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Road Rash 64
Platform:  Nintendo 64
# of Players:  1-4
Developer:  THQ
Publisher:  THQ
Features:  Expansion Pak compatible
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
Road Rash is one of those games where the designers (THQ; Electronic Arts is missed here) spend more time on the game music than on the actual game itself. The graphics hold no saving grace; they are blocky to a fault and have only four to five poorly done animated frames each. The selection of Rashers and bikes is not large, and after awhile all seem to blend together. Tracks, which vary simply from cityscape to flatland open road areas, all hold the same look; there is really nothing there to differentiate from each other. And with the flatland open roads, it is really easy getting lost with no idea of which way to go, even if you are familiar with the track.

At the start up of Road Rash, you are given three play modes: Thrash, Multiplayer, and Big Game. Thrash lets you try out all the tracks and bikes for all three levels. They are not consecutive; each track is standalone and does not carry over when you select another one. It is a simple you win/you lose objective. You do not even get to pick your own name; you are simply referred to as "Player One". That does not make the Thrash mode bad. It lets you test out all the bikes and tracks on all three levels. Along with how many cops there are, how much traffic there is, and how many pedestrians there are (strangely just standing around in the street), but it always lets you know that you are not playing the real game.

The Big Game option is the real feature of the cart. Here, you get to pick your own name and start out bike. There are even limited talks with Rash clubs who either taunt and threaten you or give the you the option to join ("And you better be glad you did"). Big Game gives you some basic role playing elements (do I upgrade my bike now, or win a couple of more races and get extra cash?). Here the tracks are quasi-consecutive. While you can pick which of the tracks you can go race (six in Level One, eight in both Level Two and Three), you can not advance to the next Level till all the respected tracks are won, either with a first or second place win.

Combat is more a hassle than fun because most of the time you are forced to use simple and not very damaging punches and kicks. While you can hold down the attack buttons for greater damage, chances are the Thrasher you want to hit would be long gone, leaving all the others on the other side of you. While that would be okay, the combat system works on a closest-to-you-on-that-particular-side type thing. You'll lose your charge hit and have to hold down for another. But by that time, those Rashers would be gone as well. This also works with weapons (Mace, spiked clubs, tire irons, bananas, pool cues, cattle prods and a whole host of others), but there are no quick hits with them. You must hold down the button to use them. And with the treat of being redundant, by the time you have your weapon out and waiting, there is nobody there to hit.

It is rather fun fighting cops on bikes who flat out attacks you with a billy club (if only to crash them and hear their choked "You're under arr--ARGGGG!" at the end of the race). But watch out for those cops, I came in second to a police car! You'll get a quick chuckle when people start flying all over the screen screaming.

While Road Rash 64 is not the standout version of the game series, it will get you by when you just want to vent some hostility on some poor vector animations and listen to some really good music for a bit while you wait for the next version to come along.

Jesse Labrocca

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