Years ago on the original Xbox, I reviewed OutRun 2. Although I was far from feeling the nostalgic glow that the SEGA games from the past usually create in my heart, I did enjoy the experience. At the time, the game just didn’t seem to make much sense as a retail title. You could clearly identify the typical padding to justify the cost and although it did help the longevity, it wasn’t really fooling anyone.
Years later and now we have a whole new way of delivering content thanks to Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade and of course Sony’s own version. This has opened a new door for many publishers and SEGA have not been slow to realise its potential. Having already released many classic titles such as Streets of Rage 2, Golden Axe and of course Sonic the Hedgehog, it was only a matter of time before we would see something a little more recent from their immense catalogue.
Arcade racing has almost vanished from home consoles. I miss the colourful locations, the insane racing styles and bizarre stories. Arcade in fact has almost become a swear word. Simulation is the current target for many developers as they pursue the realms of physics, polygon counts and realism. Sometimes though, a burst of arcade thrills is what the Doctor orders and OutRun Online Arcade is the sure fire way of reaching the remembrance of such happy times.
OutRun is all about getting from the start, passing checkpoints and reaching the end destination. This is made more exciting by a number of cleverly placed factors. First of all you are timed and by passing checkpoints your time is extended. There will be times you lose power as the time runs out in front of your eyes, leaving you stranded facing a very dissatisfied female companion. Secondly you have a choice of which route you take. After each checkpoint, you will be faced by a junction where you can either head to your left or right. Heading left will take you on an easy course, however turning right successively will result in twistier bends and frequent hazards.
Taking corners also leaves you with a choice. You can either attempt to drive as straight as possible without clipping the edge of the track or the more exciting option, to cause your car to slide. This is either caused by braking, or if you have chosen a manual transmission car by dropping a gear.
Heart Attack mode will add a little extra challenge to your driving skills though. You will be asked to knock over cones, slide in a certain section of the road, run through gates, avoid traffic and even drive into ghosts! After each task has been completed you are ranked, ‘AAA’ being the highest. Also featured is a traditional Time Attack mode and another similar situation except that it features all of the stages one after the other.
These selections are perfect for quick rampant exchanges of burning rubber on asphalt. If you want human opposition though, you can always nip online for a total of 6 player on Xbox live racing. I personally recommend you turn the ‘Catch Up’ option on, otherwise it is easy for the leader to disappear off screen without a glimmer of hope of you jockeying for his position. Collisions can also be turned on and off.
Cars include the F50, Enzo Ferrari, 360 Spider, F40, Testarossa, 288 GTO and more. Leaderboards are also available for that extra sense of fulfillment. If all these options aren’t enough, in certain modes you can even choose whether you want a tuned version of a vehicle. It will be faster, but more unruly on the road.
Although efforts have been made to enhance the visual quality of OutRun, it obviously isn’t going to be a lush affair of splendour. It is however enhanced enough to be thoroughly enjoyable and lives up to the arcade qualities we know and love from days gone by. The cars actually look superb and are certainly the point of the screen your eye is drawn to.
The landscapes are looking incredibly dated, but you still feel a sense of glee as the sun appears over the horizon, the lights reflecting off the road surface and the transition from one stage to another.
The sounds are identical to what you will remember if you played the original version. Therefore a little bit tinny by today’s standards, however the music hides the inferior. Unfortunately though, OutRun Online Arcade doesn’t use 5.1 surround sound. Instead you will be using just your left and right speaker with the subwoofer providing the usual bass. It is not a major issue, but I wonder why games like this don’t replicate Rock Band and send as standard PCM. This would allow surround decoders to do the work of giving a virtual surround experience, but maybe it is a Microsoft stipulation and Rock Band was the exception to the rule as its music based, but I digress…
Ironically OutRun is more about pick up and play and forget rather than sticking around for hours on end. Don’t let that put you off though as it is the ideal game when you are looking to fill 10 minutes with happiness. Very handy when waiting for a friend to come online when his promised ‘I will be 5 minutes’ turns into half an hour.
Although Outrun will always have a special place in my gaming heart, time has certainly moved on and even with enhancements the title struggles to really impress. Its main saving grace is the fact that Xbox Live Arcade is perfect for those quick 5-10 minute gaming sessions and OutRun fits the bill perfectly. It may not have the most extensive line up of modes, but it will surely satisfy your lust for something quick, pleasant and more importantly online. Your virtual companion in OutRun may have a strop with you for your poor driving skills, but your other half in reality will find it hard to begrudge you shelling out on this classic title.