OutRun 2019 (Genesis) review
"Sponsored by SNK"
If there's one surefire thing you can expect from an OutRun experience, it would be the diverse and often characteristic environments. These can be anything from lush coasts with sail boats and palm trees aplenty to the abundance of colorful flowers and foliage covering the landscape. Even places with leafless trees offer vibrancy with its villages and purple-hued skies. I mean... unless you happen to be playing OutRun 2019, whose interpretation of the distant future includes bleak, washed-out visuals, lots of skyscrapers, and... historic monuments? Because nothing screams "FUTURE!" quite like ancient architecture from Greece.
But at least you get the classic fast-paced, traffic-dodging, path-splitting gameplay, right? That's definitely here, and as you burst through the starting tunnel with a
slick, red Ferrari Testarossa grey, bulky vehicle equipped with a booster, you'll be passing other ridiculously-designed racers on the road. A car with a skull plastered on its roof. Sure! A batmobile-style car if it had a stupid-looking, towering six-pack booster on its back? This game's got it! Your vehicle's booster isn't just for show, either. Once a certain speed is reached and a meter completely filled, your contraption on wheels will blaze across the pavement at over 600mph.
Activating the booster is weird, though. Unlike, say, nearly every racing game that allows you to initiate a boost with a button press, OutRun 2019 just does it automatically. This is awkward for obvious reasons. The last thing you would want before or during a long, tight turn, which includes other racers, is to suddenly gain more momentum and crash into a sign. Boost prevention is doable, but it requires this unnecessary extra step in figuring out a right "rhythm" to losing speed prior to the boost. You're not always going to know what type of turn is coming next, which adds to the hassle. Thankfully, stopping a boost is as simple as braking lightly or letting go of the accelerator, but still... even after you get a better grip on the mechanic, it's still cumbersome.
If this was the sole distracting factor during races, this might not even be that big an issue. However, when you're boosting, the game conveniently fills the screen with vehicles, and some will purposely shift into your lane at nearly the last second; barely gives you time to react, and worse, if there's multiple cars when this happens, your chances of getting hit and losing the boost are huge. It's bad enough vehicle AI is already strange, with some opponents often taking forever to pass, despite going the max pre-boost speed limit. There's even moments where, when it looks like you're about to make a pass, the rival car inexplicably gains speed and drives into the distance...
Now. Imagine controlling the boost mechanic and tackling enemy AI on non-railing bridges, because OutRun 2019 has them in droves. Barely touch the edge and your car topples over, losing out on precious seconds. That's the least annoying thing about them, too. Sometimes the bridge goes upward, obscuring your view; more times than not, the game takes this opportunity to make sudden turns without warning. Then there are moments, and there's a lot of them, where you have to drive around other opponents. All it takes is a simple, innocent bump to push you off the side. It's ridiculous to the point where, when I was playing, not only did I have to prevent a boost, but also prevent the default max speed just to survive most bridge segments.
Even with all these problems, I still managed to complete all four courses within an hour of playing for the first time. Though, that's probably more to do with my experience playing numerous OutRun and OutRun-style racers prior to this... But that doesn't change the fact that OutRun 2019 is not a good entry in the series and a flawed generic racer overall. The boost execution is needlessly messy, the AI is odd, and the bridges are such nuisances. On top of that, outside the brand name and branching paths, there's so little in common with OutRun in general, and after doing some lax research, there's a reason for that. This was actually its own game, going through several name changes during development, until Sega allowed the devs to use the OutRun name.
I'm sure Sega had no regrets.
Community review by dementedhut (January 01, 2019)
Alternative header: Rock and a Hard Place
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