OutRun is one of the first games I remember playing, and one of the largest milestones for the racing genre. Hitting the arcades in the mid/late eighties, OutRun was flasher and faster than anything before it.
One aspect of the game still fondly looked back at was how there was an intersection at the end of each stage; each path lead to a new stage featuring an entirely new theme. Every time you inserted a coin seemed like an entirely new journey.
Outrun Online Arcade is essentially a port of the OutRun 2 SP Arcade game, and not the “Coast to Coast” version that hit the console market. What this means is there are no unlockables and the game is fairly ‘light’ on features. What remains though is the gameplay that made the franchise so good to begin with. There honestly is nothing quite like dodging through traffic at 300km/h before shifting down a gear and sliding through a hairpin at 280km/h. To say this game is fast is an understatement.
Of course the branching courses make a welcome return. There are five endings and fifteen different stages. A standard game will take you on an exciting five minute journey of entirely changing roads. This is something that other racing games have never quite managed to latch onto. Every drive really feels like you are actually going somewhere; it’s fresh and liberating for those of us usually confined to a circuit. What’s even better is the ability to stack all of the game's stages end to end and seamlessly drive through the lot! This amounts to a 15-minute speed fest through always changing terrain.
There a variety of game modes to spice things up. As well as your standard race mode, there are ‘Time Attack’ and ‘Heart Attack’ options. Time Attack is pretty self explanatory, it removes traffic and ‘rivals’ and just leaves you and the game's courses. For me this is the essence of the game - just going for a cruise and then seeing how quick you got the end. Heart Attack is a good distraction, as you race, your passenger will make requests such as drifting a corner and staying within markers. This mode will test your vehicle handling and throws in a couple of new elements.
This would all be useless without controls that were up to the task. Simulation junkies will of course have realised by now that this game isn’t for them. The handling is 100% arcade, and proud of it. Sure there isn’t the depth or strategy of Forza, but it’s seriously a real joy to throw your car around simply ridiculous corners.
OutRun Online Arcade is playable over Xbox Live. Unfortunately the traffic disappears for races, which is a little disappointing, but having six people all drifting the same corner at speed is extremely entertaining. The key to races (and the rest of the game) is not to be too serious and just enjoy them for what they are. Like a lot of online experiences, it’s ok with strangers, but is a fantastic way to virtually hang out with some buddies for a couple of hours.
Ultimately this version of OutRun isn’t the most complete, and doesn’t have a huge amount of depth. What it does do well, though, is boil down the most exiting parts of the racing genre and deliver arcade-style thrills to your living room. I know I will be booting up the title time and time again to zone out for 15 minutes and enjoy the epic ride through the games stages, online and offline.