San Francisco Rush

San Francisco Rush is... well, a race game (there's a bit of a clue in the title I guess). It's fast, it's colourful, it's... airborne!

For that's the first thing that you will notice about SF Rush (actually, I tell a lie, the first thing you'll notice is probably the graphics, but more on that in a moment). Anyone who's seen the old US cop show The Streets Of San Francisco will know that this particular city is what you might tactfully call 'a little bit hilly' and not the sort of place you'd want to do a Sunday paper round, and the streets of SF Rush are no exception! You'll find that you can barely turn a corner without going up or down a hill, and that makes for some very, well... 'aerial' gameplay.

Visually... Stunning?

As for the graphics... Well, they're, um, 'colourful' and, er... okay, I've got to say it, they look like they've been ported directly onto the N64 from some middle of the road PlayStation game! I mean, when you take a look at something like, for instance, Automobili Lamborghini, you'd be hard pressed to match them both to the same console. That said though, the game is fast and furious, and although graphics are obviously important, far more important (no matter what anyone says) is the quality of the gameplay. It's all very well having a game that looks like it's been painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, but that's going to be no fun if it plays like last issue's Clayfighter 63 1/3.

And gameplay is where San Francisco Rush really takes off – literally! This wasn't immediately apparent, as to begin with the cars handled like they were on rails - that's rails laid in a completely straight line, because the cars just would not turn! Finally, after about an hour of frustratingly yanking the analogue stick right and left only to have the car turn about a centimetre in the required direction and promptly become a fireball upon colliding with some huge building or other, it was back to the manual, where most normal people would have gone in the first place. The manual turned out to be of no use whatsoever though, as the controls page didn't mention anything about making tighter turns.

We were left on the brink of despair. We knew the game should be good - the idea was there - but the cars just handled so sluggishly! Finally, someone (I forget who, I only know it wasn't me) discovered that by pressing the reverse button whilst turning, the cars performed a kind of handbrake turn, which meant successful negotiations of corners at high speed! Hurrah!

Nice Little Motors

Anyway, down to basics. You start SF Rush with a selection of different vehicles, eight in all, ranging from a basic Ford through a variety of sporty models to some slightly less so, including a VW Beetle and a camper van. All these vehicles come in a variety of bright colours, so if you've always wanted to race a Barbie-pink VW Beetle through San Francisco (and if so, why?) then now's your chance. By collecting the track 'keys' (more on them in a moment) you can also gain access to two extra cars - an American taxi cab, and a hot rod. Apparently (that should probably be allegedly) there is also another car available in circuit mode, which you can access upon winning a circuit, but it never appeared when I won - what a rip!

There are six basic game tracks that lead you through various parts of San Francisco, taking in landmarks like Golden Gate Park, Pacific Heights, Chinatown and Twin Peaks (not the Twin Peaks, a la 'weird-bloke Lynch', surely?) The tracks can also be played in 'backwards' mode, where you race around them in the opposite direction, giving you an extra six tracks, and they can also be mirrored both normally and backwards, giving a total of twenty-four 'different' tracks.

Let's Key Havin' You

Earlier, I mentioned 'keys'. There are eight of these scattered around on each of the tracks. Some of them are easy to find, others are hidden in obscure locations, such as through fences in ravines, or stashed in concealed caves. Even though some of them can be found fairly easily, the difficult part will be getting to them. They might be hanging in mid-air thirty feet above the track, for example. As mentioned previously, collecting the keys will earn you bonus cars, four for a New York taxi (which looks great in yellow but of course can be any other colour you choose) and eight - which is no easy task, even on the easy tracks - will get you a hot rod. The catch is that when you gain one of these cars, you'll only be able to race it on the track you got it from - which deserves a huge 'boo-sucks' but does mean that there is an incentive to explore all the tracks fully.

You do however, only need to get the car on one version of each track-normal, mirrored, reversed or mirrored and reversed - to get the bonus cars for all four. This is useful, as it means you can play on all four versions of the track when looking for the keys for that track - some keys may be easier to see on certain versions of a track, for example.

So that's the technical aspects of the game. Gameplay wise, this game is mad! As mentioned already, you'll spend an awful lot of time in the air, and the courses are anything but boring. The cars hammer along the track at breakneck (and breakcar) speed, and the difficulty levels have been well-judged. If you like options (and who doesn't?), then the options screen is packed with 'em, from the aforementioned mirror and backward options, to allowing you to change the degree of fog on the track, which is always useful. Sadly, you can't get rid of the fog completely, because it's another one of those games that has the scenery fade away in the distance so it doesn't have to draw it, but at least it's not as obvious as Turok!

Bullitt In The Head?

The main disappointment with SF Rush is the multiplayer mode, primarily because it only allows two players. There is also a lesser problem in that the game doesn't seem to be able to handle the amount of traffic on screen as well as it should - by traffic I usually mean graphics, but in this case I actually do mean 'traffic'. If there are a lot of cars on screen, the game does seem to suffer from slowdown. However, although the speed difference is fairly noticeable if you go straight from a one-player game into a two-player game, on the whole it isn't too detrimental, and the two-player game is just as enjoyable as the one-player version.

One thing that can be annoying in two-player mode is what happens following a crash. In both play modes, when you crash, the computer almost immediately puts you back on the track. However, instead of putting you back where you crashed, you are whisked away down the track, often overtaking your opponents. Presumably this is designed to keep up the pace of the game. In one-player mode it's no problem, but in two-player it's very disconcerting to see the other player crash as you shoot past their burning hulk laughing in triumph, only to have them picked up and whisked off into the distance. It's just not fair! The only consolation is that it works both ways.

San Francisco Rush is a highly enjoyable, fast-paced racing game that makes up for what it lacks in top quality graphics with colourful cars and scenery, and - most importantly - with top-notch gameplay. It may not appeal to those who prefer their driving to be 'real' and 'accurate' (you know the sort, they've got to be driving something that's technically correct down to the last wheel nut and handles exactly like a real car - but in that case, why not just drive a real car?). But if you like your race games fast, furious, and aerobatic, then this is the game for you. Fans of games like Need For Speed 2 on the PlayStation will love it, assuming they've got an N64 that is!

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San Francisco Rush Downloads

Nintendo 64 San Francisco Rush download

Sprawling racer that lets players roam freely instead of being confined to the track. Lots of hidden secrets to uncover.

reggie posted a review

Gravity-defying leaps, rattling top speeds, mid-air. multi-car pile-ups, tonnes of explosions and loads of secret bits. Great fun.

reggie posted a review

The streets of San Francisco have never been more dangerous! Racing up the hills and round the twisting comers of the city on the bay is entertaining, although the control method could stand a lot of improvement. However, it's the hidden depth of SF Rush (you can explore for miles off the track to find hidden keys that unlock secrets) that keeps it interesting.

reggie posted a review
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