OutRun Online Arcade Review: It’s All About The Finish Line
As I mentioned before, in my article about Sega’s Top 10 Worst Business Mistakes, one of the things that Sega is known for is screwing up their franchises. However, back in 2003, Sega released “OutRun 2″ in the arcades, and it did everything one should expect from a remake: great visuals, updated game design for the modern era, and a constant 60 FPS. It was later ported to the Xbox and Playstation 2 with extra features including additional cars, and even the original “OutRun.” This modern remake has gone through many incarnations with the more notable one being “Coast to Coast” which added 15 more areas. The most recent update as been released released as “OutRun Online Arcade,” taking the visuals up to HD standards and using the power of Xbox Live. Does it deliver?
Yes and no. Let’s talk about the good things first. It is as visually appealing as it was 6 years ago. The borderline trademark blue skies are there, the licensed Ferrari lineup including the original Testarossa are drivable, and the anonymous blond in the passenger seat still remains. There is very little to criticize about the visuals itself, since the artistic direction has barely aged throughout the years and it still looks great.
The controls are still as tight as ever. Unlike many games today, the controls are responsive and the car reacts just as you’d expect it to. Drifting is still king in “OutRun Online Arcade,” although you will face a much easier time since you will be using an analog stick instead of a big racing wheel. This is not to say it will be an easy game to master, as some of the courses will rip you to shreds if you get even a little too cocky. The availability of online competition makes drifting more important, since every car’s performance is exactly the same, so if you are in someone’s rear view mirror, you can only blame yourself for being there.
For those who never played “OutRun” or were simply too young to play the original, the idea was extremely simple: You have an expensive car and you are racing towards the finish line within a brief time limit. What made the game unique was course layout, instead of simply breezing from one area to the next, you had to choose which path to take. Continue on the left side meant you’ll be taking the easier route - go right, and it’s harder. There are 15 courses in all, each one lasting about a minute, although you will be racing five in one run.
The new addition to “OutRun 2″ which is present in “OutRun Online Arcade” is “Heart Attack Mode.” In this strange mode, you basically drive around doing tasks for your girlfriend. Some of them start out simple as “pass all the cars” but later on you will have to stay in a certain blue area, or perform some insane drifting. It manages to combine racing with mini-games in a flawless way, and despite the oddity, it fits into “OutRun”’s style very well.
Even with all that praising, there are many problems with this game that pushes off the “perfect” pedestal. These flaws having nothing to do with the game design itself, but rather the lack of either Quality Assurance testing, or just plain laziness. The most notable one is the latency issues. If everyone has a decent connection, the game is nearly impossible to tell if you’re playing online. It still runs as 60 frames and controls are still responsive, and that’s a very impressive feat, especially when racing games require precision to work properly. However, if there is one player who is lagging everyone, or the host is dumb enough to be screwing around with his bandwidth, then you will see some things that make the game virtually unplayable. If someone is lagging, and you go to the end of the track where the road splits, the game will stop streaming, which means the game won’t load the next portion of the track. You might be in first place, kicking everyone’s ass, only to realize that you are driving on a road to nowhere. While this might be acceptable if it was rare and really laggy, but this happens way too often.
Another “feature” that fails that demonstrates the lack of Q.A. testing is the collisions. While it’s understandable to allow the feature for players to block the other guy from passing, this shouldn’t be allowed at the exact start of the race. If you put on Collisions, players will start in a grid like any other race, but if the guy in front is away or being a dick, you’ll be stuck behind him, and you must ram your way through. What makes this bad is the other guy’s car might as well be a brick wall. Sometime you might even be 30 seconds behind the pack, thus screwing your game before you even got started.
Lastly, there’s the content. While this game is only $10 and I shouldn’t be complaining about content, it would’ve been nice to see a little bit more. There are only five pieces of music, whereas the other “OutRun”s had numerous remixes. Previous “OutRun”s for the consoles also allowed driving the courses in reverse and even mirroring, thus increasing replayability. Here we simply have a straight up arcade port with 15 tracks and no variation to them. Add to that the lack of online leaderboad and you will only shake your head as to why Sega refused to do these basic necessities.
That being said, “OutRun Online Arcade” is still a great value. The controls work, it runs great, looks beautiful, and it has Ferraris. Due to the unforgiving nature of the game, it can also be considered highly competitive amongst the hardcore gamers. But despite the good things, there was so much Sega could’ve done to make it much more worthwhile, solving most of the problems with some extra Q.A. However, it is hard to say the game is bad with this amount of enjoyment for a mere $10.
“OutRun Online Arcade” was released on April 15th, 2009 for Xbox 360, on the Xbox Live Arcade.