Gimp my ride.
Dreamcast owners and arcade fanatics know the number of the racing beast: 2049. Specifically, San Francisco Rush 2049, the unlikely monster from Midway that blew our socks off with absolutely insane arcade racing, wild stunting and some of the best track designs of the times. We were big fans of that game at GR, so when we caught wind of it heading to So Cal, our excitement level ran high.
Regrettably, the new Rush has absolutely nothing to do with the old, eschewing the elegant design of the original in favor of big pimpin' and little else.
L.A. Rush takes place in present day Los Angeles and chronicles the adventures of a street racing champ named Trikz. In the game's terrible story, a big money man named Liddell (voiced by Bill Bellamy) inexplicably tricks Trikz out of all he owns, leaving him only a hoopty in which to roam the streets. Your job is to take that hoopty, earn some cash and get your stuff back with a side of revenge. That boils down to winning races by zooming through the streets of L.A. at preposterous speeds. We liked it better when it was just you and your hoopty.
At any rate, the Story mode drops you square in the middle of Los Angeles and sets you up with various race events pinpointed on a map – a really, really big map. One of the features Rush has going for it is its decent scale model of L.A., including areas like Hollywood, Santa Monica, Downtown, South Central and the South Bay. Each section has its own flavor with a few recognizable landmarks. Then again, awesome scale models of Los Angeles aren't exactly novelties.
And just like that other game with a great scale model of L.A., you initiate races simply by driving out to one of the markers on the map. Your first is free, but subsequent races have entry fees attached to them. This wouldn't be so bad if maintaining your ride were cheaper, but you'll be forced to farm easy races just to keep your car running. And even when you aren't pooling money, the game's general race design is extremely boring. This ride runs out of gas, fast.
Splitting up the monotony are Acquire events, where Trikz tries to retrieve one of his many stolen vehicles from Liddell. All he needs to do is get the car or truck back home in one piece and pay for the damage done in the process. It sounds simple, but taking on a horde of angry SUVs is hardly a snap. Beyond that are hidden Stunt challenges as well as occasional high-stakes Special events. Still, these unexpected turns are way too rare, and the rest of the game is straight-up dull.
When it comes to rides, L.A. Rush offers a variety of both cars and trucks. Then again, in the beginning you're literally limited to a hoopty. It takes a long time to acquire any semblance of vehicle choice, since you are limited to whatever rides you steal back from the Acquire events. Each one you pick up tends to be better than the last, so even if you find a vehicle you really like, you'll need to ditch it sooner rather than later in order to stay competitive.
Most racing games deal with this by letting you spend money to trick out the rides you like, but the cars in L.A. Rush can only be "upgraded" once for a flat rate. That's pretty strange considering West Coast Customs of MTV's "Pimp my Ride" fame is featured prominently in the game, and the main protagonist is named "Trickz." Guess he just really likes Halloween.
Once you brow weary of the single-player, you can race against friends in Multiplayer mode, although L.A. Rush is hardly built for intense competition. Since the game is so bad and pointless, its lack of online playability isn't really a fault; it just keeps a little fuel from this tire fire.
At least LA Rush has some spectacular crashes. These are a lot like the ones found in EA's Burnout series, only the point in Rush in NOT to crash. It's not like you'd ever know that, though, because crashing has almost zero consequence (you respawn immediately). No matter how badly you drive, as long as you keep moving in the general direction of the checkpoint, you still have a chance to place well.
This is harder than it sounds thanks to the possessed GPS arrow. Rather than being helpful and pointing you in the right direction, it tends to freak out at almost every intersection; sometimes it points backward and sometimes it spins in a circle. We half expected it to levitate and spit up green stuff. The power of Christ compels you not to deal with this.
While we wouldn't call L.A. Rush's looks devilish, they aren't ugly as sin, either. The city looks decent and there's no loading as you travel from district to district. The cars (when they're in one piece) have an overactive shine, but that's normal for a racer. The damage modeling looks good, even if it has no effect on the way your car handles.
The soundtrack is full of throwaway hip-hop, rock and techno tunes (surprise!) and the voice acting is bland. Especially amusing is the cop voice that you hear over and over telling you to pull over before someone gets hurt. His disinterested tone seems tailored more for ordering a snack at a Krispy Kreme drive-thru than ordering you to pull over. We know how he feels.
And by now, you know how we feel. L.A. Rush tries to keep up with the street racing scene, but it's all show and no go. Repeating races over and over isn't exactly a draw and the lack of customization is unforgivable. Don't brake for this game.