OutRun Online Arcade Review
Thursday, May 14, 2009 3:22 PM
The king of arcade racers is back, but will it recapture former glories, or are some things best left in the past?
For a considerable part of my youth going on holiday did not mean beautiful sandy beaches, searing sunshine and relaxing days by the pool.
No, a family holiday meant a trip to Blackpool to gorge on fish and chips, soak up the typical British summer and, most importantly, spend countless hours, and a whole heap of loose change, in the seafront arcades.
For several years OutRun was a main attraction for these trips. The game offered sharp visuals, a fantastically over-the-top soundtrack and insanely addictive gameplay.
A whole host of sequels and updates later the series is back as the download-only OutRun Online Arcade. So, what's changed in the 22 years since the franchise first appeared? Thankfully, not a great deal.
It still looks great, sounds great, and is every bit as addictive as it ever was.
Old-hands of the series will know exactly what to expect. You're given the choice of a handful of mouth-watering vehicles - from Ferrari Enzos and F50s to Testarossas and Spiders - which you must drive at breakneck speed against the clock.
You've got the standard single-player mode, which sees drivers floor their car around a track split into five stages. Checkpoints are dotted around each course, with the tension and anger synonymous with running out of time as the checkpoint closes in as evident as it was over two decades ago.
Racers compete primarily against the clock rather than opponents in a traditional fashion, although there are rival drivers throughout each course, who bizarrely disappear from the face of the earth as soon as you pass them.
To add a little spice to proceedings there's the Time Attack and Heart Attack modes. The latter sees player's charge around courses while a squealing female in the passenger seat barks out a series of orders and challenges.
These encompass anything from the understandable and moderately acceptable (passing as many cars as possible in a set time and avoiding crashes) to the downright insane - collecting coins that litter the roads and passing under yellow rainbows.
The game modes are entertaining and engaging, even if they do become slightly repetitive after a few hours play. But, this minor gripe is easily offset against the low price tag, meaning that value for money is never in doubt.
Also, those who grow tired of the single-player challenges will find plenty more on offer in the multiplayer section with, as you'd expect from the game's title, online play available.
While the online element certainly is a thrilling aspect of the game, it must be noted that actually getting into a web-based race is a pain. In my experience waits of as long as ten minutes were common in the pre-game lobby, with only the infuriating sound of what is reminiscent of waves crashing onto a beach to keep you company.
Even when a race finally got under way I did have one or two races shutdown mid-game with 'This session is no longer available' as the only explanation, which only added to the fury built up by the previously mentioned horrible wave music.
Back to the many plus points of the game, it looks exactly how OutRun should; beautifully colourful and crisp, with each course treating the player's eyes to an array of mountain-scapes, city scenes and even track-side waterfalls.
As you'd expect from an OutRun game, it handles beautifully. Cars glide around the tracks with all manner of drifts and slides easy to pull off.
There is a case for the game lacking a certain amount of depth, with a fairly limited selection of cars and tracks on offer. But, its simplicity is a great part of OutRun's charm.
Without the dozens of cars, modifications and options available that lovers of series such as the Gran Turismo franchise have come accustomed to, the game is just simple, load up and play, foot to the floor fun.
That just about sums up OutRun series in one sentence: simple, load up and play, foot to the floor fun, and thankfully OutRun Online Arcade does very little to change that assessment.
For all its simplicity and lack of depth it does exactly what it sets out to do, provide a thrilling, million miles a minute, and most of all enjoyable, racing experience.