Blast from the Past: Road Rash 2 (SEGA Mega Drive)
Creating an enjoyable motorbike game is no easy task. Today we have motorbike games that focus mostly on realism, which makes the task of creating something enjoyable even tougher. Other than Trials there’s not much filling that itch these days, and even then you’re just pulling off tricks. In the very early days of gaming there was a bike game that was one of the coolest games to own, and also an immense amount of fun to play.
Most of you might think that EA’s love for cops an fast cars started with Need for Speed, when the truth is that it really got the concept going on bikes. The original Road Rash was a mega hit around the world in the early 90’s, but it was Road Rash 2 that fixed many bugs and made it the bike game to own. The premise was simple – make it to the finish line in first, second or third place and move on to the next track. Five tracks (Alaska, Hawaii, Tennessee, Arizona and Vermont) are playable in any order as soon as you start the game up, each with their own unique length and difficulty. Complete the 5 tracks on offer and and a more difficult variation of those 5 circuits becomes your next challenge. So what was the big deal with the sequel?
A chain is only as strong as
its weakest link the biker using it
The fighting system saw a major improvement in that opponents now had life bars that would take several smacks on the head to deplete. Instead of just one punch knocking an opponent off their bike you now had to battle it out on the road, as the box art made you believe. Of course this plays in your favour too as you have more of chance remaining on your bike before your jaw hits the tarmac. A new weapon introduced in the sequel was the chain. You start off with just your good old fisticuffs and, should you time your shot correctly, you can claim either a chain or baton to counter your opponents onslaught. You might be thinking that fighting and racing at the same time must’ve been an impossible task? In the modern era developers would likely complicate it to be the case, but this is as playable as it’s ever been.
Pressing the B button accelerates your bike, A lets you hit the brakes (though I only used it in the tougher stages) and C punches away at competitors. Steering your bike is a breeze and it’s been designed in such a way that it’s very forgiving. Place your focus on fighting and dodging oncoming traffic and you should be okay. Should you fall off your bike with a cop in hot pursuit you’ll be arrested and your game will come to an end. If you fall with no pig in sight you’ll have to run back to your bike, which can be a tedious scenario. Watching a group of bikers pass you by, when you see the finish line in sight, will have you using your language in colourful ways. There are other ways at defeating any cop or foe the game can throw your way – upgrade your bike.
Thankfully there’s a much needed password system in place to ensure you never lose any of your progress. After completing each track you will be rewarded with money. Build up enough money and you can upgrade to an improved Ultra Light bike, or to the more powerful Super Bike and, later, Nitro Class. Nitro Class is a new addition in Road Rash 2 and will be the cause of your Mega Drive having a mini heart attack. I found that the poor old Mega Drive had some trouble keeping up with the pace of these nitro injected bikes threw at it. That’s however just me nitpicking, because there’s something included that made it a must buy at the time – multiplayer.
Born to be wild!
Yes, would you believe it? Back in the Mega Drive days Road Rash 2 allowed you to include a buddy to take part in the action. You could either take each other on in a split-screen race (while facing other opponents), take turns or go head-to-head (named mano a mano in the game). It does slow down a little in split-screen, but it’s still as enjoyable today as it would have been all those years ago.
Road Rash 2 succeeds where so many other racing games of the time failed – by keeping the mechanics simple and just being an absolute joy to play, along with a funky soundtrack to boot. Make no mistake, towards the end the game it does get tough, but there is a reason this game was so loved by so many people in the 90’s. Play it today and it’s just as entertaining. Is there anything more fun than smacking some sod in the face for driving like an idiot? Probably not.