OutRun 2 Review (Xbox)
Back in the late 80’s, before the 2-D fighter craze took over, Sega was releasing absolute gems in the arcade. You had "After Burner", "Space Harrier", "Hang-on", and the original "OutRun" to name just a few. I had a friend who was absolutely unstoppable at "After Burner". He once went through all 20-something stages without dying once. It was truly a sight to see. My draw was "OutRun". From the first time I saw the red Ferrari cabinet and sat to play a round, I was hooked. I spent the majority of my quarters at that time playing "OutRun". It got so bad that "OutRun" on the Sega Master System was a system seller for me (I actually got a SMS over a Nintendo at the time, but that’s another story). As bad as that game was on the SMS, I could not stop playing it, crappy music and all. I proceeded to eventually get really good in the arcades thanks to the 8-bit version. Eventually I brought it for my Commodore-64 and then the Sega Genesis. Yes, it was a game I could continue playing no matter what. Fond memories, indeed.
Flash forward to 2004 - at this year’s E3. I was making my rounds when all of a sudden I saw the "OutRun 2" banner in the Microsoft section. I had a sudden flashback, then proceeded to run to the nearest available system. Now although I knew about "OutRun 2" in the arcades, I wasn't aware at the time that a developer was attempting to bring the arcade version over to the Xbox console. I was surprised and very happy. The game was great, and I continued to play it for a good 45 minutes or so; but then it hit me: in this day and age, would an arcade racer be able to compete in the console market? People have come to expect a lot of replay ability and unlockable goodies with their games. Well, Sumo Digital put my worries to rest with the recent release of "OutRun 2" for the Xbox. Let me bring this issue up right now. There will be two camps of people talking about this game. The first camp will complain that this game doesn't hold a candle to the other available racers because it doesn't bring enough to the table; while the second camp will enjoy the game because of the nostalgia of racing a cross country course as they did with the original "OutRun". With that said, will the game offer enough enjoyment to demand your purchase?
Sumo Digital has created an arcade-perfect port of AM2’s game. In the original, you raced through five courses (15 courses in all). At the end of each course, you picked one of two paths to take to move on to the next course, in a pyramid-like layout. This model still applies to "OutRun 2". But instead of just trying to race as fast as possible while making as few mistakes as you can, "OutRun 2" has been updated with the ability to power slide or drift. This new ability works wonderfully with the new courses, and adds an element of depth which was missing previously. You need to figure out when to use the drift, as it will help you take a corner, but at the same time it slows you down. You must be able to strike a good balance to achieve a good time on each course. Other than that, you use the right trigger to accelerate, and the left trigger to brake, along with use of the face buttons if you decide you want to try racing with a manual transmission. Anyone can pick this game up and play right away. There are eight selectable cars at the beginning; with the ability to unlock an additional four. Each car has a different set of abilities (Acceleration, Handling, and Max Speed), and break down to three different difficulty levels (Novice, Intermediate, and Professional). Now these Ferrari’s drive nothing like their real life counterparts, but you will notice differences in the cars you pick when racing. That super-fast Enzo will fly, but at the cost of handling, which means you have to be really good to be able to drive as fast as the car will let you. The only other options other than car selection is the ability to change the color and the camera (behind the car or first-person), and that’s that.
There are several different game types: OutRun Arcade, which further breaks down into OutRun Mode (the regular arcade game), Heart Attack Mode (Where you try to gain hearts by finishing the mini missions your girlfriend asks you to do while still finishing the course), and Time Attack Mode (beat ghost cars and get to the end as fast as possible).
OutRun Challenge breaks down into three options. First there is OutRun Mission (the bread and butter of the game - there are 101 missions to finish), Party Missions (which let you take turns with others to race for the best time), and OutRun Race (which lets you race any unlocked courses against a rival or ghost car).
Xbox Live – Yes you can also race online against friends and others on the Microsoft network. A System Link option is also available.
