'OutRun Online Arcade' XBox 360 LIVE Arcade Review

April 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

OutRun Online Arcade is the gaming antidote to a rainy, Sunday afternoon; it is pure unadulterated escapism, liquid joy in the form of ones and zeros. In between all the Resident Evils and Gears of Wars in this world, they simply don’t make this kind of game any more. Except they do. Because this is Sega we’re talking about here, and they’re not afraid of committing themselves to, what I’d imagine to be, months of development time, hours of endless discussions, trying to figure out which perfect shade of blue they should put in a game.

OutRun Online Arcade is a combination of OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast and Outrun 2 SP, containing 15 courses from the previous games and boasting online racing multiplayer for six players. Technically, there is only one track in OutRun, but it is sub-divided, again and again, into further, smaller tracks. At the end of each sub-section you are given a choice where the game allows you to branch off onto one track or another. This allows the player to choose an easier or harder track, depending on whether its getting a little too hairy out there or if the player wants more of a challenge.

There are only a few game modes, including OutRun Mode (a traditional arcade mode),  Heart Attack Mode (where you must get to the end of the course while completing various on-the-fly challenges),  Time Attack Mode and also a 15 Continuous Course Mode for the OutRun and Time Attack modes. In addition to the aforementioned multiplayer, there are now global and friends list leaderboards and some achievements to pimp your gamerscore with.

It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly what makes OutRun so damn special. Technically, it is just a very solid racer with pretty graphics, but there is something extra, some magic, difficult to pin down. What comes closest to describing it is ‘charm’; the game has charm, and a nostalgic quality about it that allows it to set itself apart from the competition (Burnout, GRID, Gran Turismo etc.). It’s not just one thing but several which makes OutRun such a heartwarming experience: it’s the bold, chunky, colourful graphics; it’s the bluest skies you will ever see in a video game; it’s the fantastically cheesy J-pop songs (“I’m gonna keep on believin’, dreaaaamin… feels so aliiiiiiive out here on the road, yeaaaah”); it’s your girlfriend in the passenger seat, waving her arms about wildly as you careen around a corner at 160 mph.

"Blue skies, baby! Yeaaaaaaaah!"

"Blue skies, baby! Yeaaaaaaaah!"

OutRun doesn’t need a dozen gameplay modes because at its essence it’s an arcade game. You choose a car, automatic or manual drive and away you go; you just drive, through sunny beach resorts, through rainforests, over mountainsides, over highways — through a freaking archaeological dig — until you get to the end or time runs out. That’s it; you put the controller down and feel a little bit happier for the rest of the day — it’s just that kind of game.

It’s true that OutRun isn’t really a game suited to four hour marathon sessions; it provides quick, cheap thrills — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Achievements and high scores are nice additions but will only really captivate the real ‘Skill Players‘ who are obsessed with that sort of thing.

The multiplayer isn’t too bad and, thankfully, lag isn’t much of an issue here. There are a few modifiers in multiplayer which you can use to customise the race, such as collision detection, effectively making the cars transparent, ethereal entities or susceptible to every shunt and grind from your opponents. (Personally, I play games without collision detection because otherwise it tends to degenerate into a round of bumper cars, which isn’t all that fun.) All-in-all, the multiplayer is a fun diversion but it is pretty bare-bones — does-what-it-says-on-the-back-of-the-tin — stuff. It’s absolutely fine, but seeing as I’m not hugely competitive, it doesn’t hold much appeal to me. The spirit of OutRun, to me, always seemed to be in challenging yourself, in deciding how you want to play and in enjoying it, and not in trying to beat the other guy.

"But I would walk 500 miles. And I would walk 500 more..."

"But I would walk 500 miles. And I would walk 500 more..."

OutRun is a last-gen game high-def’ed for next-gen consoles; as such, the graphics, while gorgeous in motion, can look a little rough, especially in regards to the textures. The frame rate holds up for the most part, but there are points where noticeable lag creeps in — and it’s usually at the beginning of a new section of track, specifically on the Heart Attack Mode. This, in my mind, is unacceptable. OutRun Online Arcade is a PS2 game or, at best, an Xbox game ported to the 360. With the 360’s horsepower, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be able to run the game at full speed. And for racing games in general this is super important; racing games rely on quick reactions and slowdown like this can really shatter the player experience. Luckily, it’s not game breaking

While it’s longevity is questionable, OutRun Online Arcade is worth the budget-price of £6.80. It’s an essential purchase for when you find yourself inside, miserable, on yet another rainy Sunday afternoon.

OutRun Online Arcade is available for the Xbox 360 for the price of 800 Microsoft Points (around £6.80 in real money).

(888 words.)

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