Insert Disk collects the Road Rash series. Part 3 of 3.
Today’s retro game review is part 1 of a 3 part mini-series looking at the Road Rash series. This classic retro game series will look at Road Rash 1, Road Rash 2 and Road Rash 3. EA stumbles upon a winning formula in their highly acclaimed combat racing series for the Sega Mega Drive and Sega Genesis. Expect fast paced racing action, police chases and riders being hit in the face with billy clubs.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. This is the concluding episode of our mini series looking back at the original trilogy of the Road Rash series. Join me today as we take a look back at Road Rash 3. With parts 1 and 2 being commercial successes for EA there was no reason not to begin work on a third game. 1995 saw the release of Road Rash 3 on the Sega Mega Drive.
Having really enjoyed parts 1 and 2 entry number 3 should be an easy sell. For some reason though I find the game a little underwhelming. Parts 1 and 2 had laid some great foundations for the series. It was now time to experiment a little. The aesthetic of the game has been modified. The game now goes a far a less cartoon like appearance and a little more of a gritty edge. In truth I’m not certain if this works well enough on the Sega 16-bit consoles. Whereas you’re in safe hands with the basic appearance of the first 2 games, Road Rash 3 looks almost awkward. The sprites are more stylised than previously. This may work for some sprites but the game arguably looks a little messier when the screen gets busy.
Secondly are the tracks, this time they seem slightly more uninspired than the previous game. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what’s changed here but the racing experience just appears to me as more bland. Thirdly is the music. I’m not really sure what went wrong. It’s incredibly generic. I can still remember the music to parts 1 and 2, I’ve literally forgotten about number 3’s soundtrack the second I turn off the console.
It is good to see that the game is now inter-continental. It’s nice to see the likes of Brazil, Germany, Italy, Kenya and the UK rather than just generic North America. Again though, I’m brought back to the blandness of the game. This is the UK stage. Now I may be a bit biased here but if it weren’t for the slightly odd rendition of rule Britannia you’d be quite forgiven for thinking that this could be anywhere. I have the same issue with the German stage. For a country of historic landmarks and countryside we get a rather generic winter land of skiers. If my suspicions are correct someone at EA just tacked on the country references late on in the games development cycle to add international appeal.
On a positive note the control system does seem smoother than in the previous games. It’s less twitchy but still responsive enough to get the experience of a tense race. Also good to see are the retention of the weapons and generally goals of beating up fellow riders. The bike shop makes a welcome return and the end of race cut scenes also adds some consistency to the series. Overall Road Rash 3 isn’t a bad game, it all works. The problem here is that a game that is just functional doesn’t really make for a good sequel in my opinion. Especially when the bar had already been set so much higher in part 2.
Whit parts 1 and 2 already being so similar Part 3 should have been a time for bold changes and experimentation. Instead the game plays very safe with innovation. The same amount of tracks as previous games, no new game mechanics, no significant weapons system change and a poorer soundtrack. The saving grace of Road Rash 3 is that the core formula works really well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the game, it just strikes me as a missed opportunity. As solid as it is as a game, I can’t help feeling that I’d rather be playing one of the earlier titles in the series. It’s only a hunch but I expect that is exactly why EA simultaneously went away to develop Skitchen at the same time. If you haven’t played it, think Road Rash on rollerblades. It’s a far more edgy and innovative game even if it didn’t receive a particularly wide audience.
For Road Rash 3 though the average price in the UK mint boxed is around £15, just slightly more expensive than its predecessors. In the US look to pay below $15 if you can. As I mentioned in part one the Road Rash series didn’t end after the original trilogy. Road Rash 3D, Road Rash 64 and Road Rash Jailbreak all kept the series alive (barely). These later games never really break out from the core formula and if anything go down a blander and less well executed route.
Personally I feel that the high point of the series was in Road Rash 2. By this second outing the formula and execution had already been taken to its natural conclusion. Any further modifications were really just gimmicks, bells and whistles that the game really didn’t need. I would highly recommend the first 2 games as they have aged quite well and were distinct enough to carve out their place in retro gaming history.