If you owned a Sega Megadrive circa 1991 then you’ll possibly remember Road Rash, EA’s surprisingly violent motorcycle racing game; races weren’t won through following racing lines and shaving tenths-of-a-second of your lap times – they were won by smashing your rivals’ heads in with a lead pipe.
A beat-em-up on motorbikes is a simple but effective concept – so effective, in fact, that it’s a mystery why EA aren’t on their fiftieth sequel already. Strangely, Road Rash hasn’t seen the light of day in nearly a decade – the series concluded with the dismal RR: Jailbreak for the Playstation and Gameboy back in 1999 and hasn’t been allowed out of the garage since.
The series may have ended on a low note, but the three Megadrive originals were (and are) classics. They’ve aged, obviously – the shuffling sprites don’t convey the same sense of atmosphere and speed as they once did, and hitting someone with a cattle prod no longer seems quite so wince-inducing – but look deeper and there’s still the core of a solid game in there beneath the blocky pixels, and successfully dismounting a rival cyclist (or better yet, forcing him into the path of an oncoming car) still raises a gleeful snigger.
All Road Rash needs is a lick of 21st century hi-def paint and it’ll be as good as new; with the right developer’s touch, the high-speed fist fights, blunt instruments and dangerous roadside furniture will all seem as fresh as they did in the nineties. The addition of online play would also be a particularly exciting prospect, as would some of the other features we all enjoy in modern racers – plenty of varied courses and bike customisation, for example.
Just how good could a Road Rash remake be? Look no further than EA’s own Burnout franchise. The game’s engine already exists – just add motorcycles and a few melee weapons and you’re halfway there. Interestingly, Criterion (Burnout Paradise‘s development team) has given a few tantalising hints that a Road Rash reboot may actually be on the cards. In an interview with IGN.com in February, Criterion’s Craig Sullivan had this response when asked about the possibility of a new Road Rash:
‘As I said earlier, we’re working on new stuff that I can’t go into right now. When we’re ready to spill the beans you’ll be the first to know. But we’ve always been huge RR fans – we even put the Soundgarden track ‘Rusty Cage’ into Burnout Paradise as a subtle homage to the definitive 3DO version of the game. It was an amazing game and was very ahead of its time.’
It’s little more than a hint, but it’s certainly an encouraging one – there could be programmers in Guildford secretly working on a new Road Rash even as I type this. Let’s hope so.
Bring on the cattle prods.