Many of us will remember the glory days of Midway. They produced arcade hit after arcade hit, including Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, and Gauntlet. They were also the brilliant minds behind San Francisco Rush, a thrilling arcade racer. The series really hit its stride with the sequel, Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA.
Rush 2 is a racing game with not-so-real physics but very real fun. Expect to float for long distances, flip multiple times, and explode when you crash into things hard enough.
As the name implies, the game takes place in various locations in the US, such as New York, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Los Angeles. It also includes unique tracks like Alcatraz, where you race through cell blocks and prison yards. Each track has a number of shortcuts and jumps that let you get ahead if you can hit them just right.
The game has a number of cars, mostly based on real vehicles but with different names. Where Rush 2 has the Subcompact, the Bandit, and the Van, the real world has the VW Beetle, the Camaro, and the VW Bus. Each of them can be customized with different colors, tires, and horn. One of my favorites is a white Subcompact with red stripes and red lights. It looks like a car that Toad would drive. My brother likes the Van; green on bottom, pink on top. It looks like a watermelon (and drives like one, too).
One thing I love about Rush 2 is that it's full of secrets. Each level has twelve keys in it. When you find three, you unlock a 1960s-style Taxi for that level. Find three more, and you get a Hot Rod. Three more nets you a Formula 1 car, and finding all twelve unlocks the Prototype, which is basically a jet engine with wheels. In addition, there are four Mountain Dew cans in each level. Find them all, and you can use the Mountain Dew racer.
Not only that, but there is a full-fledged Cheat Mode. Simply hold L, R, and Z at the Main Menu to make it appear. There are a number of cheats and settings that can be changed here (they require button codes to unlock, but quickly mashing the R, L, Z, and C buttons will usually unlock any of them). Gravity, speed, and tire grip can all be adjusted. You can also do things like make giant rats appear on the tracks, or turn on Tag mode, where you play Tag with other cars (you're it!). The sky's the limit.
But the real reason I love Rush 2 so much is the Stunt Track. All it is is a large arena filled with jumps and ramps and hills. The objective is to do tricks and see how high you can get your score. If you combine tricks, you can get insane scores. For example, 10 flips only gets you ten points. But if you get 10 flips and 10 rolls in the same jump, you get 100 points. Just make sure you land on your wheels, or else you won't get any points. Because you'll be dead. Because your car will explode.
You'd probably think I was exaggerating if I said I'd played the stunt track for over 100 hours, but it's true. Heck, it could be hundreds of hours for all I know. Once, I even taped down the A button and put a rubber band on the joystick so the car would go on its own. I came back a few hours later to over 10,000 points. Seriously. The stunt track is the best.
So there you have it, folks. Rush 2 is just one of many racing games on N64, but it's definitely in the top five with Mariokart 64, F-Zero X, Excitebike 64, and Diddy Kong Racing, all of which are amazing titles.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to race until my car can't explode anymore. And then I'll keep racing it. Remember: Life is short. Stunt it!