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Video Game / Road Rash

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Road Rash was a series of motorcycle racing games from Electronic Arts, starting life on the Sega Genesis in 1991, but appearing on several other systems over the next 10 years. In-universe, the races were illegal, forcing you to contend with police... as well as other riders, who usually had no problem attacking you with clubs, pipes, chains or cattle prods. Each game had several track locations, which became longer and more difficult for each level you achieved. You leveled up by getting at least 3rd or 4th place in each location, depending on the game. The goal was to amass money to buy better bikes and also be able to pay off hospital fees, repair bills and police fines. If you ever ran out of money, it was game over.

The games were:

  • Road Rash (Genesis/Mega Drive) (1991)
The first game, seeing numerous ports through the 1990s and rereleases later on. The game takes place on various rural roads in California.
  • Road Rash II (Genesis/Mega Drive) (1993)
The sequel to the first game, taking place in five different U.S. states. The game uses recycled graphics from the first game, and introduces nitro boosts and tweaks to the combat system.The first game in the franchise to use 3D graphics for the tracks; most of the objects on screen are sprites. The game is the first to use CD-quality music and vocals (although not during racing), along with live-action cutscenes.
  • Road Rash 3: Tour de Force (Genesis/Mega Drive) (1995)
The third game for the Genesis, utilizing digitized sprites and now taking place in seven different countries. The combat system received an overhaul and many more types of obstacles now face players. Motorcycles can be upgraded, and the game is generally faster than the previous titles.
  • Road Rash (Sega CD) (1995)
While using the cutscenes and menu artwork of the 32-bits version, this is essentially a different game that plays much like Road Rash 3. Notably, this is the only version of the game to play the licensed tracks during the races.
  • Road Rash 3D (Sony Playstation) (1998)
The first fully 3D game. Vocals now are the BGM for the races in this game. The tracks are pieced together from a single interconnected map of roads.
  • Road Rash 64 (Nintendo 64) (1999)
Also fully 3D, this game was the Nintendo-exclusive release for Road Rash.
  • Road Rash: Jailbreak (Sony Playstation) (2000)
Another fully 3D game.
  • Road Rash: Jailbreak (Game Boy Advance) (2003)
A very different game from the previous with the same name, built much like the Genesis games a decade earlier.

Road Rash 1 was notable for bringing the Z-axis and rudimentary physics to bear to both challenge and amuse the player, at a time when most other racing games barely bothered with such things. Going up hills slowed you down, while going down would cause you to accelerate... or, if you had enough speed, you'd soar through the air. In addition to the competitors and police, the player also had to watch out for oncoming traffic, animals crossing the road, and other realistic hazards. It was one of the earlier second-generation games to reward the player for doing something illegal.

While there was no plot to speak of (mostly because participating in extreme sports for cash prizes doesn't exactly need a plot), the games did have characters for their bikes. A notable aversion is Jailbreak, in that while it's pretty much an Excuse Plot at first, as in the player chooses to run with a gang, rise in ranks, and being acquinted with the comic relief live action cutscenes duo Steve "Spaz" Williams (better known as visual artists for lots of movies including Jumanji and Jurassic Park and Punt (played by a young Michael J. Anderson), things get nasty when Spaz got captured by the cops and Punt personally asks the player and their chosen gang to organize a jailbreak to free him. Many of the AI were given profiles and would often give you advice or trash-talk you before or after a race.

Not to be confused with Road Redemption, Road Rash's Spiritual Successor

This series contains examples of...

