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San Fransisco Rush Review

Publisher - Midway
Developer - Atari Games
Platform - N64
Type - Racing
Score - 6/10

Have you ever wanted to go flying in your car? Well, here's your chance. San Francisco Rush is a racing game set in San Francisco on a day when gravity's been turned off.

San Francisco Rush was an arcade hit because of its graphics, gameplay, wild shortcuts, and insane gameplay. In addition to the original three track version, San Francisco Rush: The Rock has recently appeared, featuring additional courses. The N64 version is a very accurate port which incorporates all of the courses.

The first cool thing about San Francisco Rush is that it is set in San Francisco. The courses take you up and down the hills of San Francisco, past a huge number of landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the TransAmerica building, and Lombard Street, for starters. There are so many landmarks, in fact, that the booklet contains course maps that explicitly point out everything worth noting.

Of course, while you're playing, you may not notice a whole lot of the city. You'll be much more busy trying to land your jumps without crashing and burning. The physics model of the game is generally pretty realistic, except that you have a tendency to find yourself hundreds of feet in the air. Now, granted, if you drive over the top of a steep hill at 150 miles an hour in real life, you'll probably leave the ground, but you'll probably return to the ground that same block. All this jumping can take a toll on your car though. Jump into a building, and you're likely to turn into a flaming mess. Smaller brushes with walls or other cars won't instantly destroy you, but they leave their mark, and accumulating too many little bumps can also turn you into a fireball. Normally, you'll reappear on the track slightly ahead of the crash, but there's an option in the game called Deaths. With Deaths turned on, one crash and you're out. The same applies to your opposition, which raises the strategy of eliminating your opponents and coasting to victory.

While all that jumping can be fun, it can cause you to miss out on all the shortcuts. Why stay on the road, when you can drive up a hill, off a ramp, over a building, and back onto a point on the course that's much further ahead? There's a substantial risk factor in all this though. The bigger the shortcut, the more likely you are to turn into flaming wreckage, and that definitely won't help you set any record times.

For those who care about numbers, there are eight different cars at four difficulties, and six courses. Each of the courses can be run normally, backwards, mirrored, and mirrored backwards, for a total of 24 different possibilities. Mirroring doesn't change the courses all that much, but the backwards courses play completely differently and have a completely different set of shortcuts. There are also a bunch of keys hidden on each of the courses. Finding keys and figuring out how to get to them opens up secret vehicles.

Gameplay modes include one race, circuit (in which you run all 24 possible races and accumulate points based on how you place), time trials, and practice, which gives you 1000 seconds to drive anywhere you want on the course. Practice is essential for finding those shortcuts and figuring out how to get to the keys. The game allows you to race two player. While there are eight cars on the track normally, two player mode reduces the number to six, but that still gives you plenty of opposition to worry about besides just your friend.

The N64 version of San Francisco Rush doesn't look as good as the arcade version, but it comes close. The major difference is the introduction of fog. For the masochistic, there's a setting to increase the level of fog. At the highest setting, it completely obscures the track, almost as if you're racing in the world of Turok. Still, it's San Francisco, so a little fog is probably in order. The two player mode does something other recent racers don't. The view extends the full width of the screen. No more feeling cramped on the side of the screen. On the whole the graphics are very good, clean and detailed. It doesn't have the awe factor of some other racers, but I really can't complain.

If there's a weak spot to the game, it's definitely the music. While SFRush makes an attempt at hard rock, most of the music just sits there without driving the game forward. There are a couple of exceptionally bad pieces of music, most notably the song when you're entering your name as a high score. It may be trying to be funny, but it's just bizarre. The sound effects are fairly typical for a racing game. Not as good as could be hoped, but not bad either.

While the control isn't Top Gear Rally, it's still good. The cars really can't corner at high speed, but I guess that's a bit of realism creeping into the game. The best part of the control is definitely when you blow a jump and land badly and you're trying to save the car. If you flip, you'll explode, but if you can get the car flat you can probably drive away. Saving the car isn't easy, but trying sure is fun.

In the arcade, you would sit at the game and have a big steering wheel in your hands. The steering wheel would shake in response to the game, like when you bump something or if you start skidding through a corner. The Rumble Pak has been programmed in an attempt to give the same effect. While it obviously can't succeed as well as the arcade, (perhaps with a Rumble Pak compatible steering wheel?) it's a good effect.

San Francisco Rush is an excellent racer. While I prefer the more realistic feel of Top Gear Rally, anyone who thinks racing games should be over the top will definitely love SFRush. The reverse versions of the courses, the shortcuts, and the keys add plenty of value to the game, so you won't be done with this quickly. For multiplayer car racing on the N64, SFRush is definitely first in line, ahead of any of the other racers.