Burnout 3: Takedown aside, this really hasn't been the biggest year for arcade
racing games. In 2004, we've seen two street racing games, one NASCAR title, at
least three rally racers, and a racing sim or two. While it's great to have a variety
of racing genres, the arcade variety is probably the most under-represented this year, and
that's rather unfortunate. But for Xbox owners, not only do you get Burnout 3, but also
OutRun 2, which ACTUALLY was an arcade racing game developed on Xbox architecture
and then later ported to the system. For awhile, it would seem like OutRun 2 would
never really make it stateside, but luckily Microsoft must have seen something in the
game to produce it in the U.S. . But was this game worth the wait and the time to
bring it stateside, and should you buy, rent or just skip it? The juicy answers lie below.
OutRun 2, in it's original arcade form is a fairly shallow game. Even though the
game looks great, if all we were given was just the original arcade features, this
game would be a rental at best. But SEGA knew better than that. On top of the original
OutRun 2 arcade game, there's the OutRun Challenge mode, consisting of 101 challenges
to play through. At first sight, this may seem a lot like the Crazy Box/Pyramid/"X"
of the home versions of Crazy Taxi, especially when you see it's branching structure (which
looks like the route map of OutRun). But the challenges offered in the OutRun Challenge
are far beyond simple mini-games, although some do seem like it. The race modes are
actually similar to events you would see in Project Gotham Racing (such as Cone Gates)
and Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 (Knockout Races). But there are also some really
unique, and even creative races to partake in. One of the race events you'll come
across involves adding or subtracting numbers you come across, and then driving through
the lane with the right total (there's only two lanes, so don't worry about multiple answers).
It's something I've never really seen offered in a racing game. Another unique event has
you drifting to get a good angle of taking a picture of a heart, and the better the picture,
the more hearts you score. Other events include breaking lasers in between cars for hearts,
running over cones, drifting, maintianing maximum speed and more. Most of these events,
you'll be trying to earn as many hearts as possible to increase your rank, and if you
score at least an "A" rank, you clear the stage. And trust me, some stages are not
easy to pass.
Going back a bit, the other half of OutRun 2 is the OutRun Arcade mode, which
is basically the original OutRun 2 game that was in arcades (overseas, I assume). Much like
the original, the goal is just to drive as fast as you can to one of five routes at the
end of the map. After most of each stage, you'll be given a choice on which route you
wish to take. Genreally, the ones to the left are easier than the ones on the right.
The funny thing is, you really don't score any higher for taking a tougher route, so the only real incentive is
just seeing which each stage is. Aside from the standard race, there's a heart attack mode,
where you complete given tasks to earn hearts. Also provided is a Time Attack mode,
which seems a little confusing to me, because your time is really only affected by the route
you take. Some routes are shorter than others (or easier to go through), so by basically
picking out the shortest route, you can get the best time, and that seems a little
one-sided. On top of the OutRun Arcade and Challenge modes, there's also an online mode
in which you can play against other people via Xbox LIVE.
The gameplay is pure arcade racing, and if you hated games such as San Francisco Rush (or 2049),
Ridge Racer or even the Burnout franchise, then this game may be a turn-off fo you. But for
me, as well as fans of the genre, it's racing pleasure. The cars don't really feel that
loose in terms of traction, which is great, because that's one thing that kind of bugs me about
arcade racers such as Cruisn' USA. The drifiting is also done pretty well, almost as
tight as the drifting in Ridge Racer 64 (which was really, really tight), but I still
find it a bit tough to pull myself out of a drift and straighten out. Overall, the game feels
fairly tight and is pretty damn responsive. On the default difficulty of OutRun Arcade,
the game is pretty challenging at first, and it took me at least four or five tries to
get all the way to the end of the easiest route. You could dumb down the difficulty level
(which really only gives you a bit more time on the checkpoint timer), but you should only
really do that if you're having a really hard time making it to the end of OutRun Arcade.
Also, you should know that you can't adjust the difficulty in the Challenge mode.
Visually, OutRun 2 looks great. I'm not too sure if the games graphics have been
dumbed down from the arcade original, but it really doesn't seem that way. Most of the
textures look great, the car models look fine, the lighting is good and the sense of
speed is sensational. I was pretty suprised to see how fast OutRun 2 moves. Not as fast
as Burnout 3: Takedown or F-Zero GX, but pretty close. I would say, easily, that it's
the second fastest game to hit the Xbox in 2004, or in general. The draw distance is
also really good, but there are not many moments to see this in action. The best stage
to see how good the draw distance is is the Cloudy Highland stage that is on Route A.
But with all good things, there has to be some knit-picking. One of the more noticeable
problems is the occasional bogs in framerate, and that usually occurs when there's a lot going
on-screen. It doesn't happen all the time, and it usually happens more in a few of the
challenge stages than arcade. The other gripe I have is the strage glow from the lanes
on the road or off some surfaces. Maybe it's supposed to be sunlight, but it looks more
like neon than anything. But overall, the game looks great and really does have the look of an arcade racing game.
The auido is not as great as the visuals, but really not that bad, either. The music
is pretty much variations of old OutRun songs, as well as a few new ones, but it's all
pretty damn Japaneesy. It's either guitar rock or electronic music with quite a bit of
synthesizers going. The vocal songs seem to be the worst as the backround music really
doesn't seem to match the vocals, and seems really out of place compared to everything
else in the game. The sound effects are fine, but every cars sounds the same. Am I supposed
to assume that every Ferrari sounds the same? I doubt a Testarossa engine sounds like
a 360 Spider engine or a Enzo Ferarri engine. The female passenger can be a bit irritating
at times, especially the moments where she keeps blurting "WHOO-HOO-HOO!" for an entire
OutRun 2 may not really be a game for everyone. For those who really don't like arcade
racing games and preffer the street racing or racing sim titles, you may want to just give this
one a rental. But for me, this is exactally the arcade racing throwback that I have been
looking for for quite sometime. It's very reminicent of the arcade titles that were
on the Dreamcast back in the day, or what Midway used to produce in the late 90s. As a person
who really loved Burnout 3: Takedown, you would think a racer such as this would be below me.
But it's addictive like crack, the pure speed and drifting joy of this arcade racer
is something I just can't get enough of. Plus, the inclusion of the OutRun challenge
mode is much more than a mini-game filler like Crazy Taxi, it's actually a full-blown championship
mode that we're used to seeing in games such as NFS: Hot Pursuit 2, and as varied as Project
Gotham Racing 2. If you really like arcade racers, OutRun 2 is definitley worth your
time. Even if you're just curious, try it out. It's defintley one of the sleeper
hits of 2004.