Whatever happened to a small spoon, and lots of digging?
You've got to admit there's just something cool about going over 100MPH on a motorcycle, whacking away at anything that moves (and some that don't), and finally slamming face first into the asphalt. That must be why there are so many sequels in the classic Road Rash series. From its humble beginnings on the Sega Genesis, to its eventual (but disappointing) migration to the Playstation, Road Rash has been one of the more popular series. Road Rash: Jailbreak still has some of that classic charm, and is a major improvement over its predecessor.
As with most of the Road Rash games, there isn't much of a plot. You're a rookie biker who has to climb, kick, and smash your way up the ranks of your gang (either the DeSades, or the Kaffe Boys). Races and challenges are thrown at you, eventually ending with an attempt to free you buddy Spaz from the slammer.
Road Rash 3D, the first RR game for the Playstation, was close to utter crap. Problems ranging from horrible framerate to a complete lack of multiplayer marred gameplay. Although bits of these flaws still lurk around, most have been dealt with and squashed in this most recent installment.
Let's start with the graphics. The actual picture quality has dropped slightly from RR3D to this game, but for a reason: They needed to up the framerate. The last game, although nicer looking, had framerate problems up the wazoo (whatever that is), which made it nearly unplayable. But RR: Jailbreak is very smooth, with little slowdown. As a consolation prize, they've added little extras in with the graphics, like some lens flares, and cool shadows. Also, there is hardly any popup in sight, and the roads seem to go on forever into the horizon. Pretty impressive for the Playstation.
The gameplay is separated into two parts: Racing and Fighting. Racing is very well done, especially if you have an analog controller. The controls are responsive to your every nudge, letting you worry more about the game than how to play it. Physics are also fairly realistic. If you turn too sharply, you slide and skid off the road. If you go too fast off the top of a hill, you fly. Simple, but effective.
The Fighting has also improved much since the last time. The problem last time was that it was too hard to get going at the same speed as your opponents. This is still sort of a problem, but there is a solution: Taunts. Yup, by yelling such colorful phrases as "Dirtball" and "Come on, be my Intern", you can get your opponents by your side ready for some rashing (Though you wouldn't get a rash so much as a concussion, but anyway…). Even if it doesn't work, and you pass a few opponents, you'll eventually find people who're just rarin' to fight.
There's one more part of the gameplay you should know about: The Crashing. Hit detection has improved quite a bit. In the last game, it was sort of random whether or not you crashed when you ran into solid objects. Now, if it looks like a tree and talks like a tree (don't ask), it'll certainly feel like a tree when you hit it. There are very few times when you'll fall down for apparently no reason. But sometimes, the detection is a little off, and it'll let you out of a collision with a car or other heavy object with just a warning.
For you people with friends (I envy you), there is now a multiplayer mode. In fact, there are several. Besides the basic drive-around-and-bash-each-other's-skulls-in mode, there's a cops and robbers mode, where it's a policeman vs. a rasher, and a few modes that involve a cooperative sidecar style game. Although the sidecar is a neat addition, it isn't really all that fun. Each player takes one side, crowbar in hand, while one player takes the handlebars. But steering is horrible due to the extra weight of the sidecar, so both people must pull the same direction at the same time to make any real kind of turn. This kind of cooperation can get frustrating, since it's hard for both of you to react at the same time.
Despite all of the good things, there are still several problems in the game. First off is the track boundary. Every bit of track has an invisible wall surrounding it. Since a lot of the latter half of the game deals with sliding off the track, you get very familiar with it. The worst part about it is the unpredictability. Sometimes when you hit it, you're thrown into the air. Other times, you just inexplicably stop against the invisible wall.. That kind of thing can get really annoying.
Another major problem is how the difficulty affects the game. In the first round, where everything is at a nice easy 100MPH, most of the problems are minuscule, if not nonexistent. But in the final round is like racing on an oil slick, you slide into cars and hit invisible walls much more than you'd care to. I just find it irritating that the game actually gets worse as it goes on.
As Road Rash games go, this is one of the better ones. It has fair graphics, nice gameplay, some interesting (but occasionally flawed) multiplayer games, and still has the same unadulterated sadistic fun of the series. But with all of that comes a number of unpredictable elements that can get aggravating. If you've never played any of these games, maybe you should look at the Genesis version first. Now get out of my way!