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Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA
Just when you thought it was safe to wander the streets again. The full review.

- Midway's San Francisco Rush made its way to Nintendo 64 last year as an arcade port equipped with new tracks, cars, gameplay modes and depth. And not only was it an adequate translation, it was actually better than its arcade predecessor thanks to enhanced jump/stunt/explore options and hidden goodies. Between the game's stunts, secrets and addictive two-player mode, it remains one of our favorite games for Nintendo 64.

So when Midway announced that it had teamed up with developer Atari Games once more to make a semi-sequel of sorts, we were both thrilled and skeptical at the same time. Thrilled because a sequel meant more Rush; new cars, new tracks, new stunts and more secrets. Skeptical for the same reason; what if it was just more of the same with no real enhancements? And Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA is quite a bit more of the same. The racing element is very similar to last year's game and the stunts  well, they still defy the boundaries of gravity. But if one bothers to look a little deeper, it's not difficult to recognize the wide range of enhancements and additions (some more subtle than others)  both to the game engine and visual exterior  that Atari Games has implemented. Is Rush 2 better than San Francisco Rush? Depending on what you're looking for it just might be. Is it a worthy, entertaining sequel? Without a doubt.

The Facts

    10 new tracks (plus hidden) including a revamped version of Alcatraz.
  • Mirrored and backward courses.
  • 16 new vehicles (plus at least five hidden)  each featuring unique physics, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Customize vehicle feature.
  • Improved physics engine enabling tighter control for vehicles.
  • "Stunt" track designed specifically for tricks and air-time.
  • Circuit mode.
  • New point system rewards players for jumps and stunts landed correctly.
  • Two-player cooperative, tag, and stunt modes.
  • Hidden keys and newly added Mountain Dew cans unlock in-game secrets.
  • Multiple paths per course. Each track branches into different directions.
  • Improved graphic textures, reflection-mapping on vehicles and the like.
  • New "techno" in-game music tracks.
  • Memory Pak Support, Rumble Pak Support.

The first thing Rush fans will notice upon playing Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA is that the game feels much tighter than its predecessor. Vehicles react faster and with much more precision, regardless of shape or size. Powerslides, a feature nearly impossible to execute correctly in last year's game, are much easier in Rush 2, as is keeping wheels  and not hoods  to the pavement. Partially because of this, the game's racing element has progressed leaps and bounds. Whereas SF Rush was all about exploration and hardly about racing, Rush 2 serves up a more balanced compromise between the two.

For example, the game's first and easiest course, Las Vegas, is all about racing. There are virtually no jumps and no short-cuts. Instead, the course puts emphasis on speed, precise turning and more speed. It's very much straight-out racing. On the other hand, Rush 2's Seattle track is overflowing with secrets, death-defying ramps that send cars flipping over buildings and hidden short-cuts. Other courses include Los Angeles, Alcatraz, Uptown New York, Downtown New York, Hawaii, as well as "trick" courses Crash, Half-pipe and pipe. And, it must be said that each track serves up a healthy dose of racing, stunts, or both.

Unfortunately, while the selection is certainly more complete, none of the "racing" tracks in Rush 2, in our opinion, are as well-designed as those in the original. In attempting to create a more balanced racer, Atari Games has unwittingly sacrificed a significant portion of the over-the-top short-cuts, and sky-bound jumps that made the original so great. And, for some, that might be just fine. However, we feel that series' claim to fame revolves around those laughable stunts and we're sorry to see that they have been toned down  even if it is just a little. Thankfully, Atari added the following mode, which more than makes up for some of the tame tracks:

Stunt Mode Again, Rush's helpful practice mode has returned, as has circuit seasons and single-course racing. All play identically to last year's version. The biggest advancement in Rush 2 comes with the addition of the game's Stunt Track. This single course is reason enough to own the game and here's why: it takes everything that gamers love about the Rush franchise and throws it all into one, fully-explorable level and then adds a point system.

In Stunt mode, players race their car through a huge 3D level filled with various obstacles while trying to acquire points. Points, since you asked, are racked up by successfully landing difficult stunts. What are stunts? Basically, an assortment of flips  both horizontal and vertical, driving on two-wheels, and air-time. The more difficult the stunt, the more points awarded. And then there are combos. Depending on the difficulty of the stunt landed, players may receive as little as one point and as high as hundreds of points. For a full description of how the stunt mode works, see our feature on it by clicking here.

The Stunt Mode is Rush 2's most addictive gameplay mode, especially with two-players racing via split-screen. Land a 30-flip barrel-roll as the time-clock counts down to zero in a two-player point match and you will know sweet victory like you never have before. And your friend, we guarantee you, will know defeat. Because of the Stunt Mode alone, Rush 2 ranks among Nintendo 64's very best multiplayer games. You will never grow tired of this feature.

The Keys
The find-and-capture key system that extended the replay value of San Francisco Rush has returned for the sequel. Keys are hidden just about everywhere, along with newly added Mountain Dew cans, and when found, they unlock secret areas, vehicles and cheats. It's a brilliant idea and it's bound to keep gamers busy.

The Vehicles
Rush 2 features more than 16 different cars to race with, plus a handful of hidden super-goodies. Each vehicle, whether it be a Pickup truck or Muscle Car, boasts its own unique attributes. Some cars are top-heavy and prone to land on their hoods while others are extremely fast and easy to flip. Still others may be a bit on the slow side but extremely durable. You get the point. Choosing the correct car for each race is part of the game's strategy.

Vehicles include the Pickup and Muscle Car (mentioned above), as well as the compact, 4x4, Stallion, Cruiser, Hatchback, Concept, Subcompact, Sportster, Van, Exotic, Coupe, Bandit, Sedan, Mobster. Though vehicles aren't officially licensed, each model is designed to look and drive similar to its real-life, licensed counterpart. The Exotic car, for example, looks and controls eerily similar to a Lamborghini.

