Written on: 01/03/2006 by TOMLEECEE (121 reviews written)
Very colourful hi-resolution graphics
Lots of longevity
Well designed tracks
Lots of alternative routes
Lots of customisation options
Stunt mode is fun
Frame rate suffers occasionally
Graphics are a bit 'angular'
You have to hand it to Midway - if anything they're resilient. By that I mean they'll stick to a franchise even if it looks like going under. Mortal Kombat lost its appeal years ago when better, more advanced fighting games appeared - but Midway still churn out new sequels. The same can be said of the Rush games. San Francisco Rush on the N64 was almost universally panned by the games media for its blurry graphics, uncontrollable vehicles and ear bleedingly bad music, but Midway stuck with it and brought us the far superior Rush 2. And now we have the third title in the series, Rush 2049 - a game so far removed in terms of quality from it's ancestor it's hard to see any resemblance between the two.
Yes, Rush 2049 is a triumph of top class visuals, well designed tracks and involving gameplay.
As an arcade racer at heart (it was ported to both the N64 and the Dreamcast), Rush 2049 is simple to pick up and play but difficult to master. It's a pretty straight-forward game; you get the option to race either in a circuit (championship), take part in a practice mode or a single race against A.I. opponents or attempt to score big points in the stunt mode.
The Championship is pretty self explanatory by its name - choose a car and race in a series that increases the number of rounds and skill of your opponents depending on the difficulty. As is the norm, the harder difficulties are locked until you complete the level prior to them. The thing about Rush's Championship though, is that you get a real sense of rivalry between two or three of the drivers who are always on the podium, battling for the top spot, so it actually becomes quite personal when an AI driver rams into a post before the finish line to leave you languishing in 5th place. Also, by winning races you can unlock various new parts to equip your vehicle with; such as better engines, new tires, lighter frames and the like.
Single race is also self explanatory, but the practice mode is quite interesting because it allows you to freely roam the unlocked tracks (all of which are located in San Francisco in the year 2049, funnily enough) searching not only for short cuts that will help you in the Championship mode, but also for hidden Silver and Gold coins dotted about the track. Finding these coins unlocks new bonuses within the game, and there are several hidden on each track - but be warned, they are very well hidden, and some require feats of unbelievable handling in order to drive your car into them.
This coin collecting adds to the longevity of the game and is tied in to another cool feature of the Rush series in general - the customisation of the races. Car customisation is pretty basic (tyres, colours, wheel rims etc.), but the tracks can be customised extensively through the choice of backward, mirrored (or both combined) versions and also the level of fog or wind. By changing these variables, a track you know like the back of your hand can become totally alien and present a whole host of new short cuts, jumps and speed boosts.
For added fun factor, the cars are also equipped with fold out wings that enable you to correct the trajectory of a car as it flies through the air after a particularly huge jump. These wings can also help you to rack up impressive scores in the Stunt mode, as you can cause the vehicles to pirouette and somersault through the air with the grace of a WWF wrestler. You need to be careful though, as misjudging a landing will only have one result - destroying your car and losing the accumulated points.
There are a few poor aspects to this title though. While the graphics are very good and the tracks feature some huge structures, it all looks a big angular, like a 1998 PC game, and there are very few Dreamcast specific graphical touches - in fact, this version is almost identical to the N64 Expansion Pak enhanced version. Not a bad thing, but you'd expect more from a 128 bit console. The sound too, is as bad as in the other Rush games, so you'll find yourself turning it down (like some of the other games I've reviewed recently). When it comes to car handling, the unpredictable nature of it suits the game down to the ground, but it can get annoying due to the moon like gravity where you seem to be forever bouncing around or doing cartwheels leading to an inevitable explosion. Also, the frame rate seems to drop ever so slightly whenever you need to turn, and while it doesn't affect the game greatly, it just feels a little sloppy.
However, Rush 2049 is still one of the best arcade style racing games available and has lots to offer anyone willing to invest the time. I believe there is a new Rush game out on the Xbox at the moment. I'll certainly be investigating it after playing Rush 2049.
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