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Road Avenger (Sega CD) artwork

Road Avenger (Sega CD) review

"Road Avenger isnít just Wolf Teamís finest laserdisc conversion, itís clearly the greatest FMV game on Sega CD and the best damn thing Data East was ever responsible for in their long and largely mediocre history! Maybe those last two arenít exactly what youíd call ringing endorsements, but rest assured that from the moment you boot up this bad boy youíre in for naught but burning hot AWESOME."

Road Avenger isnít just Wolf Teamís finest laserdisc conversion, itís clearly the greatest FMV game on Sega CD and the best damn thing Data East was ever responsible for in their long and largely mediocre history.

Okay, so maybe those last two arenít exactly what youíd call ringing endorsements, but rest assured that from the moment you boot up this bad boy youíre in for naught but burning hot AWESOME. As recounted in the epic intro, youíre a newly married patrol cop enjoying a quiet drive with his blushing and soon to be very dead bride when theyíre suddenly sent hurtling over a cliff by the minions of SCUM (Secret Criminal Underground Movement!) Naturally this incites our hero to shed a single manly tear before suiting up in tight black leather to commit some serious vehicular homicide on these spiky-haired mothers with his cherry red, turbo charged muscle car! Picture Mad Max if it was an 1980s anime, only instead of post-apocalyptic boytoy bikers youíll be tearing through crowded city streets playing chicken with pink-haired Japanimation chicks armed with twin Uzis. And, uh, a panther. Oh, and this is accompanied by the cheesiest of warbling, cryptically translated 80s engrish rock ballads courtesy of J-WALK, making for the greatest game intro EVER. Every time I see it I canít help but shed a tear, a really manly one of course.

But even if you donít normally go for these interactive movies where the action is limited to occasionally pushing a button, this one has some seriously kickass gameplay. You have to actually hold down left or right as you barely avoid incoming traffic with a violent screeching of rubber on asphalt, or fight back at some stupid bastard whoís trying to run you off the road and send him spinning out into a nearby mountain instead. Almost as frequently youíll have to slam down on the brakes before taking a turn or fire up your nitro booster for a furious burst of speed, and damn anyone foolish enough to be in your way.

It really feels like youíre driving a car at high speed, and you wonít ever be in the dark as to what youíre supposed to do, either. Not only can you usually deduce whatís coming by simply watching the road or rapidly escalating wreckage, but on standard difficulty giant arrows pop up on the screen to explicitly beat you over the head with it. Good thing, because each of the ten long stages is a non-stop rollercoaster of action where the arrows and brake/boost icons pop up almost constantly and youíll be zigzagging back and forth across the road more often Mel Gibson after last call. But this game is also way more forgiving than most FMV adventures; you actually get a few seconds after each icon appears to follow through rather than the instant reaction time demanded by pretty much every other one Iíve ever played.

Of course the visuals are kind of grainy, the available colors are really limited, and unfortunately the targeting reticule where you had to home in on enemy vehicles before pounding them into oblivion had to be removed. For a virtually arcade-perfect experience youíd have to track down the Thunder Storm LX-3 & Road Blaster compilation for PlayStation and Saturn, but itís strictly Japanese-only, often a pain in the ass to find, and typically expensive as hell Ė and perhaps worst of all, it completely lacks the opening song by J-WALK. Besides, Wolf Teamís conversion is far from ugly and above all it definitely captures the spirit of the original. Just looking at the (many) screenshots really doesnít do it full justice Ė you wonít have time to notice niggling flaws in the graphics when everything is moving so damn fast and with an impressively smooth framerate Ė and when the scenarios youíre challenged with are downright insane.

The first level alone quickly dispenses with typical driving situations like squeezing between two tankers (complete with bits of car flying off in a shower of sparks) to send you soaring onto the beach while blonde bikini babes look on in horror. Sand is kicking up wildly from beneath your tires while terrified lovers flee for their very lives, even as enemy vans (identified by the menacing faces painted on them) come crashing through the waves and take aim at you with rocket launchers Ė only to catch each other in the resulting explosion while you rip by them to safety. And this is one of the more plausible moments.

Later finding yourself pursuing bikers through a swanky hotel, youíre racing up multiple flights of stairs and navigating down hallways before finally erupting into an elegant ballroom where someoneís party gets completely trashed. Well, at least until you burst through the window and come hurtling down twenty stories while a nearby chopper smashes into the side of the building. When youíre the Road Avenger, walls are something that happen to other people. And speaking of other people, it seems like innocent pedestrians are always narrowly escaping an intimate encounter with your front bumper, their screams audible even over the roar of your engines, while the not so innocent variety leap onto your hood and pound away while blocking your view until you send them flying to their deaths. Yeah, itís all predetermined, but undeniably sweet.

The action even cuts to short cinema sequences that highlight a particularly sweet move, like a closeup of your tires as they skirt the very edge of a rapidly disintegrating ledge, or the grin of a punk atop a leaking oil tanker as strikes his lighter right before the forthcoming inferno. Thereís also a more variety to the stages than just cities and highways, so then itís time for a leisurely drive through the local agricultural community. No wheat stalk or chicken is safe when goons riding threshers start impaling pitchforks through your hood while even more choppers rain machine gun fire down on you; better take a shortcut through the old barn to avoid buying the farm.

But this is merely a taste of what you can expect, because hardly a single moment goes by without something incredibly awesome happening. As if raising mile after mile of high-octane hell wasnít enough of a draw, Wolf Teamís audacity in making the button timing fairly lenient means itís always fun instead of frustrating, and when you do meet a fiery end youíll find there are plenty of checkpoints up until the final stage. Even if youíd never associate FMV games with balls-to-the-wall action, try strapping in with the Road Avenger and see if you can contain those tears of joy Ė really manly tears, of course.


sho's avatar
Staff review by Sho (June 13, 2008)

Sho enjoys classic video games, black comedy, and poking people until they explode -- figuratively or otherwise. He also writes a bit.

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Felix_Arabia posted June 14, 2008:

This was a fantastic review for a fantastic-sounding game that I had previously never heard of. It made me cry tears of manliness.

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