sedan. We were going so fast, poor P.E., half distracted by a looming impulse to punch me in the face, had no time to react. All I remember was a loud crunching sound, the hoarse yell BWAHHH of a grisly biker, and some red. It was most unfortunate for him. I hear he eats through a straw now, but heíll always have the memories, and for my own peace of mind, nothing will make you appreciate your health more than seeing the guy next to you fly over the hood of an oncoming car, slide across the unforgiving asphalt, and have his bike land on top of him just as heís coming to. Of course, thirty seconds later Iíd be thrown from my bike as I hit a cow, but up until then, it was as smooth as silk.
Such stories of the road seem unlikely, but youíre never in short supply of these seeming tall tales if youíve been riding with Road Rash II, a motorcycle racer hardcore enough to make your limbs sore just from watching your hopeful newcomer fly off his bike a hundred yards, then get hit by a truck as heís scrambling back to find it. Here is a game with the audacity to welcome you to the biker scene, where winning the illegal races nets you a hefty fist of cash, and then turn around and have one of your rivals clothesline you with a metal chain as youíre doing triple digit speeds along the curving roads. It isnít just the added variable of violent onslaughts being thrown around that makes RRII the whiplash-inducing asskicker that it is; itís the insane speeds at which youíll travel, struggling to overcome the pack and survive the five hellishly blistering minutes that each contest lasts. Youíd be surprised how much can happen in those five minutes.
Allow me to illustrate my point with another story, because if thereís one thing that this game will provide for, itís memorable moments. Weíre racing through arid Arizona, the endless brown mountain ranges in the distance, cacti and animal skulls populating the otherwise pure sand along the road of our race. Iím still riding my relatively tame Shuriken 400--I could have splurged by now for a better bike from the shop with my past winnings, but I was intent on saving up for a killer ride and holding out with this junker as long as I could. Weíre a few miles into the race, and, as usual, Iím in contention. At the same time, Lawson, a bitter rival, was starting up with me, rear-ending me, taking swings with his billyclub--the kind of stuff that gets on your nerves when youíre trying to keep yourself on the road at high speeds.
A sharp turn comes up, and Lawson and I drift off-road, into the dirt, and while this is happening, I steal his club from him as heís trying to crack me in the skull. Then, as this scuffle is going on and weíre fighting to get back on the road, we hit a large rock and both go flying, grabbing major air on our bikes. In mid-air, I drill him with his own club, knocking him off his bike. His empty motorcycle continues to sail through the air alongside me--a pretty radical sight that I wonít soon forget. Unfortunately, my landing wouldnít go too cleanly, either; I start my descent, and wouldnít you know it, I smash into the front of a cop car, sending me hurling through the air like a missile as my bike gets left behind. Yeah, tell me about it. Lawson and I had words when that race was over.
Thereís little you canít do, and there isnít much that canít happen, especially over the course of a full race. Fight off the aptly named WAR HAMMER with your bare fists or with an available weapon; swerve in and out of the lanes, avoiding traffic and, on rare occasions, wildlife; and outrun the law to avoid being busted, disqualified from the race, and fined. If you earn enough money, spend it on a stronger, faster, or better-handling bike; some come equipped with nitro boosters so that you can really gain some ground along straight-away stretches. Youíll need them as you move up from the state of Ďnewcomerí--there are five levels, and as you graduate from circuit to circuit, things speed up, other bikers get more aggressive, arrest fines become more severe, but the prize pot rises as well. The intensity in all aspects gets jacked up. And let's not even talk about how much it's going to cost to have your bike repaired if it gets totalled in all the mayhem!
The five courses span the continent, from Alaska to Hawaii, all the way back to Vermont, and each is clearly distinctive from the next. Youíll know youíre in the torrid southwest as the desert reds and browns surround you and sprawl outwards into mountain ranges. To complement the appropriately designed environments are equally atmospheric synthesized music tracks, in Arizonaís case, the slow, moseying Old West tune that hums along lazily. Meanwhile, the tropical Hawaii roads are surrounded by abundant palm trees, a twangy tribal theme matching the speed of the zooming motorcycles, serving as a good counterpoint to the laid-back musical pace of the Arizona course.
There is little left to ask of Road Rash II, which offers nauseating velocities in tandem with some truly vicious on-bike fisticuffs and weapon wielding. I only wish there were more; each of the five circuits is outfitted with the same five courses--it would have been much more fulfilling if each new circuit consisted of a new set of races. With the ass-kicking, balls-to-the-wall attitude and super-fast action already present, though, wishful thinking will be the last thing on your mind. Stay focused--thereís a biker with a chain coming up on your left, a car on your right, a policemanís sirens have begun screaming, a sharp turn approaches, and youíre only a half minute into the race.
Staff review by K T (June 10, 2005)
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