Sega Rally Xbox 360 Review
Last week I broke out the PS2 version of Burnout 2, a game now five years old. I loaded it up on my PS3, and had some great fun playing it. In my mind, regardless of the high octane thrills of its successors, that game is arcade racing perfection. It just got everything so right, and as a result is still perfectly playable a whole generation later. If this simple action proves one thing then that has to be that old games can still be fun years after release if they are done right. To take it a step further I would honestly admit that the old Sega rally games, whether it be the Arcade release from 1995, or Sega Rally Championship from 1999 also deliver quality entertainment to this very day.
It seems that this is a fact Sega Racing Studio are highly aware of as bar from a welcome layer of graphical polish Sega Rally plays just like it predecessors from yesteryear. In truth, it is more a modern take on something that already works rather than a true reinvention of the series for current day consoles. You don’t need any trips around the track to tune your car, you don’t need an explanation of what system the game uses to distract you from the race at hand, and you don’t have an open world to learn. It is just you and your car hurtling round track in an effort to get into first place. But when you strip a game this far back you have to be sure that you get the racing element spot on, and thankfully Sega Rally shines when it comes to on-track excitement.
In the game you still battle against 5 other racer, and you still start from the back of the pack. Handling is once again excellent, letting you fling you car around the track in a highly impractical but fun manner. Sure, going round a 90 degree turn by just easing slightly of the accelerator is not realistic, but in the world of Sega Rally it does seem to work, and work very well. The games Championship mode, which boast three championships (Premier, Modified, Masters), split over more than 100 different races, will remain the go to mode for most players, letting you take on the competitive, but usually fair AI opposition on a total of 16 track which are set across five different environments. That amount may seem a bit small, but thanks to how well designed each of the track are, with exciting tight turns, u-turns, high speed sections, slush hazards, icy stretches, dirt lanes, rocky roads, and multiple surfaces changes littering each one it will take quite a while to come any where close to getting bored of what’s on show. Also, in typical Sega Rally form the tracks are all lush and immensely colourful, with little extras such as a helicopter passing by or a train going over a bridge to brighten up each lap as you go. With all of this combined together the game is most certainly treat to the eye.
The one big change the game offers is the inclusion of what Sega like to call dynamic track deformation. At first this inclusion may look to be just a spiffy graphical extra, but as you race around the track, tearing up the different surfaces as you go, it brings a noticeable change to gameplay. In fact, on the second lap the change really hits home as the amount of grip you car gets will have noticeably changed on certain area of the track, particularly on the tight turns. Then on the third, and finally lap you see it even more with the best line to take around a turn changed yet again depending on where you, and the rest of the pack drove the last time round. Furthermore, every following time you race on that track the deformation could play a part in altering how you tackle bends, thus, to some extent, giving you a slightly different challenge each time you play.
When all is said and done the game seems perfectly built to allow quick access to all of its modes, thus offering a quick 15 minutes of excitement for those stuck for time, and conversely some exciting hour long sessions for those that have the opportunity to spend some considerable time with the game. Downloadable time trial ghost are another welcome addition, which will no doubt help those wanting to learn all the little eccentricities of each track, and improve their lap times. And of course, the inclusion of online play is another nice extra, albeit been a bit bare bones, as will help the longevity of the game substantially. One final note would have to be that the game makes some fantastic use of rumble, offering some great tactile feedback as you change between difference surfaces and bounce about in the dynamically deformed parts of the track from your previous lap.
In my mind, right now, as we are in the run into the final few months of 2007, it is overtly obvious that the racing genre is, and has been for quite a while, making grand strides forward to redefine itself. Many games have played a part in this, with PRG3 offering the first true next-gen visual experience and Test Drive Unlimited bring the genre online in an exciting new way. Then there is Forza 2, bringing us simulation options that we have never before seen, and the upcoming release of Burnout Paradise, which looks very likely to be an arcade racers dream. So, with all of these changes, and with all of these advancements, why it is so easy to fall in love with something some familiar? Well that is certainly a difficult question to answer, but right from the first minute you start to play Sega Rally you can’t help but feel positively retro. However, that should not be considered a bad thing, as right now Sega Rally sits at the very top of the pick up and play stack of games available on the 360. Although it may be old school in it approach, and not necessarily bring anything that could be considered brand new to the genre, it is one hell of a game to play, and quite possibly another one of the few titles to keep fans of the genre entertained for many years to come.
Better than DiRT, albeit a vastly different take on rallying.