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San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing

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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

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