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Road Rash

Road Rash is the name of a motorcycle-racing video game series by Electronic Arts in which the player participates in violent, illegal street races. The series started on theSega Genesis and made its way to various other systems over the years. The game's title is based on the slang term for the severe friction burns that can occur in a motorcycle fall where skin comes into contact with the ground at high speed.

Six different games were released from 1991 to 2000, and an alternate version of one game was developed for the Game Boy Advance. The Sega Genesis trilogy wound up in EA Replay.


Road Rash
Road Rash debuted on the Sega Genesis in 1991. The game takes place in California, on progressively longer two-lane roads. While the game has a two-player mode, it is a take-turns system that only allows one person to play at a time. There are 14 other opponents in a race. A port of the game wound up on the Amiga, and various scaled-down versions were made for Master System, Sega Game Gear and Game Boy. The Game Boy version is one of just two officially licensed games that is incompatible with the Game Boy Color and newer consoles in the line.

An updated version of the first game was made for a CD-based platforms such as Sega CD, 3DO, PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows. It features a number of changes such as the ability to choose characters (with various starting cashpiles and bikes, some even have starting weapons) before playing, fleshed-out reputation and gossip systems and even full-motion video sequences to advance a plot. The updated version once again features all-California locales: The City, The Peninsula, Pacific Coast Highway, Sierra Nevada, and Napa Valley. The roads themselves now feature brief divided road sections.

Road Rash 2
Road Rash II was released in 1992 exclusively for the Sega Genesis. The sequel took the engine and sprites from the first game and added more content. The biggest addition was proper two-player modes: "Split Screen" versus the other computer opponents, and the duel mode "Mano A Mano". The races now take place all across the United States: Alaska, Hawaii, Tennessee, Arizona, and Vermont. The list of bikes has been increased to fifteen (separated into three classes, with the later ones featuring nitro boosts), and a chain was added to supplement the club. Progress now requires 3rd or better. Other details include the navigation of the menu screens being considerably easier; and more manageable passwords, being less than half the size of the first game's.

Road Rash 3
Road Rash 3 was released in 1995 exclusively for the Sega Genesis. For the most part, this entry is separate from the earlier games. Races now take place across the world, each level featuring five of seven total locales: Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Australia, and Japan. In addition to the now standard fifteen bikes, four part upgrades are available for each. Eight weapons are available, and this game introduces the player's ability to hold on to weapons between races and the ability to accumulate multiple weapons.

Road Rash 3D
Road Rash 3D was released in 1998 exclusively for the PlayStation. As the title implies, the game is no longer based on sprites, for the most part. The race courses in this game were pieced together from an interconnected series of roads. The game has less emphasis on combat in exchange for a stronger emphasis on the racing.

Road Rash 64
Road Rash 64 was released in 1999 exclusively for the Nintendo 64. Electronic Arts did not design or publish it; the intellectual property rights were licensed to THQ, which in turn had its own Pacific Coast Power & Light (founded by former EA employee Don Traeger) develop the game.

Road Rash: Jailbreak
Road Rash: Jailbreak was released in 2000 for the PlayStation, with a handheld port released in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance with the same title. New features include an interconnected road system and two-player cooperative play with a sidecar.

The Mega Drive years

The original Road Rash was mighty impressive in its heyday and immediately gained a large fanbase thanks to its impressive, gritty, visuals, catchy synth-rock soundtrack by acclaimed musician Rob Hubbard (known for his Commodore 64 and Amiga work) and, most importantly, the high level of violence involved. It was not just your standard racing title which asked little more of you then to reach the finish line before the other racers, oh no! Road Rash allowed you to deliver punishing blows to other riders using your fists, feet and assortment of weapons that included clubs and baseball bats. There was nothing quite as satisfying as administering a savage beating to a particularly loathsome opponent (anyone who played it will remember the smug-faced Biff) or kicking them into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

The original Mega Drive trilogy of Rash games cannot be denied their classic status and are still lots of fun to this day, but they have not aged as well as one might hope. The memories I have of them as fast paced racers are somewhat dampened due to sluggish scrolling and a low frame rate that removes much of the sense of speed. The roads seem to have a life of their own as they curve and swoop from side to side and your bike handles as though the back tyres are made of butter, sliding around the screen in an oddly animated way. That being said, after my brain adjusted to the dated visuals and slippery controls, I started to enjoy it and found myself hooked. The music that accompanies the racing is fun, energetic and synthesized - far better than the awful thrash metal gibberish that would appear in later games - and the lack of any engine noise, while initially disturbing, is a relief after the tinnitus inducing noises that came with the 32-bit era. Besides, the sound effects for the fisticuffs, screams, sirens and tire screeches make up for it.

While exciting and satisfying when going well, big flaws in gameplay arise when you come a cropper. Hitting traffic, careless pedestrians or getting clobbered by an opponent often results in you leaving your bike at breakneck speed, flying through the air like superman (minus the steady landing) and skidding across the road like a hockey puck. This painful inconvenience costs you valuable time, and usually many places in the race as your rider picks himself up and begins the long and slow jog back to his bike - God forbid that any cops should be nearby either, as wiping out in the radius of one of the boys in blue ends in you being hauled off to jail - race over scumbag! This can be incredibly infuriating, especially when you have been having a perfect run up until that point. It is strange that this, the most annoying aspect of Road Rash, would never be fully rectified throughout the entire series. Another detraction is the problem of visibility due to the fact you spend a lot of time riding over the crests of hills, causing your bike to block your view of the road ahead leading to some annoying collisions that feel completely beyond your control. However, despite these flaws, Road Rash is still exhilarating and absorbing to play, thanks to the long, winding courses that keep you on your toes, the amount of obstacles you have to watch out for and, of course, the fact you can fight... on a bike going 100mph! Win!

The Sequel - Road Rash 2

Road Rash 2 came a year later, in 1992, and stuck closely to the formula set by the original but was a huge improvement thanks to new weapons, a more varied selection of environments to race in - including Hawaii and Alaska - and, most importantly of all, a split screen two player mode. In this two player competition you could either race through the tournaments with the computer controlled opponents taking part, or limit it to just you and your buddy, in a tense one-on-one race (called, mano-a-mano) featuring the weapons of your choosing, including a brand new bike chain with which to thrash your opponents silly. Racing against a friend would now be a hugely important aspect of every Road Rash game released from now onwards.

32-bit era - A new Road Rash is born

Taking it to the third dimension

64-Bit Rashin'

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