In an odd way, OutRun 2 is the victim of its own industry’s success. When the original OutRun released in arcades 17 years ago, the videogame world was taken by its music, graphics and just-one-more-quarter addictive gameplay. In large part based on that success, publishers have since tried to capitalize on the popularity of racing games by flooding the market with their own take on titles, both arcade and simulation. But with that flood of games, the ante for enjoyment has increased exponentially. OutRun 2 does everything right for a sequel to a 17-year-old arcade game. But in today’s racing-game world, that’s not quite enough to make it stand above the competition.
OutRun 2 includes three core modes: Arcade, Challenge and Xbox Live. Arcade mode is the classic stage-progression mode OutRun fans have played for years. The game includes eight Ferraris (yes, Ferrari is still the car of choice), with four of them unlocked at the beginning. Unlocking cars is achieved by meeting certain milestones in the Challenge mode, which allows players to unlock 184 goodies in total, from new in-game music to pictures of Ferrari clothing (not exactly exciting).
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The Challenge mode is comprised of single-player missions that follow the same basic stage format of the Arcade mode. Players start at the beginning, making their way through a web of stages that increase in difficulty, length and complexity. To advance to the next stage, players must complete a handful of challenges in each leg of the track. These challenges have objectives ranging from driving through a blue-colored lane or knocking down cones to drifting (powersliding) around half-mile-long corners or maintaining a minimum speed around a bend. Some challenges even throw several objectives into the mix, and since each stage is comprised of five or more challenges total, it’s easy to see how many hours can be thrown into OutRun 2. This game is chock full of content.
But sheer amounts of “stuff” doesn’t necessarily equate to fun, at least not for everyone. For example, Project Gotham Racing 2 and Burnout 3 each have incredible amounts of content, and earning the top medals and unlockables in those games provides significant challenge for the most dedicated racing fans. At the same time, though, both games remain approachable to casual gamers by offering easily attained medals, which allows lower-skilled players to make progress and feel “accomplished” at their own pace.
OutRun 2, on the other hand, insists that players score a perfect “A” in each challenge before moving on to the next stage. The academic-style grading system is based on how many hearts players collect from their female passenger, who doles out hearts based on players’ progress in achieving their objectives. “Close but no cigar” means nothing to the lady, or to the game. A hard-earned “B” leads to the same result as a flub-filled “D”: mission failure. And make no mistake: OutRun 2 is an incredibly challenging game. One error, be it bumping into another car or momentarily skidding off the road, can mean the difference between A-rated success or heart-losing failure. This game is pure arcade racer at its most unforgiving. That’s great for some racing fans, but it’s also bad for others.
Perhaps because of that challenge, Sega has included a bevy of race-inspired Party Missions along with the single-player game. These missions are similar to the single-player objectives, but rather than meet certain levels of greatness, players only need out-do the others in the room. The challenges are arranged into stages of five events each, and up to four players can race, one at a time, to determine the winner. There’s also a Race option in which players can race AI opponents, take a stab at time trials against ghost cars or compete in a System Link setup.
But it’s obvious that the Xbox Live multiplayer is really where Sega’s hoping to tug at fans’ nostalgic heartstrings. The racing options are as straightforward as you’d expect (OptiMatch, QuickMatch, etc.), and the Time Attack mode allows you to race the ghost cars of the top 40 racers on any single stage or course. In theory, if players set a high score they can upload their own ghost, but the game is somewhat hit-or-miss when it comes to successfully uploading said ghosts.
Fortunately, since the game is as unforgiving on Live as it is in the single-player game, online racers will have essentially a level playing field, especially if they use OptiMatch. Outmatched players, though, should be prepared to lose their shirt if they get too far behind; the only thing that’ll save a lagging racer is a mistake from the leader. There’s no boost, no shortcuts and no mercy. Serious racers should play with serious racers, and casual racers should play only with other casual racers. If there’s any semblance of mix and mingle, someone is bound to get a little frustrated. But when all things are equal, OutRun 2 provides hours of racing fun.
Much was said in previews about OutRun 2’s graphics, and the final build lives up to most of the claims. The roads are well-textured, the palm trees and occasional evergreens look decent, and the Ferraris are modeled impeccably. Still, it’s obvious the game has arcade roots, because the polish and shimmer gamers are used to seeing in titles like Need for Speed Underground is remarkably absent. Cars in OutRun 2 move along with little acknowledgement of what should be a reflective surface, and jaggies are apparent on some of the cars’ finer edges. Moving from one stage to the next can also lead to some environmental popup, but it’s presented in a way that makes it look intentional. If you’re looking for decent graphics, OutRun 2 has them, but there are many racing games out there that look much more polished (pun not intended).
If the arcade flavor of the gameplay and graphics aren’t obvious, then let me direct you to the music. OutRun 2 captures the arcade sounds perfectly, and if you close your eyes, it’s easy to imagine gazing at the stand-up machine 17 years ago. The classic tunes are back, as are some unlockable European remixes, and the all-new music fits the OutRun vibe perfectly. The sound effects are minimal, but aside from the whine of an engine running at 184MPH and hearing the waves crash on the roadside beach, there’s not too much you need to hear to have a good time. The music is all that matters in this franchise, and Sega nailed it.
Taken as a sequel to a beloved arcade game, OutRun 2 delivers everything Sega needed to deliver, and it does so with aplomb. But the videogame industry has blossomed in the past 17 years, and OutRun no longer lives in a vacuum. Arcade racers are now, for better or worse, almost a dime a dozen, and OutRun 2 faces some stiff competition. Granted, the game carries a reduced price of $39.99, but for just $10 more, there are more meaningful, polished and widely accessible racing games available.
- Gameplay: 7.7
- Perfect arcade gameplay, but not as widely accessible to gamers of all skill levels.
- Graphics: 8
- Good attention to detail, but they definitely show their arcade roots.
- Sound: 8.5
- Not a lot of sound effect variety, but the music is OutRun perfect
- Replay: 7.5
- Xbox Live is pretty much a “must.” If you’re offline only, rent it first.
- Overall: 7.8
- A fantastic sequel, but the age of the franchise definitely shows.
— Jonas Allen