The Saturn may have indicated the future demise of SEGA in their long held popularity in the console market, but it still had some of the best games ever released. One of those was of course SEGA Rally. No Saturn collection was complete without this gem!
This may not have been the longest gaming romp as far as the number of tracks were concerned as only three and one bonus was available, but it craved your attention with its superb graphics, addictive gameplay and funky music. In fact it was after playing a demo of this title around my friend’s house (thanks Lee) that I convinced myself to ignore the PlayStation and head the way of the Saturn.
So since these SEGA Saturn days are long gone, we look to the future of the so called ‘next generation’ as I was invited into London to see for myself the latest incarnation of what was until now a dormant franchise.
This event was actually aimed not at the usual mainstream gaming press (they will have their own event), but instead gaming bloggers like myself (www.jameswoodcock.co.uk) and a couple from BritishGaming.co.uk. I thought this quite bizarre at first, but it did give me the chance to ask a lot of questions (trust me people I forgot how to shut up!) and obligingly they responded to their credit with the best possible answers.
So what is going to make SEGA Rally stand out among the countless competition that exists on the various platforms? Well there is one word that really does make this game different and that is ‘deformation’. You will begin to love and treasure this word as if it were your own living flesh, as this is the key to your future happiness and something that is going to no doubt be mimicked by future titles of the same genre.
It is that time again when I can sit back and feel that this is the start of something fresh and my excitement in gaming returns in droves. Having adored the original so much, I went into this event with a cynical hat on it has to be said. Is this going to be yet another cash-in or are attempts being made to relive the past and take advantage of the technology available now?
Thankfully, my fears were soon laid to rest as I viewed the PlayStation 3 version first. You couldn’t help but not spot the lush graphics, amazing attention to detail and sun sun sun! You won’t get miserable weather conditions in SEGA Rally. Oh no! Expect a gleaming paradise that is heaped in fantasy and romance, that reminds me oh so much of SEGA classics of the past. That realm where anything goes as long as it can bring a big cheesy grin on your face and a twinkle in your eye appears and this certainly succeeds.
The presentation actually started by staring at a car tyre. No I kid thee not. At this point I thought my long trip to London was going to be a wasted one, but then he pointed out all the little details you could see like the tread, the inside workings, the suspension etc. Then he drove around a bit and something typically SEGA appeared, that magical whoosh.
So as I was saying, the new term to remember is ‘deformation’. Think back to all those different rally and racing games that litter our collections and you will be lucky if you can find any that leave marks in the road and even more so if they remain there the entire race. Not only does this game excel here, but takes it one dramatic leap forward that changes this title so dramatically, you will never look back!
Imagine a muddy and wet part of the road. In the past your car would have maybe slowed down a tad and the sound effects gave you the impression that there was a problem with that section of the course, but now take your imagination a step further and imagine your car actually digging up the road surface!
Tyres will literally lift up or depress the ground depending on what lies beneath your tread. Mud will give way to the weight of the car creating troughs and snow will form hardened lanes and will have extreme variations in grip, but what is the point of all of this? Quite simply it completely changes your racing decisions compared to any other racing game. Before all we worried about was to take the racing line, take the corners at the right speed and exit them correctly and of course to win the race. Now throw into the mix the fact that the course can degrade and will leave changes on consecutive laps! Back to that close up of the tyre shot again and when he runs over the bumps the tyres react accordingly testing out your suspension, kicking up all manner of sludge and mess.
‘Deformation’ makes such an impact to this new world that the A.I. even has to account for all these course changes and requires programming to either avoid or use these alterations depending on the situation. Until you have seen it for yourself, it probably sounds almost like a gimmick, but this is one of the best ‘gimmicks’ I have ever seen if you insist on giving it that usually negative label.
Each course has different sections where you may encounter mud, snow, tarmac and other conditions and then when you encounter ‘deformation’, this has an impact that results in you having to really put your thinking cap on. Following the typical racing lines we have all been used to will hinder your performance if you are not careful. Bouncing along the new indentations in the road certainly makes for a bumpy ride and with support for force feedback, you will be exhausted after just a few races against a friend, but in a good way. The amount of concentration and analyzing of the course that is required is truly remarkable and opens up a whole new thought process for racing, which of course was the desired effect by the developers.
This is where standard PlayStation controllers will be slightly depressing for gamers (no fault of SEGA!) as of course that factor again of no rumble continues to disappoint me, however on the Xbox 360 (although not matching a force feedback steering wheel) does a very apt job of giving you information of the road changes and lumps and bumps.
Cars include all your rally favourites such as the Subaru Impreza and you can revel in the reflections on the body work, the mud and snow that sprays on the car and how driving through water actually washes this yuk away.
There will be quite a few different environments and we viewed a few of them on both the PlayStation3 and Xbox 360. Both versions look identical and although there might be some ever so slight differences, nothing will get the fan boys out to start trading blows against each other. Although we didn’t get to see the PC version in action, we were told to expect the same quality throughout. Each environment will have further tracks with very different layouts, so you won’t get part of one track merging with another that can sometimes be used as a bit of a cheat to save developers time.
Although this could easily be labelled as an Arcade game, the depth involved could also lean to the simulation side. By this I mean the cars look and feel as you would expect, but where simulation can sometimes be dare I say a little boring at times, the arcade side then comes along with great fanfare to add spice to the ingredients that will have you playing for many hours.
Supporting up to 6 players online and split screen racing, the emphasis of getting social with this title is high as you will desire that confrontation, adrenaline and the memories that can be created in this fantastic online and indeed offline force. SEGA are right in pointing out that no lap is really the same and experimenting with these environments creates all manner of intrigue for me.
Before I leave this preview, there was also a little competition at the end where we were playing to win a SEGA coat (which actually looked great!). Illustrious Administrator, Anthony Barker of ConsoleMonster.com came along with me as my guest and on the final bend he decided to shunt me against the side, therefore assuring his place in the final and winning the coat! Little bleeder, but congratulations to Anthony on his deserved prize and trophy.
In the image, Anthony is presented the trophy by Mike Evans, SEGA Online Marketing Manager.
A demo is planned of SEGA Rally for the PlayStation 3 around the titles launch and the Xbox 360 version just a couple of weeks before it.
Thanks to SEGA and their PR team for setting up this event and giving such a detailed account of SEGA Rally.
This game has sent my senses to overload and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on this one. ‘Deformation’ will change racing games forever and with SEGA Rally taking all the best assets from its heritage and slapping some next gen flavour into the pot, you can’t possibly ignore this triumphant return or you shall regret it! It really is one of those games where it has to be seen to be believed.
For more information, visit the official SEGA Rally website.