It always sucks to play a bad video game. It sucks even more when that game turns out to be the worst video game you’ve ever played. What’s worse than that is when it’s on a console that you love. This was the case last October when I reviewed “Hell: A Cyber-Punk Thriller” for the Panasonic 3DO. I love the 3DO but “Hell” messed with my emotions. Before playing that game, there were only a few 3DO games that I actually considered bad because to me, the 3DO is the ultimate FMV (Full Motion Video) CD system.
“Hell” made me question my feelings about the 3DO when I played it. I knew it was capable of so much more and that “Hell” had to be a fluke of some sort. After I reviewed it, I decided that it was one of those “Does Not Count” games like “Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties” or “Mortal Kombat” for the Sega Genesis. Believing that “Hell” doesn’t count made me feel better and, in some strange way, restored balance to my video game thinking. Now, the 3DO gets a “do over” and what better game to do that with than Road Rash.
Road Rash for the 3DO was released back in 1994. It was published and developed by Electronic Arts. I say Road Rash for the 3DO because the game appeared on many different game consoles. In fact, the game didn’t even debut on the 3DO. It was originally released 3 years earlier in 1991 for the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Genesis. While the original Sega version is considered a classic, it’s the later CD based versions where the game really came into its own.
Consoles like the 3DO, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, and Playstation had a field day with the game, improving on its graphics and, almost more importantly for this game, on it’s soundtrack. This was one of the first video games that featured actual music tracks from actual mainstream rock bands. You have to remember that CD technology in general was still relatively new in 1994 and it was brand fucking new in the world of video games. Seeing Road Rash playing on a 3DO in a game store with Soundgarden’s “SuperUnknown” playing in the background was simply mind blowing.
Road Rash is a straight forward motorcycle racing game but with a slight twist. During the races, you can punch and swing weapons at the other riders and, in some races, the police. In fact, you can inflict so much damage on other riders that you can actually knock them out of the race. The game has a straight up arcade mode called “Thrash Mode” where you can run just one race or, if you’re looking for the career experience, you can play the “Big Game” mode. In “Big Game” mode you can choose a rider and then use that rider to earn money from top finishes in multiple races and then use that money to upgrade or fix your bike or all out buy a new one. As you earn top finishes, you advance through levels of difficulty where opposing riders have faster bikes and riders become more aggressive towards you during the races.
Road Rash for the 3DO game play
In the CD versions of the game, you can actually become allies with other riders or become rivals with them depending on how you treat them during the races. If you’re constantly swinging a chain at the same rider he’ll become more aggressive towards you when racing against him. While making enemies can be fun in this game, it can come back to bite you in the ass. The last thing you need while trying to win a close race is another rider, or riders, swinging chains at you with the finish line in sight. Even if you’re nice to the other riders, there’s no guaranteeing that one of them won’t take a shot at you so the game presents you with a “kill or be killed” choice that you have to make when you’re racing.
During the “Big Game” mode, you can actually get to know the other riders on a more personal level to find out just who you should watch out for during the races. Between races you can go into the Der Panzer Klub, which is the local bar that all the riders hang out at. When you’re in the “Klub” you can select different riders to “talk” to. I use the word “talk” loosely because all you do is select a rider and then that rider is displayed with a quick paragraph of text next to them. Some say completely random things but others can give you racing tips or warnings that they’ll go after you in the races. It’s a fun feature and I highly recommend that new players check it out.
Once you’re actually in the game, it’s easy to get into. Controlling the bikes can be a little finicky though and over steering is easy to do if you try to play this game like a more modern racing game where you’re almost always on the D-pad or thumbstick. Small directional taps in either direction is all that’s needed to have total control over your bike. Treading lightly on the controls is effective even in the sharp turns.
There’s even sections in this game where there’s so many turns so close to each other that simply staying in the middle of the screen will safely navigate you through all of them with almost zero button presses. Being graceful with the controls is important because you don’t want to crash in this game, seriously. For example, if you crash head on into a car in the opposite lane, the collision will send you flying off your bike and crashing into the pavement.
No big deal, right? It’s just a video game, I’ll respawn with a new life right where I land after the wreck and continue on, right? WRONG. When you crash and you’re thrown from your bike, your rider takes a second before he or she gets up, and here’s the best part, then runs slowly back to where the bike is laying on the ground. I’ll give this game points for realism but the whole sequence of being tossed from your bike, hitting the ground, and then running back to your bike takes forever! If you crash like this when you’re in first place, you will easily drop out of the top ten, if not further, by the time you get back on your bike.
Now, the game is a little forgiving since the races are pretty long. If you wreck early on in the race, you will have time to work your way back through the pack to recapture the lead but you definitely want to limit your mistakes especially since damage to your bike will cost you money to fix if your playing in the “Big Game” mode. This is even more critical early on in the game since the cash payouts for winning races are tiny compared to what they are in later levels. If you’re always shelling out dough to pay for repairs, you won’t have enough money to upgrade your bike or purchase a new one which will greatly reduce your chances of winning races as you advance.
The original Road Rash for the Sega Genesis doesn’t look bad by Genesis standards. It’s a motorcycle racing game so it doesn’t take much hardware power to produce a decent looking game. However, the CD systems took the game to another level with smoother animations, better looking race locales, and of course, lots of full motion video. Usually, it’s the full motion video that kills games like this but it actually ends up being the one detail that brings the whole game experience together.
Intro movie for Road Rash on 3DO. It looks like they had fun making this.
All of the video cutscenes have a consistent look and acting style to them that really helps immerse the player into a rough push and shove community of rag tag motorcycle racers doing anything to win a few bucks. Obviously, these scenes are not what I would call “Oscar worthy” but they do the job and never take you out of the gaming experience. The caricature artwork of all the riders in the menu screens fits the attitude of this game and also contributes to it’s overall consistent look.
This is the part of the game that made it popular with so many gamers. The music soundtrack in this game is unbelievable as it features tracks from Soundgarden, Monster Magnet, Paw, Therapy?, Hammerbox and Swerve Driver. Of course, the headliner is Soundgarden with their tracks “Outshined”, “SuperUnknown”, “Kick Stand”, and “Rusty Cage” appearing on the soundtrack. One neat feature in the menu screen or “Restroom” as it’s called in the game, is that you can play a juke box and listen to all of the songs on the soundtrack.
As for the game sound effects, it’s pretty basic stuff. The loud high pitched buzzing of crotch rocket motors, dull thuds of punches from time to time, and screeching tires pretty much make up everything you’re going to hear aside from the music. However, once the action gets going and the bad ass music starts playing, you really don’t notice the basic game sounds that much as it all blends perfectly to be yet another detail in this game that contributes to its overall consistent look and sound.
Collectibility – Very Sought After
RarityGuide.com has this game listed as very sought after as this review is being written. I’m not surprised since this game is one of the must have titles for the 3DO. What does surprise me is that it’s not very valuable as far resell value goes but, reselling shouldn’t be the reason you buy this game in the first place. It’s an awesome game and one of the best examples of early CD gaming done right. If you see this game for any platform, buy it!
Average Value – $11 loose, $20 Complete in Box, $36 New in Box as of 1/22/13
Rarity – Very sought after with a 52% rating on RarityGuide.com
Happy Gaming and Happy Collecting!
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