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Why We Need A New Road Rash
by Ian Fisch on 10/16/09 02:58:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Why We Need A New Road Rash

The Road Rash series is about motorcycle racing.  It's also about fighting other racers and police with clubs, chains, brass knuckles, tire irons, and when the occasion calls for it, well placed kicks. 

road rash for 3d0

It's a series that started on the Sega Genesis, and only improved when it moved to 3DO in 1994.  The series reached its technical peak with Road Rash 64 on the Nintendo 64.  Unfortunately that's also where the series ended. 

Developer Bottlerocket was working on a prototype for a modern Road Rash when the studio closed a few months ago. 

A new Road Rash isn't just a cool idea; it's something we need.  And here's why:

1...Because there's no racing game like Road Rash

A lot of people would put Road Rash in the racing genre because the goal is to be the first to cross the finish line.  But Road Rash is actually more of an action game that it is a racing game.  For one thing, each course consists of a single lap rather than multiple laps.  Also the player can get thrown from his cycle (in some of the versions) and be forced to traverse on foot until he regains his ride. 

At this point you might be thinking that it sounds pretty similar to the Grand Theft Auto series.  Afterall, in multiple Grand Theft Auto's you race a single lap on a motorcycle,  and you can get thrown off your bike.  But Road Rash is different because it doesn't test your driving ability. 

The majority of the challenge in other racing games, even those with combat elements such as Burnout and Grand Theft Auto, is traversing the track at maximum speed without crashing into the walls.  The competing drivers are an ancillary threat.

But in Road Rash the combat with the other drivers is the focus.  The tracks barely curve at all.  This differentiates it from every racing game on the market. The game is about hand-to-hand combat.  The speed of the race and the occasional object in the road are there to make the combat more interesting. 

This brings me to my next point...

2...Because Road Rash makes the environment relevant again

So if Road Rash is really an action game and not a racing game, what makes it stand out as an action game?  The answer is that in Road Rash, the environment is fundamental to the combat. 

This is an element that modern action games lack, but that 2d action games are based on.  If you take a look at your average boss fight in a game like Megaman or Castlevania, positioning your character in the right place relative to the environment is a huge part of your success.   Being on the right platform can mean the difference between life and death. 

Compare this to modern action games such as God of War, Prince of Persia, Ninja Gaiden, or Zelda Twilight Princess.  The combat arena in those games is basically a giant cube.  Positioning your character is important relative to the locations of your enemies, but not relative to the physical environment itself.  You can use the same strategy on an enemy type over and over because the playspace never changes.  You're always fighting on a flat surface.

But in Road Rash, the environment is integral to the combat.  A typical tactic in Road Rash is to force your opponent to one side of the road and then kick his bike as you approach a telephone pole.  Kick him too late and the pole will pass by.  Kick him too early and he'll have time to avoid it.  Kick him just right and you'll have one less opponenant to worry about. But you can only rely on this tactic when there's a telephone pole in the road. 

The constant changes in the landscape require you to constantly modify your tactics.  A good player will take advantage of the buildings, cars, mailboxes, street fixtures, and the changes in the road itself as they present themselves.  And when they do the results are often spectacular.  This brings me to my next point.

3...Because the "Wow" moments happen naturally

Road Rash's spectacular moments all occur through the natural course of the game.  They aren't scripted setpiece moments like when a giant monster blows through a wall in Gears of War or when a helicopter gets shot down in Call of Duty.  They aren't quick-time events like when you decapitate an Ogre by pressing triangle, circle, triangle, square in God of War. 

All of Road Rash's incredible moments are the result of a physics engine combined with unpredictable AI, and an even less predictable player.  This gives the game a sense of life and infinite possibilities that make you feel like you're experiencing something new rather than just viewing the same identical moments as every other player.

There are few things that can compare with the cool factor of putting a tire iron in the spokes of an opponent's motorcycle.  In Road Rash 64 this would result the motorcycle and its rider flipping through the air, end over end, and then careening into the ground.  Hand to hand combat often ends when someone kicks his opponent's cycle into a parked car hurtling the rider into the air and toward a devasting bounce off the pavement.

