OutRun2 (Xbox) review
"The Beautiful Journey... that's what it means to play OutRun2. It's not just blasting down the highway in a red Ferrari Testarossa, the wind in your hair and a power slide on every corner. Nor is it the cross platform journey through time the franchise has made, from its 1986 arcade origins all the way up to its modern home on the fun loving Xbox. No, as relevant as these possible definitions may be, I like to think of the Beautiful Journey as referring to the inner voyage of nostalgia that lays before you. "
The Beautiful Journey... that's what it means to play OutRun2. It's not just blasting down the highway in a red Ferrari Testarossa, the wind in your hair and a power slide on every corner. Nor is it the cross platform journey through time the franchise has made, from its 1986 arcade origins all the way up to its modern home on the fun loving Xbox. No, as relevant as these possible definitions may be, I like to think of the Beautiful Journey as referring to the inner voyage of nostalgia that lays before you. For more than anything else, Sumo Digital and AM2 have fused their home conversion of OutRun2 with the very same sense of wonder and excitement felt way back then. The speed, the style, the cars... only now everything has been super sized with extra wow, extra oh my, extra bang for your buck. If OutRun2 were a hamburger joint, then I have no doubt in my mind that Sega would have stopped players at some stage to ask whether they wanted extra fries with that as well... yes sir, it's that complete! Ladies & Gentlemen, what we have here is one of the best racers ever to grace the home systems. It's good... scratch that, it's great.... so long as you know exactly what you're getting in for...
* Press Start *
Let it be known here and now that OutRun2 doesn't want, need or even care to be the next Gran Turismo. It won't pretend to deliver the most realistic driving experience silicon can provide, so don't expect it and you won't be disappointed. No, what we have here is a racer born and bred in the arcades. It's pick up and play gameplay for those looking to sate their need for speed, sans any annoying distractions that get in the way of a really good race. From the ultra unrealistic yet fun power slide action to the lack of hardcore sim style physics, OutRun2 delivers all its high speed thrills in quick, easy to swallow 5 minute shots of arcade flavored goodness. Slam on the brakes before a particularly nasty looking S-bend and you'll power slide you way through the curves, looking and feeling good about everything in the process. Pull it off with style and the lady sitting next to you will pump the air with her fist, no doubt showing her appreciation with a hearty woohoo! Make a mistake however and you're likely to cop a stern look instead, ultimately paying for your indiscretion with the loss of a few precious seconds and a battered self-image. Like I said though, it's simple arcade racing fun... so don't sweat the small stuff ok? Just drop the hammer, put the pedal to the metal, and you'll be blasting through the traffic again in no time at all...
So it's fun, arcade-y, and very, very fast... got it, but why should you care? Daytona USA, SCUD Racer, and many more besides have already done the low maintenance, arcade racing thing to death. Is there anything else left to say? No matter your thoughts on the genre, one can't deny that OutRun2's trademark sense of fun and adventure is something that more racing games could sorely use. For its not so much what it does that's important, it's how it goes about doing it that makes the difference. Rather than forcing players down a single unchanging roadway, OutRun2 offers them the choice of where to go thanks to its ingeniously devised branching paths. Drive hell for leather and sooner or later you'll come to a fork in the road where it becomes time to make a decision. Should you take the route on the left where the bends are soft and gentle? Or should you challenge your personal best with the one of the right? Decisions, decisions! Which would your lady friend appreciate the most? So the map may seem overly basic when compared to the sprawling cityscapes seen in many of today's best racers, but that doesn't mean to say that it's any less fun. In fact, let's just consider the proverb "the simple things in life are often the best" as carrying a little more weight from here on out. Now quick, someone pass me another coin. I've got a game to continue.
Whichever route you ultimately decide to take, you'd best be prepared for OutRun2's barrage of jaw dropping visuals. Tulip covered fields, winding mountain roads, huge stately looking castles and vile polluted industrial zones. Each and every leg of your journey has been rendered with a keen eye for detail that immerses the player in a euphoria soaked sense of WOW. Chimneys far off in the distance sprout smoke as giant hot air balloons slowly rise to meet the morning sun. And just as you begin to think that Sumo/AM2 couldn't have made the game any more stunning, the camera catches the light in such a way that it leaves you breathless and hungry for more. My God, it truly is the Beautiful Journey isn't it? Furthermore with 15 different stages on offer, you can rest easy in the knowledge that every time you step out onto the highway, there's going to be something new and exciting to see. Near. Pixel. Perfect. Arcade. Conversion. Yes, I think that says it best. If you do need more however (and I really couldn't blame you), then there's always the extra special bonus stages that Sumo/AM2 have gracefully provided. You want nostalgia? Well you've got it right here buddy! *winks* hello my old friends, where have you been?
