Revisiting Road Rash on 3DO - one of the system's greatest games
Played using the best RGB mod for the console.
Isn't it about time we had a reboot of Electronic Arts' Road Rash franchise? Combining traditional racing with bike-to-bike violence, Road Rash was one of EA's most exciting titles back in the early 90s, making a fantastic debug on Sega Mega Drive before making the transition onto what were then the next generation consoles. However, before the series hit the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, we got our first taste of how the series would evolve into an actual three-dimensional experience - in July 1994, Road Rash arrived on 3DO.
One of the first 'next-gen' consoles with 3D capabilities delivering games via optical disc, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer is something of a curiosity. Similar to the MSX of yore, the 3DO Company put together what you might call a reference design that was available for licensing, with manufacturing heavyweights such as Panasonic, LG (then known as Goldstar) and Sanyo each delivering their own take on the hardware across the system's relatively short lifespan.
Out of the box, the 3DO's best video output was a 480i interlaced video signal delivered via S-Video - which is something of a problem in terms of image quality as the internal framebuffer was actually a more traditional 320x240, or 240p. That's where Black Dog Technology's 3DORGB mod comes into play. Piggy-backing onto the GPU, the 3DORGB bypasses the system's internal interpolation and brings the best quality progressive scan output to the fore.
Years on, it's great for retro enthusiasts to be able to tap into the best quality output the system is capable of and revisiting Road Rash in this way is quite an entertaining experience. It's interesting to see the direction EA took with this particular 'next-gen' hardware, concentrating on an actual 3D experience, backed up by extensive use of full-motion video sequences - along with some rather bizarre bitmap artwork. Aspects of the 3DO version such as the FMV would be ported across to Mega CD, in what was otherwise a game routed very much in the series' 16-bit origins.
Road Rash 3DO attracted a lot of praise at launch and while it was one of the best games on the system, it's fair to say that it isn't exactly a silky-smooth performer - it would be down to the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn ports to boost frame-rate when they eventually appeared two years later in 1996. Curiously, aside from differences including polygon-warping and colour-space dithering, it was the same game - EA evidently believing that the core formula established by 3DO hit the mark. However, there's no doubt that the game was looking rather dated at a time when the PlayStation and Saturn were beginning to find their stride. Enthusiasm in the series took a hit, and the release of 2000's forgettable Road Rash: Jailbreak was effectively the end of the series.
Will Road Rash return? Despite the series' relatively short lifespan, the nostalgic appeal of the game remains strong - but the market's ability to sustain out and out arcade racers is somewhat in question after the excellent OnRush crashed and burned, while the chances of a new Ridge Racer to kick off the next console generation look more remote than ever. Perhaps the future is indie? Successfully recapturing the spirit of Road Rash in a modern game remains elusive - even though a revival of sorts was attempted. Surely it can be done though! After all, Three Fields Entertainment's excellent Dangerous Driving recaptures the spirit of Burnout, while other efforts to return classic arcade racing to today's systems look promising...
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