OutRun - Sega Ages 2500
The PS2 version of OutRun takes the classic original and mixes with enhanced visuals and music! Is it a dream ride or a road-side disaster?
Conspiracy Games (US, UK)
Imagine for a minute you're out cruising the countryside in a hot red Ferrari convertible with a blonde babe by your side, the top is down and breeze is blowing through your hair as you round those corners at blazing speeds, while blasting through the city limits. Aah, a piece of the American dream, Yu Suzuki knows what it's all about and that's just what he offered gamers when the original OutRun first hit arcades in 1986.
Utilizing the same type of "Super-Scaler" technology first used in Sega's Space Harrier, OutRun featured smooth as silk scaling effects that made the game's pseudo 3D graphics look somewhat convincing and almost as cool as those found in Space Harrier. The audio portion of the game was also quite good and contained solid sound effects and the option to select - via an onscreen radio dial - 1 of 3 classic BGM tracks to listen to while driving.
The gameplay of OutRun was different than that of most other racing games as it had players racing against the clock to reach the check points located at the end of each level. One of the coolest aspects of the game was that at the end of each level players were presented with a choice of two directions to travel in as the roads branched off in opposite directions, allowing them to take multiple routes to reach each of the game's finish lines. A gameplay feature that significantly increased OutRun's replay value and was a refreshing change from the repetitive formula found in most racing and driving games even in today's market.
While OutRun was quite a challenging and sometimes frustrating game, the memorable fantasy driving music, the gameplay, and the cool deluxe arcade cabinets that bounced players every which way made for some fun-filled rides from start to finish.
And now with OutRun2 out in arcades and primed for release later in the year for the Xbox console, Sega Ages: OutRun has arrived at just the right time to offer players a next-gen piece of gaming history in remake form before they get a taste of OutRun2 this Fall.
With Sega Ages: OutRun, the developers have taken the original OutRun formula and spruced it up in a few areas. The game contains a standard arcade mode that recreates the classic OutRun experience with enhanced graphics and effects.
You'll be able to speed your way through the same levels found in the arcade original and to add a nice variation to the mix there's a Game Mode option that lets players toggle between the game's Japanese and Overseas settings, allowing players to experience the different order in which the backgrounds appear in both the U.S. and Japanese versions of OutRun.
While the aforementioned modes are nice little additions to the game, the most significant addition is the all-new Arrange mode, a mode that extends the length of the game by adding a variety of new courses to the original ones. In addition to that there's also the inclusion of rival cars that you'll find yourself racing against throughout the game. A counter at the bottom of the screen displays how many rival cars you've passed and you'll need to overtake as many of them as possible to help your overall score at the end of each race.
These rival cars, while not exactly fierce competitors will remain on your tail, waiting for a screw up on your part so they can blow past you, leaving you trailing in their dust. While the inclusion of rival drivers is a cool new addition to OutRun, it feels more like an afterthought in Sega Ages: OutRun than anything else.
Along with an Arcade and Arrange mode, a new Time Attack mode has also been added to OutRun, allowing players to race through the games Arc'ade and Arrange modes trying to beat their best records. A Ranking mode allows you to view your overall rankings in all of the game's play modes.
Like the classic original the gameplay of Sega Ages: OutRun remains as solid as ever albeit less challenging than before. I remember how frustrating the original OutRun was and even on the hardest difficulty setting this remake lacks that level of challenge and frustration which can be considered both good and bad depending on the type of player.
Despite that, the OutRun car handles incredibly well in this remake and features tight controls and even a cornering option that allows you to adjust the car's handling as well as a gear mode where you can select to enable automatic or manual transmission control.
While the remake has been spruced up with a number of added features, the ones that will probably stand out the most are the graphic and sound enhancements. Visually, Sega Ages: OutRun contains a solid mixture of modernized graphics with plenty of nostalgic elements thrown in to help maintain the spirit of the classic original.
Unlike most of the other Sega Ages remakes for the PS2, OutRun's transition into the 3D realm was not in vain and does a great job of capturing the visual style of the original with polygons replacing the sprites and fancy scaling effects used to fake the 3D effects of the original. The visuals are further enhanced by some decent lighting effects, some occasional lens flares, and animated shadows.
However, despite the game's moderate graphical improvements, some things just didn't turn out too well. While the OutRun car looks significantly better than it did in the early build shown a few months ago, it still doesn't look as cool as it did in the original. The sporty red Ferrari has been remodeled into a retinal jarring, ultra bright red car resembling a Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible more than it does a Ferrari.
But even with that the most glaring problem of all remains the incredible amount of pop-up that plagues the Arrange mode. Draw-In problems appear all over the place throughout many of the courses and it's amazing to see such a thing especially on hardware as powerful as that of the PS2. Fortunately such a thing is limited to the Arrange mode as the Arcade mode manages to conceal the draw-in through the clever level designs of the arcade original.
Graphics aside, sound is another area where Sega Ages OutRun has received a few enhancements in. The all familiar ‘Splash Wave', ‘Magical Sound Shower', and ‘Passing Breeze' themes are presented in both original and arranged form and do a great job recreating the classic themes. While the sound quality of the original tracks lack the charm of the audio from the aging but capable Yamaha sound chip found in the original arcade version, the arranged tracks offer significant improvements over the originals with some cool guitar licks and better stereo sound placement.
The sound effects on the other hand were pretty disappointing and contain some very muffled voice samples that sound as if they were re-sampled from the original but at a much lower quality.
Overall, Sega Ages: OutRun has joined After Burner 2 and Fantasy Zone as one of the best Sega Ages releases on the PS2 so far. Unfortunately, given the turn out of some of the other Sega Ages games released so far that's not really saying much. Regardless, this remake contains a great deal of the magic found in the original while introducing new features and play modes that add to the game's already high replay factor.
While OutRun2 is revving its engines preparing to race out of arcades and onto the Xbox platform this Fall, Sega Ages: OutRun is here now serving up some high speed arcade racing thrills at a budget price.