Thankfully it's OutRun2's wide range of play modes and unlockable extras that provide the otherwise simple gameplay with the stamina needed to drag players back for more. And though there's certainly a lot to do, the highlight of it all is a rather surprising "Mission Mode". For it's here that players will find themselves not only racing against the clock, but also partaking in any number of tasks that prove to be as fun as they are insane. While one mission could have players collecting hearts and delivering them to key areas on the roadway, the next may force you to do some basic arithmetic in order to pick the correct fork in the road. *2 + 5 + 7 - 12* Pass the truck, slide through a corner, and dodge some traffic *+ 6 - 1 + 9 = 16* We'll take the fork on the right! Concentration, speed, reflexes and a keen mind for numbers... this stuff actually works well together!?! Unfortunately however, the uneven challenge present in some of the objectives can make the overall experience quite frustrating. Even on the easier skill levels, missions become overly aggravating thanks to the high level of perfection demanded from players. Make a single mistake and you may as well restart the stage, often to the accompaniment of some rather colorful language. Oh well, persevere and you'll find yourself improving no end. And if you do get that damn good, you might just want to take it online in order to show the rest of the world exactly what you're made of...
As challenging as OutRun2 can be, chances are that when all is said and done, it's going to be the game's soundtrack that you'll end up remembering. Of course, that's not to say that the gameplay is weak, far from it in fact. It's only meant to further highlight exactly how invigorating many of the BGM tracks really are. But then again where OutRun2 is concerned, anything less than a high level of auditory excellence was going to be inexcusable! Magical Sound Shower, Splash Wave, Passing Breeze, back in 1986 these tracks were already considered classics. Now, with a little modern sampling and some all new grooves, they are simply put... masterpieces. And while all that may be good and true, it's certainly nice to see that many of the new tracks are more than capable of standing up to the foot tapping groves of our old favorites. Ranging from a little light rock to some energizing European style pop and electronica, this is one soundtrack that deserves a place in the CD collection of any serious gamer. Doubly so if you're a 20-something with a yearning for the classics! Very nice indeed!
* Get Ready! 3, 2, 1... GO!!! *
Unfortunately the biggest problem OutRun2 is going to face will be convincing the "sim" crowd to give it a chance. The irony being that if they were half the racing enthusiasts they claim to be, then the simple joys offered by Sumo Digital's sublime conversion would be right up their alley. So it doesn't have a million different ways to configure your car and it doesn't feature realistically rendered damage, but really... who cares? That stuffs not important and there's a hundred other things that OutRun2 does right. The least of which is entertain in full. The controls are light and responsive, the sense of speed is impressive, and generally speaking it's just a whole lot of cool. Sometimes it's good to let go of the real world, forgoing the things that hold us back each day by really cutting loose with our dreams. And that's exactly what you can do here. OutRun2 is a Beautiful Journey that everyone can enjoy. You could be poor, over-weight and ugly as all Hell, but even that won't stop you from tearing up the wide open highways in nothing but the classiest of style. Sitting behind the wheel of a car you couldn't afford, soaking up the view with a stunning woman you couldn't possibly date. You know you want it, heck you may even deserve it! So let go of reality for a while and embrace the Journey before you... after all, everyone wants to be Beautiful...
* OutRun2 sits at the peak of the arcade racing mountain
* Arcade driving action makes for a refreshing change of pace
* The controls are light and responsive
* Mission Mode packs all the variety needed to keep players going all night
* New stages, new cars, new music... you can quite literally unlock a whole new game
* Xbox Live support is as expected, excellent
* Graphically, this is about as close to the Model 3 arcade version as was possible
* Each of the 15 stages is as varied and as stunning as the next
* OutRun2 has a soundtrack to die for
* The difficulty of some Mission Mode objectives can be quite unbalanced
* Hardcore racing fans may be put off by OutRun2's overt simplicity
Staff review by Michael Scott (October 04, 2004)
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