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Rushdown (PSX) Review

Background Info

"Extreme" sports have made for popular video games. The high-speed makes for good arcade action, plus dangerous sports are a lot more fun when you don't actually risk breaking any of your own bones. However, this genre has never been big for Electronic Arts, which dominates most sports genres. Interestingly, despite being a "sports" game, Rushdown, a game that lets you compete in snowboarding, kayaking, and mountain biking, doesn't fall under the EA Sports label. This should be your first warning sign...

Presentation/Graphics : 40
Rushdown's graphics are decent at best. Some of the landscapes and backgrounds are well done, showing a deep valley or forest in the distance just beyond the action. But the focus of the graphics and animation - the snowboarders, kayakers, and bikers - are unimpressive. The on-screen action is smooth, but it doesn't convince you that you're seeing realistic movements. The instant replay of the race that plays after an event only highlights the graphical limitations of the game. The action is fast and frantic, but the visual impact of the game is weak.

Rushdown suffers from "pop-up" effects that plagued many first-generation PSX titles, as trees, hills, and obstacles materialize in the distance as you approach rather than instantly as they come into your field of view. Another graphical malady in Rushdown is terrible collision detection. Your snowboarder/biker/kayaker often overlaps with other graphical elements. They sometimes pass right through solid objects. The characters themselves, dressed in trendy sports gear, are poorly animated. Their movements seem stiff, unnatural, and repetitive. The "wipeout" effects are very limited. Once you've seen your snowboarder crash into a cliff, your kayaker capsize after hitting a rock, or your biker smash into a tree, you've pretty much seen it all. There only appears to be limited "wipeout" animations for each sport. And sadly, these wipeout effects aren't even done well. The few animations of crashes look phony and unnatural. It's hard to believe that his game comes from the same company that produces the remarkably life-like player models for Madden, NBA Live, NHL and Triple Play series.

If this game had come out for my old Super Nintendo system, I would have been impressed, but on the PlayStation, it looks very dated.

Presentation/Audio : 60
Rushdown's audio is as vanilla as the graphics and gameplay. You get the whoosh of sliding through snow, the splashing water of a river, and sound of a bike's wheels grinding through the dirt, with some trendy music in the background, and little else. It's not particularly bad, nor is it particularly good. It's just there.

Interface/Options : 50
Rushdown is easy to navigate around in and control. The game does support the dual analog controller well, allowing you to finesse some moves. The biggest oversight, it seems, is that the game uses the same controls for each sport. While this makes gameplay simple, it also has the unintended effect of making three very different sports feel like the same thing. The only difference between the controls for each sport is that the X-button (for up on the analog stick) is "tuck" (snowboarding), paddle, or pedal, depending on the event.

It just seems like EA didn't want to use any creativity with the controls of Rushdown to make it more unique. For example, the Kayaking game is about paddling, so why not make the player "paddle," (left-right, left-right) with the dual analog sticks or the shoulder buttons? This would demand players use different skills with the different parts of the game.

Gameplay : 50
Perhaps the biggest problem with Rushdown is the bland gameplay. Unlike many other extreme sports titles, you have limited control over your "athletes." It's basically, faster, slower, left or right, with an occasional jump here and there. And all three games feel almost identical. The speed and pace are the same. As a result, mountain-biking, kayaking, and snowboarding blend into the same thing - each one is a downhill race where you swerve left and right to avoid obstacles and walls. Yawn. If you play one of the three parts of Rushdown, you've basically played the other two. The result: three weak games that would never stand on their own.

For an extreme sports title, Rushdown feels short on energy and life. Despite the up-tempo music that plays when you surf, paddle, or pedal, the game just feels uninspired.

Difficulty : 70
I'll give the game this: it's not easy. While the controls are pretty straightforward, it's hard to navigate any of the courses at a fast speed without crashing several times. If you win a race, you do feel like you earned it. The problem is that many players might be patient with the difficulty if they were rewarded with great animations or unique effects for the countless inevitable crashes or wipeouts, but they aren't. The game is a challenge, but it isn't fun enough to keep many players interested long enough to bother learning how to be good.

The game does give you several gameplay options. You can go straight to the action in an arcade mode; race against yourself in a "Ghost" race, to see if you can beat your own time; compete in all three events in the "Championship" mode; or battle a friend in the split-screen multiplayer mode. There are several courses for each event, which you must earn the right to visit by winning.

Overall : 54
"Rushed-out" is what they should have called this weak release by Electronic Arts. EA should be embarrassed by this game. It looks like it should have been released four years ago, and even then it probably would have been a bad game. I suspect that the folks at EA Sports didn't want anything to do with it and hoped to keep it at arms distance. If you can pick up a copy for $5 on eBay or at a swap meet somewhere, you might get a few hours of fun out of it before it collects dust in the back of your game collection. Otherwise, steer clear of Rushdown, one of the worst games of the year.

By: Matt P. 5/6/99

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