Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Second Look @ OutRun 2

(Images used from MobyGames, Gamespot, and IGN)

(It does say OutRun 2006, but the same songs are in both games)

The only experience I ever had with the original OutRun game was on my copy of OutRun 2. I shouldn't have to say that the great arcade classic had gone unnoticed by me for years. But my first experience with OutRun 2 was in a bowling alley arcade years ago and after just one minute in the driver's seat I surprisingly found myself loving the force feedback of the steering wheel, the bright colors that blurred by, and the freedom of the old arcade racing days. When I found out that OutRun 2 was also released on consoles I knew I had to track down my own copy of the game.
In the gaming industry "porting a game over to consoles" is a dangerous thing to do. Its either a carbon copy or a rough approximation of the previous version. OutRun 2 fits into the former and was perfectly ported over to the Xbox with added extras. It has the same feel of the arcade game and has lost none of its luster or speed. This is an arcade port done right. Perfectly, I dare say. 

OutRun 2 features three different game modes: OutRun Arcade, which is the original no-frills Arcade game; OutRun Challenge, which gives you several specific goals to achieve along each route; and OutRun Xbox Live which is currently unavailable due to the original XBL being offline. Arcade mode features the classic point-to-point race as well as the new Heart Attack mode, where you earn hearts and points for completing requests from your female passenger such as drifting through an entire zone, passing cars, or staying within a certain lane. It offers quite a challenge for both beginner and experienced players. The final mode is Time Attack, which is self-explanatory.
OutRun Challenge Mode is for those who want a little more out of their time with the game. There are 101 different missions to complete with several objectives that you take on one-by-one along each route, be it knocking over cones, staying in a lane, or racing against a single rival. Challenge Mode justifies why the arcade game was ported over and you'll find the bulk of the enjoyment here.
There is a party mode for couch co-op where you and three friends can race to outperform one another through the same series of trials found in Challenge Mode. If you have a steering wheel controller for either your original Xbox or Xbox 360 (it is backwards compatible), then that may be the best way to play it if you want that true arcade feeling.

The usual host of Ferrari pedigrees are present including the 360 Spyder, Enzo, Testarossa and 250 GTO. The best and most famous machines are here each with different stats that don't really seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. Although the cars are classified by Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert level, they're all accessible and are easy to drive. The faster cars are reserved for the more advanced players but they're also more unruly in their drift traction and handling. Regardless of that, the slower cars and easier routes may still provide a little bit of a challenge for those who are new to the concept. Traffic changes each time you play and where other cars may be present on a tight turn, they might not be there the next playthrough, giving the replayability factor a little bump. While drifting may be the big show in this game, it feels as though its pretty much the only way to get around any turn regardless of the degree of difficulty. The original OutRun was simply about avoiding traffic and not crashing into objects on the side of the road while here it could be argued for the sake of evolving the franchise that the drifting was added in and given so much attention.
There's a ton of content to unlock and play so if you're not feeling like waiting to beat each of the Challenge Mode missions there are cheats that can unlock the original unaltered Out Run arcade game and music set as well as Eurodance remixes. You pretty much have three entire games in one if you count the Xbox exclusives apart from the OutRun Arcade mode.

Graphics are crisp, clean, and bright with no frames dropped and a steady 30 fps. Even though the Xbox version is currently 10 years old, it has shown little signs of age and looks good even today. The animated menus are never bothersome to navigate and gives the entire game its own personality. Its not trying to be just another racing game, and as creator Yu Suzuki has said "it's a driving game." Understanding that brings a whole new perspective to it.
Each route you take has a different theme and you can feel immersed in this world of speed as the advertisement billboards fly by and traffic is left in your review mirror; of course you don't have enough time to stop and gaze at how each route looks but you do get the feeling that a lot of work went into the details to get them just right with no glitches and no level breaks to distract you.
Each Ferrari looks amazing with clear defining lines, shadows over the models, and an accuracy that not even Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli could achieve. However it does come across as a little lacking in the car options department: more cars could have been added to give a wider variety. The options of paint jobs on each car is a nice thought, but it doesn't give a lot to the players.

Music is plentiful and each track is worth listening to, suiting the game perfectly and giving it more of a light-hearted feeling. There might not seem like a lot of variety at first with only 9 songs to choose from but after the Eurodance remixes and original soundtracks are unlocked you have plenty of options to cruise to.
The sounds you'll hear the most are your engine's rev limits and your tires screeching along the pavement. Its never bothersome and when combined with the music it completes the game's personality. As your passenger compliments you for driving well or berates you for crashing, as you see a cityscape form over the horizon, as your engine roars at the starting line, you get the sensation that the game is alive each time you play it. Most games are weak in the sound area whereas OutRun 2 has put as much effort into sound quality as it did the graphics.

Unfortunately for me, while the arcade racing experience is thrilling, it wears on my attention span quickly. Traveling down the same road(s) in a few different cars is okay for at least 30 minutes at a time but I can't see myself putting dozens of hours into this game. You may feel the same if you're stuck playing alone, it may be better with friends though. But you can't hate this game for doing what it does. Its not a racing game, its a driving game. It set out to be its own thing and accomplished that with flying colors and most importantly it is fun even if you just want to play through Arcade Mode once. The ease of accessibility and the amount of content make this a must-own for any Xbox/360 owner. It does the OutRun name proud.
This is the definitive Ferrari racing game and is meant to be enjoyed in the same way driving a Ferrari is meant to be (minus the insane drifting, of course). Sega has done the Ferrari license justice and has re-invented a classic game, it has a lasting power for years to come and has not lost its shine throughout the years. If you don't own OutRun 2 on Xbox its never too late to find a copy since they're definitely not rare. If you prefer just a little extra than the already large amount of content here, there's always OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast on Xbox, PC, PS2, and PSP. These have more tracks, tuned graphics, and more music. If you're wondering how to improve a game that was already great to begin with, it would be with Coast 2 Coast. As the days of arcades and arcade games are slowing down, OutRun 2 is a treasure, it proves that games can still be fun.

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