The Arcade mode is pretty self-explanatory. You'll be racing against the clock. You need to complete the five course race before time expires. Once you reach a checkpoint, you are given more time to race. You pick you car, which type of transmission you want, which song you want to race along with, and you're off to the races.
In the Mission mode, you'll try to finish 101 different challenges to unlock new courses, new music, and new cars. The missions vary from staying above a certain speed limit for a time to having to drift to gain enough hearts for a good score. There are some truly devious challenges, such as Math Mayhem, which will force you to do mathematical computations on numbers, then having to pick the correct final answer when selecting the next course to go to. There are some pretty creative missions, and they never feel forced. You will be rated on your performance for each mission, from an ‘E’ all the way to “AAA” which is indicated by the mood of your passenger. This mode will keep you busy for quite a while. The missions also serve a secondary purpose, which is to teach you certain skills to help you shave precious seconds off your course times.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
Graphically, Sumo has done a superb job with porting a beautiful game. The different courses all have distinct features which help them stand out from one another. There is a high polygon count on everything; the cars themselves, the scenery, and the traffic. Draw distances go as far as the eye can see. As mentioned before, the game plays fast. Very fast - I haven't encountered any slowdown at any point in the game. I think the scenery is a major selling point in this game, because you can actually enjoy it while racing. A lot of times, racers have beautiful scenery which you can only catch a glimpse of because there is so much going on which distracts you from taking in the beauty of the course. The simplicity of this game allows you to view the landscape and appreciate everything from a building all the way down to a set of bushes on the side of the road. Don’t get me wrong, you'll still have to worry about traffic and time, however. Throw in a few unlockable courses (from "Daytona USA 2" and "Scud Race") and the "mirrored" courses, and you have yourself an excellent selection of courses to race.
The audio is also a straight port from the arcade. We have new versions of the original three songs ("Splash Wave", "Magical Sound Shower" and "Passing Breeze"), but you can also unlock the original three, along with remixes of those songs. Those of you who played the original game will notice a lot of sounds, such as the “Checkpoint” sound; that are instantly familiar. The cars sound as they should, complete with screaming engines when being pushed to their limit. I personally don't like the additional four songs that were introduced in "OutRun 2" with vocals. They just don’t seem to fit with the rest of the game to me. But your mileage may vary.
Xbox Live support is very smooth and with no noticeable lag. The only issue I had with playing on Live is that if someone is really good, you'll see that car take off and never see them again. You don’t quite feel you are racing against others, except for the fact that you know someone is ahead of you. There really is no excitement on the open road if someone has a commanding lead. Of course, this changes if everyone is of the same skill level and can drive a good race. In any case, it’s another fun and issue-free way of playing the game if you can’t stand playing alone.
You can create a room, set up the settings for the race, such as which courses to race through; pick a car, and let everyone else in. Up to eight players can compete at once. A simple and no-nonsense setup makes it easy to get online and play. You can even download a "ghost" car from the High Scores list to learn from and practice with.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I love this game. I don’t expect it to be anymore than it is supposed to be: a pick-up-and-play racer to enjoy with a little bit of depth and replay ability for those who want to spend some time with it. The game is a throw-back to old arcade racers, and it doesn't miss a beat. This game will last you as long as you want it to last. If you stick strictly to the OutRun mode, you will be done in about 45 minutes. If you decide to go through all 101 challenges, it will take quite a while longer, and that’s if you don’t care about getting “AAA” in all the challenges. Many may confuse the simplicity the game offers with shallowness. If you appreciate good games that don’t need tons of bells and whistles to hold you over until the next "big game" comes out, then "OutRun 2" is for you. You can pick up the game for around 40 bucks, and I guarantee that it will put a smile on your face when you realize what a fun game this truly is. We can now only hope that Sega decides to bring the “SP” version of "OutRun 2" (the updated version is just now in the arcades) as downloadable content to add even more to an already great game.