San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing
Reviewed by Scott McCall
Considering I've never had the opportunity to experience San
Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing in the arcades, I didn't know
what to expect from the home version. Fortunately, the port
of San Francisco Rush went above and beyond the call of duty.
Rather than give gamers the measly three tracks of the
original arcade version, Midway and Atari Games gave us all
of the tracks from the update, too. (Yes, even that seventh
track is hidden in there...somewhere.) All in all, San Francisco
Rush is the total package when it comes to N64 racing games.
Amongst the likes of other pure racing titles -- Multi-Racing
Championship, Top Gear Rally, F1 Pole Position 64, and
Automobili Lamborghini -- on the system, San Francisco
Rush easily comes out being the best in its genre on the
Nintendo 64. (See each of those individual reviews to learn
about how they are flawed.) The game design, fun factor,
challenge, speed, two-player mode, and overall enjoyment of
San Francisco Rush are leaps and bounds beyond its competitors.
Ironically, San Francisco Rush is more realistic than its
competitors when it comes to certain aspects. Two of the
coolest things about San Francisco Rush are that vehicles
are visibly damaged and that there are some really, really
cool wrecks. Just the fact that wrecks are included automatically
increases the game's overall score. Why don't more racing
games have wrecks?
Beyond those extremely cool yet diminutive elements is just
much better game design than other racing titles on the N64.
First and foremost, San Francisco Rush has a great two-player
mode. You and a friend can race against four other computer
opponents for a total of six racers on the track at once. Second,
San Francisco Rush, unlike other racing games that rely too
much on eye-candy, is fast -- even in the two-player mode.
From the first race you never say to yourself, "Gee, I wish this
game would move quicker." Third, San Francisco Rush is very
challenging -- maybe too hard. Even playing the game on the
Very Easy difficulty setting can be a challenge. Now imagine
playing the game on Very Hard. Fourth, the game is forgiving
when it comes to accidents. After taking so much abuse, cars
in San Francisco Rush blow up. Depending on the severity of
the blow(s) and the car being used, your car can take lots of
abuse or it can blow up with one hit. But the nice thing is that
a) You can blow up an unlimited number of times and
b) The game puts you on the track farther ahead than when
you were when you blew up so as to not loose too much ground.
Fifth, San Francisco Rush has a great shortcut system. There
are tons of them, with some being easy to find and some being
hard to find. Also, the more risky the shortcut, the more
rewarding result you'll get.
The game also has a great gimmick in the fact that tracks can
be raced normally, mirrored, backwards, or backwards and
mirrored. Because you're speeding through the streets of San
Francisco, racing on a track backwards or mirrored or both
is almost like an entirely new level. As a matter of fact, it
probably wouldn't work as well in other racing games because
San Francisco Rush's game design permits this. This also
bodes well for the Championship Mode because you end up
racing on 24 levels, accumulating points depending on what
place you finish along the way. Additionally, the order of the
levels is completely random. Now throw in variable fog and
wind conditions and San Francisco Rush becomes a fresh experience
every time you play, which makes for some great two-player action.
Yes, even the control in San Francisco Rush is solid. Unlike Top
Gear Rally and Automobili Lamborghini, I had no problems with
the control from the beginning. I personally rather be challenged
by the tracks and by my opponents than have to worry about
control. I'd also like to point out that San Francisco Rush is the
first home racing game in which I actually use a manual
transmission. I quickly learned that shifting myself was a must
with all of the sharp turns in the game.
Graphically, San Francisco Rush is once again extremely solid.
The graphics aren't all that impressive because the cars lack
texture mapping, the levels all have a similar look to each other,
etc. But you know what? I'm sure not complaining. A lot of those
nifty graphic effects were left out to keep the game running fast
and to make sure there was a good two-player mode. The designers
absolutely need to be commended for that. Too many games
nowadays are more flash than substance. Fortunately, the
designers have also eliminated the three dreaded problems
associated with next generation games: clipping, pop-up and fog
(to hide the pop-up). Believe it or not, any fog you see in the
game is the result of game design rather than technical issues.
Some have commented that San Francisco Rush has some of
the worst music they ever heard in a video game. I beg to differ.
The music is definitely on the odd side and can range from decent
to annoying, but there's a lot worse to be found out there. The
sound effects, on the other hand, are not much to write home about.
San Francisco Rush is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable racing
games available on a next generation system. In a time when
developers are focusing too much on eye-candy and realism,
San Francisco Rush takes the middle road and ends up giving the
best of all worlds. Its balance of speed, challenge, two-player action,
length, replay value, computer intelligence, and game design is
unmatched among pure racing games (i.e., those without weapons)
on the Nintendo 64.
Graphics: 3.8 out of 5
Sound: 3.5 out of 5
Control: 4.0 out of 5
Gameplay: 4.5 out of 5
Lastability: 4.4 out of 5
Overall: 4.3 out of 5