Nineteen Ninety-One was an epic year for video games. The Super Nintendo made its debut, along with some of the greatest games of all time: Final Fantasy II, Super Mario World, and F-Zero, to name a few. Perhaps Sega's best offering of the year for the Genesis was Sonic the Hedgehog, but during this time, another franchise was born that took gamers by storm. Road Rash. At the time, realistic violent video games had only just started to blossom and it would be a couple years before we had Mortal Kombat in the home. Electronic Arts' Road Rash had just what the world needed: sport bikes, speed, and best of all, a shit-ton of 'illegal' violence. Even the name kicked ass, and you knew when you purchased that cartridge that you were in for a whole lot of hell if your parents found it in your room. The Appeal Road Rash offered a new type of gaming dynamic. It's true there were many racers before it including motorcycle racers, but this one stood in a league of its own. You began with a basic crotch rocket that was rather tame. In a field of fifteen bikers, you started in dead last, and had to push and beat your way to the front of the pack, all while evading their counter-attacks and traffic. Your opponents had names and seemed to develop personalities from their primitive AI. There was Biff, Lester, and of course Gunther. A couple jabs to the face or kicks to these opponents and they'd spill all over the pavement and slide hundreds of feet in your rear-view mirror while you chuckled with glee. Occasionally the opponents had weapons such as crowbars and bats that they would use to beat you, and if you timed it right, you could steal these weapons to help you further dominate the field of other bikers. There were plenty of roadside obstacles to slow you down, including signs, trees, and animals. Rocks turned into sweet jumps. Crashing was part of the game, and after a wreck you'd have to run back to recover your bike. Sometimes you'd get hit by other bikers or traffic on the way, further slowing you down. The original Road Rash Then of course, there were the police and you can't blame them for trying. O'Leary was a pushover and Flynn wasn't bad. but when you ran into O'Shea you knew you had a fight on your hands. They wanted you in jail or dead, and would fight you just like the other bikers. If you lost a fight to a cop, you'd either be fined or busted. As you won races and moved up in this biker underground, you had access to faster bikes and rougher terrain. The stage was set for a great series of games and the future of Road Rash was exciting, to say the least. Evolution Over the next six years, there were a number of other Road Rash titles released. Road Rash II and III (Road Rash 3: Tour de Force) were on Sega Genesis, but the original was ported to every system under the sun, except the SNES. Even Atari and Commodore users got to jump in on the action. Road Rash II on Genesis. During this part of the series' evolution, only minor changes were introduced. The graphics were very similar and the game play was relatively unchanged. New track elements were added, including more buildings and road debris. The most notable change was the addition of a 2-player mode. Road Rash III offered more weapons and the ability to customize your bike. Users could upgrade individual components for performance as they saved for the next level of sport bike. While Ron Hubbard's (Rob Hubbard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) music stood in Road Rash 1 and 2, when the game made its transition to CD, a new type of soundtrack was born. The 3DO version in 1994 gave Road Rash a killer facelift with Soundgarden and other mainstream bands. New CG graphics were added, giving the game a lot more attitude and personality. The 3DO version was well-received, perhaps because the 3DO was hurting for titles in the first place. When a player unlocked new levels, they were treated to videos like this. Sex and drinking! Road Rash had the right idea! Later, this version was ported to the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation in 1996, but all along, the gameplay was very similar to its roots, as a track-based racer with minimal physics. The same videos were used for the 3DO version and most of the same art. While the graphics had been polished, the game just was not “next-generation enough” or fresh enough to stand out. (IGN scored the game a 5.0 out of 10 source) De-Evolution Road Rash's popularity was apparently diminishing and it was not exactly the hot-topic of playgrounds anymore. Titles like Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, and Twisted Metal completely transformed the role that casual violence played in the video game industry. The physics and graphics of Gran Turismo had redefined what was thought possible of racing games. Clearly, a major change was needed. Then in 1998, Road Rash 3D was released for the Sony Playstation console. This version had some interesting new dynamics including a large interconnected highway system like that found in the recent Test Drive Unlimited. The world was free for your conquering and one of the best aspects of this game was that you could explore a good part of the world. More videos were added and great CG. Also, the graphics were given a major upgrade and finally looked decent again on the surface. The videos and intros made this version in particular feel very tapped into the biker culture, more-so than its predecessors. Gameplay in Road Rash 3D The AI was much improved and bikers could even team up as gangs against you. Riding off the track became fun and interesting for once, and even the soundtrack was above average. To keep the frame rate consistent, EA abandoned the split-screen two-player mode and made the game single player only. The controls were average. There were many gripes about this anticipated game from the remaining fanbase, and it consequently was received rather poorly by the press (once again IGN gave it a 5.0 http://psx.ign.com/articles/152/152284p1.html). A version was released for Nintendo 64, but had its own flaws. What happened to Road Rash? Road Rash: Jailbreak was released on the Playstation in 1999 and the Game Boy Advance in 2004. I had completely forgot about this version until I began writing and researching this article. Apparently it's not that bad (IGN gave it a 7.0 IGN source with the quote “Road Rash's soul is dead”). The title brought back 2-player mode and some new elements that sound interesting, but it's not enough to save the series. Road Rash disappeared from a competitive market because its niche was not deep enough. While the “riding a bike and beating the shit out of people” theme should be studied by all game developers as a sound starting point, perhaps it can only evolve so much before it's the same old thing. The biggest mistakes in Road Rash's development were abandoning multiplayer instead of evolving it (imagine a four-player or even 16-player online Road Rash, for example), primitive graphics and physics, poor frame rates, and lack of evolution throughout a long period. Few games that were hits 15 years ago are even memorable today and even less still have a strong following. Maybe Road Rash simply cannot be revived and any attempt is just beating a dead horse. A New Hope Before you say a prayer about the pass of a giant icon of gaming culture, a quick Google search can find some positive hope. A short blurb at Firing Squad (New Road Rash Announced) mentions the November '06 conference call at EA stated a revival of Road Rash was in the works. Could we see a next-generation version of Road Rash, complete with online multiplayer carnage? Maybe a completely new graphics system and a decent physics engine for once? Or the ability to smash a fellow biker across the jaw with your Wii baton? Xbox magazine (August '06) hinted that Road Rash may return to Xbox 360 and is being developed by EA Studios, UK. Maybe it's all fluff, and EA was simply talking about the release of EA Replay, a compilation of classics including Road Rash that was released around that time. Most of the original Road Rash team has disappeared from the face of the Earth (probably not deceased, just public Internet information), unless they have been working on the new version for the last eight years in secrecy. Does this indicate the end of an era? “There is a new Road Rash game.” That's the last we heard in November of 2006. I believe the world still has much love for racing bikes and beating cops with crowbars. EA, please don't let us down now. Update: Surfer Girl says "That next-gen Road Rash EA UK was working on was canceled awhile ago". http://digg.com/playstation/WTF_Happened_to_Road_Rash Update: 10/9/2009 Early next Road Rash spotted on Youtube? RIP.