  • Aerith and Bob: In 64, you have Luke, Beth, Big Jim... and also Dumpy and Utsanomiko. Huuuh.
  • A.I. Breaker: Sort of. In Road Rash 64, some of the later tracks spike in difficulty, to the point that a majority of the AI racers are fairly likely to fail to cross the finish line at all. Race 4-3 (Beat Down) is an example where if you just avoid everyone else, all the AI will almost always get Busted by cops, while on 5-8 (Marathon, the final race) it's pretty common to have a majority of the 11 racers turn up Wrecked, presumably because of the length of the course and how bad the traffic is.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: So you've been speeding, running people over, hitting cars and assaulting police officers. You get busted for... failing to signal.
  • Assumed Win: The AI will sometimes start doing their victory pose before they cross the finish line... making it all the more sweeter if you pass them at the last second and take first place away from them....
  • Bad with the Bone: Sergio's portrait in Road Rash 3 shows him wielding a rather large bone.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Clubs are probably the most common weapons in the Genesis trilogy, and the only one available in Road Rash 1 outside of your own fists. The police also have 'em and use 'em.
  • Chain Pain: In Road Rash 2, the most dangerous weapon. Also could be swung over your head for no practical reason.
  • Circling Birdies: Getting hit by a car head-on causes your biker to have flickering stars briefly over them as they get back to their feet. Definitely superior to the alternative...
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: In the Genesis titles. Everyone is dressed in the same color... except you. The color of everyone else also tells you what level you're on. In 3, if you take the cops' offer to take down another biker, it will use different colors.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: In the Genesis trilogy, the other racers are capable of taking very difficult turns at full speed, and the cops would only ever come after you, regardless of if other racers are easier to catch.
    • Just how does Lucky Luc stay just ahead of you no matter how fast you're going, anyway?
    • On the other hand, the racer's position largely depends upon your own. If you're far ahead in first place, the top racers' times are just seconds behind yours even if you're on the Wild Thing 2000, and if you're far behind in last place, you're likely to catch up to the slowest racers eventually, even if the race should long be over.
    • The usual rubber banding is present in Road Rash 64, but interesting it's actually avoided in that the AI is just as vulnerable to getting Busted (knocked out by a cop) and Wrecked (basically running out of lives) as you are.
  • Continuing is Painful: If you wreck or get busted, you'll need to shell out money for repairs/bail. If you can't pay the fine, it's Game Over. 3'' gives you a chance to stay in the game by taking on a Repo Man/Snitch job, where you go after a specific opponent in a race and knock them off their bike for the bike shop/police. Succeed, and your fine will be waived and you'll be allowed to continue. Fail, and the game ends.
  • Cool Bike: Road Rash 2 and 3 have the "Wild Thing 2000", a cheat-only bike that runs up to 200 mph (220 nitro) in 2 and up to 250 mph nitrous in 3.
  • Crowbar Combatant: Road Rash 3.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: In Road Rash 2, the Wild Thing 2000 is insanely fast and, on level 1, has infinite nitro boosts. It's also very difficult to handle properly, with hair-trigger handling and is quite frail. Also, in the highly likely event of a crash, the player is often thrown a ridiculous distance from their bike.
  • Dirty Cop: Illegal bike races are a problem, but stuffing bikers in the boot, setting dogs on them and shooting bikes with the rider right next to them are not exactly wholesome cop actions. Cops in Road Rash 3 can even offer you to "snitch" on other bikers by knocking them down and letting the cops arrest them if you're unable to pay the fine.
  • Enemy Chatter: A few of your rival racers (and even cops) would start a race by giving you some pointers or just talking smack. Natasha, in particular, would either be friendly or antagonistic depending on if you attacked her previously.
  • Endless Game: When you beat Level 5 on the original Road Rash game on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, you get to play Level 5 again! And again... and again... forever. The same goes for Road Rash III: Tour de Force. Road Rash II actually has an ending after level 5, which is a race against some cops... and then the game crashes.
  • Everything Breaks: If you crash into something in Road Rash 1 and 2, the item survives intact, probably making a sound. In 3, most small objects have a "damaged" sprite... however, items switch to the damage sprite no matter how fast you're moving. Even if you're walking into it.
  • Face Plant: Happens to you if you fall off your bike when going just the right speed.
  • Fanservice: In Road Rash 1, there is a still of you and the other racers swimming in a lake, and laying on a float is a woman in a red bikini. (May or may not be Natasha, the woman's hair is blonde, though it may be just an error the developers made.)
  • Fauxrrari: Not as prominent as other racing games with fake branded models, but the fact that one of the bike brands is named "Kamakazi", which is close enough to Kawasaki, stands out.
  • Hammerspace: A cutscene in one of the later games has a cop searching you, finding iron knuckles... a chain... a club... and a SHOTGUN which would have been impossible for you to carry. This is of course down to Rule of Funny.
  • Hard Mode Filler: Completing an initial circuit of races pushes you up to the next competition level, using the same locations but driving further down the course.
  • Have a Nice Death: Starting with II, cutscenes after races show your triumphs and, if you wreck or get busted, your failures.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: With "Player A/B" as the default. Averted in Jailbreak where players can choose between three personalities of their chosen biker gang.
