Release Date: October 11, 2005
It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to see why L.A. Rush is what it is; we all knew it was coming as soon as the promotional art started making the rounds. San Francisco Rush has been buried, and no, this is not the resurrection. Remember Rush 2049, which had decidedly less suck than anybody expected? Some people would even go as far as to say that it was an underappreciated classic … that one's been thrown aside, too. Though not as big a loss as the upcoming Final Fight transformation, Rush is now a street game, and, like most of the genre, is a shocking wreck of a game, more Driver 3 than San Andreas, though without much cappin' in bee-hinds.
Reinventions are just in the air, it seems. Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks wasn't perfect, but it was still the most important MK game in years. Then again, N.A.R.C. for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox was the stuff nightmares are made of. L.A. Rush is a continuation in that direction.
The experience isn't 100% thuggin', though. The game is laid out like a poor man's Need For Speed: Underground and has lots of cars and custom options like Midnight Club. The story follows ace street racer Trikz Lane after he ruffles the feathers of the wrong gangster and is stripped of his every important possession. Trikz is out to reconstruct his life in the only way he knows how: race to get all of his cars back and steal the Big Man's lady-friend. Ouch.
It's the sort of premise big-budget embarrassments are made of (I don't even need to drop the Vin Diesel references that I'm tempted to right now…), and although video games afford more narrative leisure than other genres – ever play Metal Gear Solid? – it still comes off as loose and silly.
The premise does lend itself to some tense situations. Racing to get an old beauty back is tough when you've got to work your best to keep from wrecking your car! Races often have narrative reason, like Retribution, and thankfully have the random nature of something like a Trick Race. In the open streetscape of L.A., there is a lot going on after-hours, it seems.
A lot… but not a whole lot at the same time. Yes, modes aplenty line the L.A. Rush package, but that doesn't mean much if the basic handling of the cars is loose and improper.
Previous Rush games had great arcade-style gameplay. The handling never touched the best of the Sega classics – Daytona et al. – but it was still slightly heavy to the touch, smooth, and quality, if not realistic. L.A. Rush sports none of these qualifications. (Perhaps simple-but-solid car control is among the many sad casualties of the loss of the arcade industry.) Only the best cars have any real weight to their handling and are still overpowered by the massive amount of obstacles in L.A. Rush, namely regular old traffic. The easiest way to overcome this is to collect as many nitros as possible and pull a victory right at the end, as this is one of those antiquated games that works the A.I. based on very simple algorithms. Challenge? No dice. Annoying moments where you run into traffic? Lots, but you'll recover just fine.
And, as with every game since Grand Theft Auto III, the cops can nab you, but it has barely any effect on the gameplay. Quick fine paid, and that's the end of the story. You'd think this would have been done right by now. Ramming into a road post, rendering the car into a shattered mess (in unskippable sloooooow motion, every single time) is much more dangerous than anything the guys in blue can throw at you.
The game's least offensive feature is the graphical engine, which still throws in a healthy dose of slowdown (even during cut scenes) and pop-in throughout. Nothing is specifically ugly, but it all lacks any visual flare at all, something the Rush games are known for. This is another drop in the bucket of hip, thuggin' nobody games. At least Grand Theft Auto has some incredible style to it; the imitators have nothing going on at all. Even Driv3r managed to look much worse than its predecessors despite a technically better engine. What gives?
The Xbox version supposedly fixes most of the visual quirks, but I have not played it and cannot say this for sure. If you need to get this game as a gift for a misguided gamer, at least do them the favor of skipping the PS2 version.
One of the worst MTV trendy soundtracks is here, along with some of the most laughable hip-azz guyz talk you've heard this side of Pimp My Ride. Above it all is an irritating yokel who needs to hop back into Smash TV and leave a game like this alone; then again, maybe he's more of what this game needs. "2 kewl 4 u" voice acting gets very old after a while.
There you have it. The worst Rush game yet, although I have trouble even calling it a Rush game. While the series was never what I would call AAA, it had some wonderful moments culminating in the Dreamcast version of 2049, and it's sad to see it running in the direction of the generic. Ah, well – perhaps we'll be able to relive the old games on Xbox Live Arcade or a similar service.
As for now, we will have to settle for the games of old, or, better yet, turn to neglected modern greats like Outrun 2 and give them the attention they deserve.
To keep the record clear: it's not change that I'm against. It's change for the worse that disappoints me so much about this game.
More articles about L.A. Rush