In a world where racing games usually involve taking a vehicle around a track smoothly with precision or using power-ups to better your opponents, one game series stands out. Because it features baseball bats and chains which you can smack over competitors heads at breakneck speeds while hanging on for dear life in the saddle of a superbike. Until you slam head-on into oncoming traffic or are busted by the cops.
Road Rash wasn’t your typical racer. Not many games bring the adrenaline, violence, and quirkiness Road Rash brought to the table. It’s a game series that isn’t really around anymore and that’s a shame. Because it was great fun when it was around (for the most part that is). And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who would like to see it return.
The Road Rash series started in 1991 with the release of ‘Road Rash’ on the MEGA DRIVE/GENESIS. Various Ports and sequels would follow including my personal favourite, a remake of the original Road Rash using the same name which released on the 3DO, PlayStation 1, Sega CD/Mega-CD Saturn and PC (the PS1 version was the version I played).
Road Rash would also make the leap to 3D with Road Rash 3D. However, the response to this game was fairly average whereas older games received positive receptions.
Currently, the Road Rash franchise lays dormant with publisher EA. It hasn’t seen a release since Road Rash: JailBreak in 2000. Though some would say 2003, as that year a GameBoy Advance port of JailBreak was released.
Punching > Racing Line
Road Rash presented an arcade version of racing where a clean smooth approach wasn’t the way to win. Instead a heaping of punches, whacks and bashes would lead you to victory.
Motorcycles where what you would find yourself using in these races. The open nature of motorcycles lent themselves to the physical up close and personal combat cars couldn’t deliver.
Motorcycles also mean more risk. Get hit too many times, hit a tree or collide with a car and you would find yourself being flung into another postcode. The risk paired with the speed kept you glued to the race.
If that wasn’t enough, the long arm of the law would reach for you. Aiming to put an end to your violent vehicular escapades.
1st Gear Knock Out
I remember Road Rash being so fun not just for the extreme two-wheeled action. But because it didn’t take itself that seriously.
One of the best ways this is displayed is in the remake of the original, with its live-action FMV scenes. That would play during various points, like getting busted or unlocking a new level. Scenes like having your bike shot with a shotgun by the police. Or having another rider run over your rider’s wrist as he lays there next to his wrecked bike leaving him rolling in pain on the road. These where the sort of things you would see in the videos.
It may sound quite, well, not very funny. But the sound effects, visuals, subtle voice lines, and general 90’sness give them a comedy feel. Hey, the intro scene shows some sweet motorcycle tricks and the winner ones show you celebrating your triumph (no pun intended) so it’s not all savagery.
I can’t help but think that the people who made and were in the scenes had fun making them. I also can’t help but just smile when I watch them. I’m not really one for live-action but if the series ever does return, I hope we get FMV scenes like these ones.
Road Rash had other quirks as well. If you crashed your bike you would be hurled down the road, leaving you to run back to your bike and pick it up or you could just run around in the road if you so desired. And Road Rash 3 had cars change what side of the road they drove on depending on what country the race was set in.
The gameplay is unique and awesome which also plays a big part in why I remember it and would like to see a new release. It was a blast, the speed and threat of other riders beating you literally and to the finish line made the games a thrill.
Road Rash isn’t active anymore, hence why this is called ‘Bring Back Road Rash’. But what if I told you it could have become active again. Discussion around the internet points at a canceled entry in the series from 2006. Concept art from a game called ‘Road Rash 2006’, along with an early animation from a potential new entry back this up.
Criterion developers of Burnout hinted at a return, with the former creative director at Criterion Craig Sullivan saying “I had a lot of fun playing that game, we think bikes are fun”.”We might make a Road Rash game… But then we might make a game without vehicles in it” when speaking with The Guardian.
The Road Rash spirit has tried to be emulated in other games, for example, ‘Jacked’ which originally came out back in 2003, but the less said about it the better.
Then there is ‘Road Rage’ from 2017. Another botched attempt at recapturing the magic. It failed pretty spectacularly, with the PS4 and Xbox One versions on Metacritic receiving a 26 and 33 respectively. Don’t even go near this one.
Road Redemption is probably the best instance of the Road Rash feel in a non Road Rash game. It’s available on PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. Meaning it’s easier to acquire and play compared to Jacked. Not like you would want to play Jacked anyway. Road Redemption received average reception from critics, and it didn’t really fill the hole Road Rash left. But it’s the best we’ve got for now.
There was a game on the PSP called EA Replay which was a compilation of old school EA games, Road Rash 1, 2 and 3 were part of this compilation. It was nice to get them on a newer console, even if it was handheld and it showed EA still remembered the franchise existed and they had the rights to it. Not like anything else come of it though, did it?
Twist the Throttle
If the series ever does come back I hope it keeps its humorous side, brings the live-action segments back and sticks to what makes it great, bombastic, barbaric motorbike antics with the throttle pinned in 6th gear. Despite people saying the games haven’t aged well, I still think there is a place for a new modern version. Which keeps the heart and soul of its predecessor’s while feeling good to today’s audience.
On a side note, you don’t realise how long I’ve wanted to talk about those FMV sections from the 3DO/PS1 game.