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Road Rash 3: Tour de Force

Genre: Racing Developer: Electronic Arts Publisher: Electronic Arts Players: 1-2 Released: 1995

Road Rash is one of those franchises that was huge back in its day but like many other early EA franchises it has fallen into relative obscurity today. Road Rash 3 was the last entry of the series on the Genesis and the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Like previous Road Rash games you’re part of an illegal motorcycle racing league, a group of tough-as-nails bikers who usually refer to each other as “Rashers.” Like similar racing titles the view is behind your racer and you race over pseudo 3D tracks which twist and turn and rise and fall up hills that can grab you a little airtime. Since you’re driving on roads and not race tracks you occasionally you have to fly through busy intersections. Unlike similar racing games there’s no time limit, no checkpoints, and you can beat the tar out of your opponents. You’ve got access to a punch, a backhand, and a kick. Your punches also allow you to swipe a variety of weapons from the enemies including the club and chain from previous games, and the new nunchucks, cattle prod, and crowbar. A new feature in this title allows you to keep the weapon you stole and use it in the next race. You can even hold more than one weapon and switch through your arsenal.

If you’ve played the previous two titles then the third will be instantly recognizable. There are three classes of bikes, the rat, sport, and super sport. The goal of the game is to play through five tiers of levels while constantly buying and upgrading new bikes with the money you win. The game uses a password system for saving so don’t worry about losing all of that hard earned cash.

Road Rash 3 takes the game international as you travel around the world instead of the United States though this doesn’t really do much to change the gameplay. It controls about the same as the previous two titles. Some people feel the controls are a little tighter but I think the game runs a little bit choppier at certain times. The control is still fantastic and Road Rash 3 is one of the easiest racers for beginners to just jump in and play. When you crash your bike you have to run back to the bike, hop back on, and try to get back into the race instead of just resetting your racer on the road like nothing happened . Sometimes getting back into first place is more difficult than others depending on how far the accident launches your biker away from your bike. Your bike also has a damage meter and when it runs out, your bike blows up and you’d better hope you’ve got the money for repairs. You and other bikers also have health bars that show how close you or your opponent is to falling off their bike. Your opponents are also imperfect. They’ll smash into cars and make mistakes just as much as you will and if you beat somebody up, they’ll hold a grudge and come after you. The difficulty is well balanced. If you keep failing at a race, go back and play a race you know you can win to get more money and buy better parts or newer bikes.

The graphics department is where the most changes were made. While Road Rash 2 isn’t much of a face lift over the original, the third installment altered everything. Road Rash 3 tries to be more like the PC version of Road Rash by using digitized graphics. While the PC version looks great, the Genesis one doesn’t fair quite as well. The bikers and the bikes themselves look pretty good and animate fairly well however other sprites like the backgrounds and obstacles are hard to recognize at first glance. People and cars are blurry messes. They probably thought they were making the game more advanced but I prefer the clearer sprites of Road Rash 2. That’s not to say Road Rash 3 looks bad, actually far from it. There’s a lot of color being thrown around for the Genesis and none of the graphics are so bad that it will hinder your enjoyment of the game. I just never understood why people back then were so adamant about digitized graphics being the next big thing.

Once you move on to the later levels and the faster bikes you won’t have time to admire the scenery anyway. Trust me, when you’ve got a “crotch rocket” super bike the game starts to move absurdly fast beyond what one would imagine the Genesis can reasonably handle. Thankfully, the goofy little cartoon movies that play when you finish a race, crash, or get arrested, are still intact from the last game and while most of them are childish some are genuinely funny. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more people making animated GIFs out of these things.

The sound is excellent with memorable songs that are themed after their locations. The song for England especially made me chuckle a bit at the beginning. The only problem is the songs are tinny and muffled compared the last game for some reason. The sounds of your weapons connecting and your opponents grunting and screaming are all oh-so-satisfying. I can listen to the “clonk” of the club or the whip of the chain battering my fellow Rasher’s skulls all day long. The sound of sirens or helicopter blades will instantly put you on the lookout for the cops. Sound is also an especially important part of the game with car horns that warn you to get out of the way before you turn yourself into street pizza.

Unfortunately the two-player mode runs like crap with tiny screens and even worse graphics. The game also suffers some slowdown in two-player mode and for the most part it isn’t worth messing with unless you and your friends are nuts for Road Rash. You have the option to take turns through the normal game, split-screen, or just race each other “mano a mano.”

Road Rash 3 was a great title to end the series on the Genesis. It’s got the same exhilarating gameplay with more features, new locations, unique graphics, and all the violence you’ve come to expect from the Road Rash series. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it all about fun. It’s up for debate which is the best in the series but undeniable that this game is one of the best 16-bit racing games. If you’re a fan of Road Rash, racing games in general, or hilarious mindless violence, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by not having this title in your collection.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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