  • Hollywood Police Driving Academy: In Road Rash 3, police cars simply move to the left or the right while driving in order to block your way. And... they completely forget the fact that doing so can lead them into oncoming traffic.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: Cops have health gauges, but no amount of attacking will hurt them or knock them off of their rides.
    • Averted in Road Rash II and Jailbreak, but played straight in 3.
  • I Shall Taunt You: A main feature in Jailbreak to provoke rival into attacking you. Varies from very mild swear words, references to movies and songs, or just cartoony noises.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: The game has cutscenes not just for completing the race, but for wrecking your bike or getting busted. Some classics include paramedics retrieving your bike while leaving you injured on the side of the road, getting chased down by police dogs, stumbling onto the road in the path of a semi, and getting tossed in the trunk of a police cruiser.
  • Live-Action Cutscene: Half the game of the 3DO/PS1/Saturn versions with the intro, beginning a race, winning, losing, being wrecked or arrested leading to everything from a biker grabbing a dude with her chain for post-victory celebrations to a driver helping you off the road in the event of a crash. Throw in several music videos for good measure.
  • Mercy Invincibility: In the three Genesis games, there is none to speak of. Damage is dealt as fast as a weapon can be swung; if a character is sandwiched between attackers, they can go down very quickly.
  • Nintendo Hard: Road Rash 1 had very curvy tracks; lots of traffic (though only two cars are allowed on-screen every five seconds, but this was utilized to full effect); and cops who would ram into you very hard, almost guaranteeing you being knocked off your bike and getting arrested if they connect. Additionally, nitrous boost hadn't been introduced yet, and the lead bikers, especially Helldog, were exceptionally skilled. Aiming for first place in Level 5? Good luck.
  • Nitro Boost: Introduced in Road Rash 2 and 3 for the more expensive bikes.
  • Oil Slick: While not a feature of the bike itself, in Road Rash 3, Lucky Luc's primary weapon is... an oil can. He stays just ahead of you, spilling oil on the road in hopes of making you spin out.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted in Road Rash 64, though it's probably an accident. 5-7 (Crash and Burn) just randomly has Utsanomiko in the race twice for basically no reason, and 5-8 (Marathon) might have Luke around twice over, again for really no reason.
  • Password Save: In the first three Genesis games, provided at the end of each race. The password saved your race placements and your cash.
    • Road Rash 1's passwords were 20 characters long and included alphanumeric characters (numbers and letters) and symbols. This password was also given immediately after the race, but before being promoted to the next level - if you use that password, you have to redo any of the races before advancing, but you can still use that to get extra money.
    • Road Rash 2 and 3's passwords were eight characters long and reduced to only alphanumeric characters. The promotion to the next level was done immediately after winning the race in a qualifying position, indicated by the post-race cutscene. Passwords were given on the Options screen of the main menu.
    • Even though Road Rash 3 introduced the ability to save weapons between races and even accumulate them, the password did not account for this. One using a password to resume was reduced to his/her fists upon starting.
  • Ragdoll Physics: Employed to hilarious effect in Road Rash 64 and Jailbreak. A high-speed collision often causes both bike and rider to be launched astronomical distances through the air... only to be back in the race mere seconds later. In the case of Jailbreak, it goes to the point where players can be amusingly hit by other bikers when he/she is on the ground after after being sent flying, only to be in the air again and the rider has to run to their bike (can be cheated by pushing triangle in the Playstation version to return to their bike instantly).
  • Ramp Jump: Extremely common in the Genesis as well as the PS1 games.
    • Ramp-rovisation: ...but only Road Rash 3 has actual ramps. Most of the time, one has to use rocks, bushes, or even cows as ramps. One could even get pretty good air by running over fallen bikers, and cars are also a good medium of jumping, with the exceptions of, for some reason, boxy trucks and vans in Jailbreak. Even some hills alone count—one in particular in the "Hawaii" track of Road Rash 2 is especially memorable.
  • Regenerating Health: Life bars usually start filling up immediately after taking damage. If the player is knocked off the bike in 2 or 3', the life bar is automatically filled once the bike is touched.
  • Road Block: One of the many reasons for Ramp-rovisation.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Averted, since you only need to place 4th or better on each track.
    • In Road Rash 2, 3, and Jailbreak, you needed to place at least third place to advance.
  • Serial Escalation: With regards to the racing stages. The first game takes place in California, the second across America, and the third goes international.
  • So Last Season: You know that bike that got you through one level? Once you get to the next, your opponents get faster, negating the advantage your last new bike gave you, forcing you to upgrade again.
  • Spiritual Successor: Road Redemption by DarkSeas Games is being advertised as such. It plays very similarly, though with an added plot that takes influences from Mad Max.
  • Theme Naming: The cops in 1 have names which start with "O'" — O'Leary, O'Rourke, O'Shea, and O'Connor. And then there's Flynn.
  • Vehicular Assault: In Road Rash 3, the police cars and the police helicopters.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Some characters are friendly and give you advice and actively try to avoid you on 3 if you don't fight them during the races. Most notably, this would be Natasha.