Sega has breathed new life into their 1986 arcade blockbuster, OutRun. With the release of OutRun2 for the Xbox, all of the addictive game play of the original is back, but in a far more modern package and without having to constantly feed tokens into a slot. Graphics and sound capabilities have obviously changed in 18 years, and this is readily apparent in OutRun2. 2D sprites are of course a thing of the past - OutRun2 uses the powerful Xbox console to render great looking 3D cars and environments to race through.
My usual interest in racing games runs towards the more realistic, simulation types. This is obviously not the case with OutRun2, though. While I normally prefer the complexity of a reality-based simulation, I found that the arcade simplicity of OutRun2 kept me engrossed for hours. As is required for an arcade game to be successful, there is very little learning curve initially, but it draws you in by getting progressively more difficult. I spent quite a bit of time early on simply trying to master the patented OutRun four wheel slide. I'm still not convinced it's any faster to turn that way versus controlling your entry speed into the turn, but it sure is a blast! I usually find the console controllers detrimental to having enough control of the car to drive it well, but the easily manageable slide turn negates that disadvantage. I did find, however, that I preferred the chase view over the first person view because it made it much easier to manage the slide through the turns.
The cars available for racing run the gamut of eight Ferrari offerings, from the Dino 246 GTS all the way up to the top-of-the-line Enzo. They're very attractively modeled, and sound fantastic under full throttle. After having tried all of them, I can't honestly say it makes much of a difference which you choose. Differences between them are pretty subtle, and this simply isn't a game in which subtle differences will be all that noticeable. There's no damage modeling in the game, so you won't have to worry about scratching and denting them up.
So, great looking, great sounding, and not overly complex. No weapons, no performance boosts, and only one special move. It seems very simplistic and retro, doesn't it? Well, yes! That's the appeal of it. Anyone can pick up a controller and, if not necessarily master this game, certainly be somewhat competitive very quickly. No worries about tire pressures, shock rates, which combination of button presses to use for exotic moves, or whether there's a short cut coming up. There's none of that - it's the ultimate "arrive and drive." That, my friends, is the appeal of arcade games, and OutRun2 is the epitome of arcade racers. Make it to the checkpoints before time runs out, decide at the end of each segment whether you want to branch to the harder or easier side, and don't look back. If you get a chance in the course of a race to look at some of the scenery, more the better.
If the arcade mode gets old, Sega has also included some new challenges. In the arcade mode, these are primarily made up of a combination of head-to-head AI races and token gathering. For example, in Heart Attack you have to collect enough of the hearts floating on the track to please your high strung female passenger. In Time Attack, beat the clock to please your nagging female passenger. Notice a common theme here? Yeah, nothing is perfect – you’re driving your dream car as fast as you want in a consequence free environment, but you still gotta deal with the “better half” nagging you the whole way.
Beyond the arcade mode challenges, Sega has added 101 more tasks in Challenge Mode. These are very similar to the arcade mode challenges in that they typically require you to slide for extended periods, collect tokens or remain in defined lanes on the track, or outrun AI cars. Meeting all of the challenges unlocks the next level. As the levels get more complex, you will be tasked with dealing with a combination of the various challenges in a single session. That will require quick thinking and fast reaction times on the higher levels.
And finally, if you want to race against a human opponent, there is Xbox Live multiplayer available. You can race against up to eight other players, compare your high scores to rankings from players around the world, and download ghost cars to race against.
If you’re nostalgic for the good old days of arcade racers, OutRun2 will certainly deliver a great taste of the past. Be aware, however, that OutRun2 is very loyal to its ancestry, so if you’re expecting all the latest bells and whistles in a console racer, you will be disappointed.
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Sega has brought the old classic OutRun into the 21st century with the release of OutRun2. Tons of fun, but that nagging girl is still along for the ride.