Review by: Doug Trueman
Published: March 25, 1999
Extreme sports have had a hard time getting widely accepted as valid endeavors that require skill. Street luge, skysurfing, rollerblading, whitewater rafting and others have all struggled to get recognition for being genuinely difficult and as valid as mainstream sports. But when a sport inches its way so far into the popular culture it becomes a video game, extreme sports enthusiasts have cause to rejoice. Once people play a cyberversion of the real thing, surely they’ll begin to have respect for its proponents, especially if that cyberversion is created by the king of all sports-to-screen companies, Electronic Arts. Surely EA could handle the translation; the company has been responsible for some of the best sports games ever on a home system. There’s the NHL series, the NFL series, the Need for Speed series and several others, all of which have met with both popular and critical acclaim. So there’d be nothing to fear if EA handled an extreme sport, right?
Rushdown is a combination of three different extreme sports all packaged on one PlayStation disc. There’s a snowboarding competition, a whitewater kayaking challenge and downhill dirtbike courses for gamers who love to live their virtual lives on the edge. The premise is simple enough: players choose a character and compete in either single events or an extreme triathlon where they must master all three to become the world champion. Gamers can choose from various brands of equipment, all of which have inclinations toward excellence in either speed, acceleration or grip. Once suitably equipped, they mount their gear and attempt to beat the clock or a CPU opponent in a race down an icy slope, mountain or river.
The gameplay is also simple: avoid various obstacles, such as trees, rocks, snowplows, pylons and cars, and rush down as fast as you can. If you hit something, you are penalized by either falling or tipping over. Players can jump to avoid smaller obstacles — or roll in the kayak — but generally, the game is a high-speed version of man-vs.-nature dodgeball. With these types of sports, one would assume there would be more to Rushdown than this. Unfortunately, there isn’t.
EA has taken three sports that have very complex components and removed them. One might assume this was done because the racing part of the game is so deep players wouldn’t miss a thing. However, like Accolade’s Big Air snowboarding title, Rushdown has more going against it than for it.