Over 10 years ago a little Sega-made racer put the pedal to the floor and carved a new niche in speed-soaked arcade bliss. Great music, blistering speed and fantastic graphics, itâ€™s name was Outrun and itâ€™s â€˜gameâ€™ was milking the quarters of any adolescent that stepped within a half metre radius of itâ€™s arcade cabinet. A decade on and the rules have changed, the consoles are more powerful and those same adolescents donâ€™t have as many pimples as they used to. The question is, can an arcade-stylised rebirth of a classic still tear up the asphalt?
The short answer it seems is yes. Yes, oh, yes. Outrun 2 is possibly one of Segaâ€™s best old-school â€˜arcade to consoleâ€™ conversions in years.
Outrun 2â€™s core concept is simple; drive daringly through beautiful, multi-pathed raceways in an attempt to woo your girlfriend in the passenger seat. What method you use to â€˜wooâ€™ her however is determined by what mode you are playing in, but rest assured at its heart outrun 2 is still raw â€˜beat your opponentsâ€™ competitive arcade racing at its most skilful. The word â€˜skillâ€™ here is the keyword, because beyond the deceptively simple â€˜pick up and playâ€™ controls, lurks a surprisingly deep beast to tame.
The power slide is the key to Outrun 2 mastery. To slide you will need to quickly let off the accelerator (right trigger), mash the brake (left trigger) and then quickly pump the accelerator again to maintain speed. Its beautifully intuitive and using just the right sensitivity and timing can make the difference between shaving seconds off your time or running off the road. This is the main mechanic you will use in Outrun 2, and use it you will.
The unique thing about Outrun is that each of these lovely themed tracks you will be racing or completing missions on are stringed together to make up one large overall course. And in homage to the original; â€˜outrun modeâ€™ lets you play through this entire track as one -- a gruelling, tour de rush through mountains, deserts, cities, forests and gritted teeth as you bear off against the clock. But this isnâ€™t a linear course by any means, at the end of each themed tract the course pairs off into two separate stages, and then at the end of those stages pairs off again and so on a couple more times. Not only does this keep the scenery fresh, and your repeat plays spicy but it also dictates the difficulty. The general rule of thumb here is that the further left you travel the easier your route will be, the further right and the more punishing.
In mission mode you will burn, slide and weave your way through 101 different driving objectives in an effort to impress your chicky. Completing all 101 of these proves to be the major return factor for Outrun 2, and the sheer variety of mission objectives is a feat in itself. Each mission takes place on a different strip of the overall racecourse and challenges you to complete a set objective that afterwards you will be graded on. The mission variety is what makes this mode enjoyable, they range from everything to your run-of-the-mill race to madcap traffic dodging, picking up hearts on the road or maintaining your speed limit through marked zones. But I will resist spoiling these for you; a lot of the fun of this mode comes from unlocking and discovering new types of missions (and there are some real beauties to play through). What I will warn you though is the difficulty of these missions ramps up quickly, you will need to be a true blue, steely-thumbed outrun champ to reach that glorious â€˜101â€™ in the sky.
Strangely, single-Xbox multiplayer is missing. If you want to play your friends at Outrun you are going to have to either hook up another Xbox for link play or tear it up online over Xbox Live. While this should only help clinch any Xbox Live users purchase, those looking for some classic two-player action are going to have to get used to taking turns with the controller.
What is noticeable about Outrun 2 is that this is a pretty game. A trend the classic outrun set over a decade back when it introduced a technique called â€˜parallax scrollingâ€™, which offered up an unprecedented experience in both graphics and sound. Outrun 2 runs at a brisk 60 fps, with nary a drop, perfect to capture that glorious sense of speed. Scenery is varied, detailed and pleasing to the eye, you will never see the same corner or the same piece of architecture twice on the same route. The cars are smooth, well modelled and seeing the surrounding trees and buildings reflect and distort over the curves of your ride remains a sight for spoiled eyes. The sky also looks spectacular, dissolving effortlessly into sunsets, clear skies or rainstorms depending on which stage you are on.
There are a few touchy issues however. There is a little bit of pop-up, and a little more animation or activity would have really gone a long way in bringing the scenery to life. Likewise some of the character animations could use work, one particular after-race animation you will see a lot of involves your gal leaning over and strangling you. Amusing, but regrettably rough and choppy, which might have been the fitting punishment for failure if only the other animations didnâ€™t look much better than this. In the end however this doesnâ€™t really spoil gameplay where it counts, and where racers are concerned it is definitely still a looker.
Sound fairs a little less well, with only seven available tunes to pre-select before a race begins. With names like â€˜magical sound showerâ€™ and â€˜passing breezeâ€™, I need not tell you this is classic up-beat Sega. Old-school Outrun-ers will appreciate the homage-paid remixes of the scores they cruised to back in the day, but for others this may not be your cup of â€˜burnoutâ€™. Thankfully there are a few more to unlock and in Outrunâ€™s defence the music does fit well, feel good and doesnâ€™t become easily repetitive. For the most part though you will be so focused on the race the music will be â€˜out of earâ€™ and â€˜out of mindâ€™ below the roaring revolutions of your Ferrari.
All in all, Outrun 2 has done a lot of things right. The sense of speed is excellent, races always feels blisteringly fast and relatively furious but never in an out of control way. It is a different sort of experience from similar software on the market like Burnout, with a different emphasis on skill and taking the scenic route. In a word this is â€˜arcadeâ€™, you pick up the game and are delivered with near instant gratification. Whether this will be enough for you will be determined by your commitment and hunger for more. This will be an essential purchase for grizzled Outrun vets and old-school coin-op fans, but hesitant gamers may be better off saving their quarters and making this just a rental for now.