It's true that racing games like Burnout and Motorstorm have these same types of dynamically-generated "wow" moments, but modern action games tend to rely on canned moments instead.  And, as I've said, Road Rash is more of an action game than a racing game. 

But why do we need a NEW Road Rash?

I'm generally not a fan of remaking a game for the sake of remaking it.  Some games have had their day and really don't need to be modernized (Golden Axe and Splatterhouse I'm looking at you two).  But Road Rash's gameplay hasn't been taken to its full potential, and so a modern update is needed.   

Road Rash for N64

Remember, the most recent Road Rash was on the N64 (pictured above), so there is a lot of room for improvement.  Obviously a new Road Rash would have better graphics, online play, and a  modern physics engine to make the "wow" moments even more spectacular.   I'd also like to see more racers on-screen and more obstacles on the roads (pedestrians maybe).

The melee combat system could also be upgraded to allow for advanced moves such as blocks, combos and counters. 

Gunplay would be a welcome addition.  The last Road Rash came out long before Halo popularized the use of the right analog stick for aiming.  There's no reason to think it couldn't have that function in a modern Road Rash.  Imagine tearing down the street on your hog, single-barreled shotgun in hand Arnold Swarzenneger-style!

I'm sure that's just scratching the surface of what a modern Road Rash could be.  If done right, a new Road Rash would give the videogaming world a shot in the arm.  So let's get moving.

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Luis Guimaraes
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I had thought some time ago that we need a Rock'n'Roll Race, even braistormed on the project, maybe make something the next year.

Jonathon Walsh
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I want to copy and paste this article replacing all the instances of Road Rash with Rock N' Roll racing.

Trent Polack
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GTA4: The Lost and Damned had a game mode that works kind of like Road Rash. It was rad.

Alistair Langfield
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I totally agree. Road Rash was one of my favourite games on the Megadrive. It's probably the only game still left from that gen that could be brought bang up to date, without any negative implications gameplay wise. I still mention Road Rash in discussions about racing games I want to see, because the action/racing element of that game simply hasn't been replicated in any other title.

Tyler Glaiel
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I had the sega genesis version, was a pretty fun game

Ian Fisch
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While I agree that Rock and Roll racing was a fun game, I think if you remade it, you'd just end up with another racing game with powerups. If you want that, then go play mario kart, wipeout, or the upcoming blur.

To me, the perspective in Rock and Roll racing was the most interesting part. I don't think that would survive a 3d update.

Luis Guimaraes
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Well... =)

Stephen Northcott
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I bought a 3DO just to play Road Rash. I remember being blown away by it in Akihabara when I saw it playing in a shop window. 5 minutes later I walked out of the shop with a system. Our entire dev team would come home from work (we were all in the same hotel at the time) and crank up Road Rash every damn evening!! Good times. :)

The closest anyone has got to Road Rash in modern times is Burnout Revenge IMO. This is for all the reasons outlined above. It's not really about racing, it's about timing your side swipes and psyche outs on the other cars, and it's so fast it's like pinball with cars... which is what Road Rash was, but with bikes.

Eddie Vertigo
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I played Road Rash on the 3DO, and to this day it's been one of my favorite console games I've ever played. I would love to see this game make a comeback!

Bo Banducci
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I freaking love the idea of a melee combat SYSTEM while riding your bike. Counters and blocks? Heck yeah! And what about hijacks? But you have to be careful, because a single punch to the throat will end your would-be commandeering and send you smashing to the pavement - board the enemy will they're engaged with another foe in brutal melee combat! Speaking of tactical maneuvers, how about teams?

Wait, how about we really make it next-gen? Road Rash as a Running of the Bulls? The game play is basically the same, but you're on foot, competing to stay alive in front of a sea of horns and hooves. Instead of knocking someone off their bike, you beat them up enough to make them trip, and then watch as their bones are crushed by the bulls. Every so often a rogue bull stampedes ahead, knocking people flat, but you can climb on it and run people down!

: D

Ian Fisch
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Thanks for the link. That Harley game does look cool, but without a combat system, it's just another racing game that happens to have motorcycles.

