Don't RUSH 2 the store just yet...
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Trying to cash in on its popular San Francisco Rush arcade hit, Midway has released Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA. If you remember, the original SF Rush for the N64 wasn't all that bad, but it wasn't great either for a first-generation racer. Rush 2 stinks up the joint pretty bad. It's basically the same thing as SF Rush with a few tweaks here and there. Same type of gameplay, same boring graphics.
You'll also recognize influences from all of Midway's previous racers. The tracks are reminiscent of the Cruis'n series with all the major landmarks that are unique to the city (on the LA track, the fog is a sick brown color and in Vegas the pirate ship cannon booms every time you pass the Treasure Island hotel). Some shortcuts run through some very bizarre environments like in California Speed.
Okay, good news first. There are seven new tracks based on major metropolis' in the US (LA, New York, and Vegas, to name a few) plus the old Alcatraz track from SF Rush. Midway has also added a stunt track where you launch your car off ramps and score points for things such as air time and number of rolls. There's also a Crash track that loops around itself several times in figure-8's for some good old Hot Wheels style smash 'em ups. Also included is a full Half-Pipe track which is briefly reminiscent of the Track 3 canyon shortcut. Don't get too excited; they're not as fun as they may sound.
All 16 cars are fully customizable now, which is killer. Cosmetic changes include two-tone paint jobs, several different colors and sizes of racing stripes as well as a wide selection of stylish rims to deck out your ride. Other tweaks center mostly around handling with different suspension and tire setups. However, I was disappointed to learn that putting different engines in the car only affects the engine sounds and not performance. What's up with that?
Midway got rid of the car classes in this version (Beginner, Extreme, etc.) since each car can be customized. What sucks is that now all the cars can be made to handle pretty much the same way with very subtle differences. I kind of liked showing off in the Extreme car in SF Rush...
The Championship Circuit covers over 20 tracks! You are required to drive each track forward, backward, and mirrored. This is a real exercise in patience and probably the Mother of All Championship Circuits. The only thing they left out was driving every damn track upside-down but then again, that may be in Rush 3: Extreme Anti-Gravity Racing.
Other than that, the only aspects of this game left to mention are the annoying ones. As you're playing Rush 2, it at times feels like you're in one huge commercial, thanks to all of Midway's shameless, flagrant plugs scattered throughout the game. If you thought all the plugs in Namco and Sega's arcade games were bad, you won't believe this. Billboards pop up (uh...that's a good pun) all over the place bombarding you with images of all their new games. You might also notice ads for a certain other video game review magazine. This is just reprehensible, like seeing an ad for Siskel and Ebert in a movie. Yeah, I'm sure their review of Rush 2 won't be biased...
The worst part is the deal they made with a major soft-drink label. Scattered throughout each track are four soda cans in hard-to-reach places that you're supposed to collect presumably to unlock some secret. There are also 12 keys (yup, count 'em...12!) to collect on each track which will allow you access to a secret car. Yeah, like I'm gonna spend hours looking in every unintuitive place on the track for some obscure item just so I can drive some reject car from Cruis'n World.
The graphics in this game look terribly dated and just plain terrible. The whole game lacks texture (tracks, cars, backgrounds), which makes it look like racing games I used to play on my 386 four years ago. Trees are still those heinous 2D cardboard cutouts and there's still plenty of fog (or smog if you're driving the LA track).
Music sounds as if it was lifted out of a porno flick, which gives you an idea of how bad it is. Forgettable and annoying tunes, and weak instrument samples all point to one thing: BGM: OFF.
The multiplayer tag match is still in this version, which is still pretty cool. Regular one-on-one racing can get pretty cutthroat as players try to run each other into walls, off the track, or make them spin out. Multiplayer plays a lot better than solo play, but neither of you will play for very long thanks to the bad graphics.
Weak racers for the N64 abound so just stick this one on top of the pile and wait for something that looks like it took more than a day to pump out.