Each vehicle can be significantly altered with Rush 2's customize car feature. Players can increase or decrease their machine's acceleration, top speed, control and drifting. In addition, the customize feature serves up selectable transmission styles, car colors, accent colors, stripe design and colors, various tires and tire-rims, different horn sounds, different engine builds, torques, suspensions and durability. The idea is to create a balance between a vehicle's various attributes for optimum performance. And all things considered, the car system is very well executed. The variety is nice while control and handling is balanced. If you're looking for the less responsive feel of last year's game, you can still tune your car to handle like a Rush 1 car as well.

Rush 2's graphics, slightly improved, are still a far cry from the visual league of Top Gear Overdrive or GT World Tour. The biggest enhancements over last year's game lie in new, more colorful (and sometimes strangely animated) textures, better vehicle design and a couple extras such as reflection-mapping on cars. Other than that, Rush 2 features the same blurry, bland look of the original. Road textures often don't quite line up (you can see the borders of the textures), the dust and water effects are ridiculously bad and the sparks when hitting the tracksides could have used an overhaul as well. But let's face it, the franchise never has and probably never will blow anybody away in the eye-candy department. It's more about gameplay. And that's A-OK with us. However, if Midway intents the Rush series to compete with the growing competition, it's time to give the graphics (especially the low-res textures) a signifant makeover.

In terms of sound, Rush 2 has, thank the heavens above, made some big advancements. The God-awful music of San Francisco Rush has been completely eliminated and replaced with funky jungle beats and standard techno tunes. The sampling rate is a little high, but it still sounds better than most Nintendo 64 games  unless, of course, those games come from Rare, Nintendo, Iguana or Factor 5. The crusty sound effects of old have returned for one more go around -- from burning rubber around corners to screeching against walls in tight turns. Each type of car now also has different sounding engines, but none particularly stand out. Nothing sounds especially bad, but once again, no boundaries are broken either. Standard stuff. Again, it would have been nice if Atari had added a little more variety instead of reusing many effects from the first game.

Closing Comments
I may very well be the Rush franchise's biggest fan. I absolutely loved last year's game and was hopelessly drooling with anticipation over the arrival of Rush 2. When I first sat down to play the semi-sequel, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I was expecting nothing but thrills and spills, jumps, flips, huge hang-times and glorious crashes. What I found, however, was an improved racing game lovingly blended together with various stunt obstacles, secrets, short-cuts and the traditional key system of last year. And sure, I thought, that was all good and fine, but what about all the death-defying tricks and stunts? I wanted more, not less.

It wasn't until I stumbled upon the game's Stunt Track that my fears subsided for good. Points for pulling off various tricks. I was addicted. The more I played it, the more addicted I became. And then I was introduced to two-player split-screen Stunt Track matches and I knew that I would never doubt Atari Games again.

Rush 2 doesn't feature the best graphics known to man, but its overall look certainly gets the job done. Same goes for sound. What it does excel at, though, is finely tuned gameplay. The physics engine, admittedly wacky, is an absolutely joy to toy around with whether it be exploring or straight-forward racing. I only wish Atari had focused less on improving the series' racing element for standard tracks and more on the crazy trick goodness that is Rush. In the long run, I feel the standard tracks of San Francisco Rush are superior to those found in Rush 2. That said, the Stunt Track alone makes Rush 2 just as good if not better than San Francisco Rush. Nice job Atari. Highly recommended, especially if you're a fan of the series.

-- Matt Casamassina

Excellent. I enjoyed the first Rush, but this one just handles so much better. The bigger selection of cars and some radical shortcuts (Hawaii's aircraft carrier and the subway tunnels in New York, for example), easily make up for the overly bland Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and made-up tracks. Rush 2 also features one of the coolest additions to a racer ever, the two-player Stunt Track. It's already a tradition in our office to start and conclude the day with stunt competitions comprised of hundreds of flips (those little bumps are the best!) and plenty of swearing. Good two-player Circuit mode, too. Overall, I think Rush 2 is a better racing package than San Francisco Rush, even though the tracks aren't all the way up there with Rush 1. How about an all-stunt Rush with a four-player mode next time, Atari?

- Peer Schneider

Generic menus and the same overall front-end as last year's game. A bit on the cheesy side.
Very similar to SF Rush with new, more colorful textures, better designed cars and reflection-mapping. Not great, but not bad either.
Nasty tunes of SF Rush replaced with more modern techno and jungle beats that, believe it or not, sound just fine. Same old sound effects.
Tighter control and addictive gameplay mechanics. Many hidden shortcuts. Top notch.
Lasting Appeal
Lots of tracks, cars and hidden goodies. Awesome Stunt Track mode. Two-player action and great two-player Circuit mode (with opponents). It's tough to find a game with more replay value.
OVERALL SCORE (not an average)

 Rush 2 delivers more racing elements combined with an all-new Stunt Track.
Rush 2 delivers more racing elements combined with an all-new Stunt Track.
Atari Games
Origin: U.S.
Lead Programmer
Ed Logg
Number of Players: 2
Nov 10, 1998
Rumble Pak
Controller Pak
Steering Wheel
ESRB Rating: E
Play With This!
SuperPad Colors
Memory Card
 The game features more than 12 courses including hidden bonus tracks.
The game features more than 12 courses including hidden bonus tracks.
 Visually, Rush 2 looks more like an enhancement over SF Rush than it does a brand new game.
Visually, Rush 2 looks more like an enhancement over SF Rush than it does a brand new game.
 Atari Games dropped the painful tunes of SF Rush for more modern techno beats.
Atari Games dropped the painful tunes of SF Rush for more modern techno beats.