If you only played the sega genesis versions of Road Rash, then you never really played Road Rash. You've got to try the 3d0 or N64 versions if you can get your hands on them. As for Road Rash being a ChaseHQ/Outrun ripoff, I think you're missing the point. Those games were standard racing games. Neither had a combat system.

Ian Fisch
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Yes you did mention Wild Riders...which is another game WITHOUT a combat system. How do you not get this?

Armando Marini
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Nice article Ian. I completely agree. I've been trying to champion this for a long time. At some point, I hope, someone will listen.

Frank Inktomi
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RR Online. Yes please!

Jeff Smith
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I think one of the key things that made Road Rash so appealing was that it was all about the fantasy of being an outlaw biker. It wasn't a sim, it wasn't an adventure game, not really an action game, almost kind of a lifestyle game. A very rough, action oriented lifestyle, but still . . .

The riding physics were tuned to be close to what it feels like to ride, but not a physical simulation of riding. The game was tuned so that if you just concentrated on racing, no fighting, then you would win much more often. Fight too much and you almost always loose. Fight just enough for fun, race just enough to win. Or fight all the time just to see your opponents wreck. Almost no matter what you did it was fun.

Seems like a pretty simple recipe, but really quite a very fine balancing act. I'm sure it helped that many of us on the team had been hard core bikers long before working on the game. We knew what it was like to split traffic at rush hour, ride fast around the back roads of San Francisco, had many fantasies of doing just what we built the game to do . . . kick cars, pounds cops, run down old ladies. All in good fun, of course . . .

I hope someday EA will bring back the game, I'd love to play it again myself.

Oh yeah, I started on the development team (art director) on the 3DO version and continued through the PS2 versions.

DaNiel Wood
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I'd work on another Road Rash in a heartbeat, absolutely love the franchise. As Jeff mentioned, the tuning seems like a simple recipe but the reality was definately something different. We spent many, many hours developing that balancing act between racing/fighting. Then throw in course design to allow for opportunities of battle and/or catch-up if you got ditched, and it gets to be a lot of development work. The idea of smacking the mirror off that vehicle that tries to pinch you out when lane splitting certainly was appealing!


Jake Colbert
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Ummmm.... If I am not mistaken there was a Playstation version of this game. I believe it was called Road Rash: Jailbreak. This game was released in 1999 for Sony Playstation, and then again ported to Gameboy Advance in 2004. Though I do agree that there should be a even newer version (maybe for PS3 or XBox 360) probably would have some kick a$$ graphics.

John Woods
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I gotta tell ya dude that looks like a LOT of fun!


Keith Burgun
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"Remember, the most recent Road Rash was on the N64 (pictured above), so there is a lot of room for improvement. "

The fact that something is on the N64 (or any other console) doesn't mean to me that there is any room for improvement. This statement exhibits the writer's misconception that games "get better" when available technology improves, which is about as absurd as saying that music gets better when music recording technology improves.

Ian Fisch
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Interesting point. I guess it depends on what you're looking for in a new Road Rash.

Some people would say that Doom 2 and Duke Nukem 3d are the height of 1st person shooters. Others would say that improved technology allowed for games like Halo and Battlefield 3 to be possible. Same goes for NES soccer games and current FIFA iterations.

I guess it just depends on the individual.

Higogg Higogg
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How about Motor Raid by Sega back in 1997?

Gameplay video here:

jon shin
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fuck i came here to post that video but john-paul clifton beat me to the punch


Patrick Fitzgerald
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There was a Windows version released around 1997(?)

I probably even have it somewhere, if all the kids that handled left enough of a usable disk surface.

Ian Fisch
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Let's not forget, it's not all about the graphics. AI, physics, draw distance, number of objects possible on screen are all things that benefit from better technology. Try making GTA IV on nintendo 64. You couldn't do it, even if every object was flatshaded polygons and all the voice recording was turned into text.

Armando Marini
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Looking at the pre-vis, and reviewing the comments here. I'm not so sure that a strict translation or update is the proper approach. Similar to the "N64" comment, I believe there is a need for a greater degree of gameplay sophistication and market relevance for Road Rash.

I have the design in my head....EA execs, you know where to find me ;)

Ian Fisch
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I think you'll be excited very soon.