Outrun Online Arcade

For some of the older (sorry, "more experienced") gamers, earliest memories of racing games will likely feature small rectangular cars moving left and right across the bottom of a screen, while the track (essentially two lines with a couple of obstacles) rushes past. The racing genre has moved on to open world madness in Burnout Paradise, and superb realism in Gran Turismo, but there is still room for the classic arcade setup. A series that has maintained the traditional drive-into-the-screen gameplay is Outrun, which has appeared in various successful forms over the generations, including a significant hit on Playstation 2. This classy racer now makes its entrance on Playstation 3, arriving on the Playstation Network with Outrun: Online Arcade.

Outrun

Though there's an obvious focus (indicated by the title) on online gameplay, the core of the game still revolves around classic Outrun action: drive through a course at around 300km/h, drifting majestically around long sweeping bends, while desperately trying to reach checkpoints before the timer reaches zero. The formula is simple, but brilliant, with arcade handling that, while totally unrealistc, feels incredibly satisfying. The drift control is sublime, and essentially allows an entire game to be built around it. If your timing is right, there's practically no corner that can't be taken perfectly with a well-placed drift. Of course, there are plenty of obstacles other than the edges of the course, with a considerable amount of traffic likely to hinder progress on occasion. Happily, all other cars travel in the same direction as you, even if their speed isn't always quite so outrageous (though you'll still spot lorries travelling at more than 200km/h). There are also cars marked as rivals within the traffic, and passing these cars will score you extra points.

Outrun is the main mode on offer, with five goals to reach (becoming steadily more difficult). You always start the race in the same place, but will reach junctions where you can choose an easy or difficult path. The available choices lead to a total of 15 possible sections to traverse, with various combinations leading to the five goals. The ending sequence for reaching the final goal will also be dependent on the route taken. The driver of the car, an uninspiring, unlikeable twit, will receive a fair bit of punishment from his passenger, a lady friend, though his punishment becomes less if you adopt a more tricky route through the course - clear encouragement, were it needed, to pick the easiest course. Bolstering this mode in the single-player game are a traditional time attack, a continuous 15-track mode (forcing you to traverse all possible routes) and, most entertaining of all, Heart Attack mode. The latter is centered around girl-fuelled, boy-racer antics, with your passenger issuing the orders on what you should do next. Not only are you forced to meet the checkpoint times (though these are made slightly easier), you are also asked to meet specific targets such as drifting, overtaking, collision avoidance, cone hitting and more, simply to please your lady friend. It's an enjoyable test of skill, and one that offers a clear sense of progression. Rather than facing cold hard time targets, you can gradually improve the ratings you receive from the young lady by steadily improving your overtaking, speed, drifting and more.

Outrun

The focus on online play is perhaps slightly unjustified though, since the mode isn't massively fleshed out. There are a good few race options, allowing you to compete against friends or strangers in races with up to six people, but it's easy to suspect that the addition of the word online in the title is more to suggest a progression in the series for this generation. Online play is really the only element not to have featured in the last generation of Outrun games, and it's certainly a welcome addition, but it can't compete as a lasting experience, compared with diverse and strong competition from titles such as Burnout Paradise. That said, Outrun doesn't really need to do a huge amount of new stuff. Outrun Online Arcade is a success, simply because it brings one of the most enjoyable, finely-tuned drift-racing arcade experiences to the current generation of consoles. It doesn't particularly matter that the graphics are hardly updated for the release. The visuals are shiny and somewhat sharper than Playstation 2 iterations, but there's been no major graphical overhaul for this release. Similarly, the audio is quite basic, with slightly tinny engine noises and relatively archaic effects. Voicework is limited to a few song titles and mode selections in the game's menus, however the music is somewhat better, with a few enjoyable tracks that will complement the racing nicely.

Prolonging interest in the game, there are some tough trophies to aim for, including maintaining a speed of over 300km/h for more than ten seconds, and achieving a perfect AAA rating in Heart Attack mode. There's also endless potential to improve your scores and times. Each race could last almost five minutes, in which time there will always be scope for saving tenths of seconds and gradually lowering your best times. There's nothing quite like Outrun on Playstation 3 currently, and the title is likely to lead its own niche field for some time, providing one of the most enjoyable arcade racing experiences around. If you have happy memories of drift racing from years ago, then Outrun Online Arcade on the Playstation Network is certainly worth investigating.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sega

Developer:

Sumo Digital

Players:

1

Online:

2-6

Release:

2009-04-16

Trophies:

12

Review summary

Gameplay:

Classic arcade racing with finely tuned drift

Graphics:

Old, reasonably authentic but quite shiny

Sound:

Basic beeps, engines and voices, boring music

Lastability:

Limited tracks, but plenty of replay value

8.1

Pulsar

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User comments

MeteorStorm

18:30:48, May 11 2009

That's what you get when you ask a friend at work if they'd like to comment on a review. Thanks for the support from Bigger G and Massive G - much appreciated.

From conversations with a friend who owns the XB360 version of Outrun, it sounds like they're incredibly similar, although the trophies/achievements seem to have different weightings. Other than that, all the points and time targets are the same, the modes identical and the whole experience the same. And that's nice isn't it!

Massive G

11:52:30, May 11 2009

Go to your room Smaller Than Us G!! >_<

Bigger G

11:39:52, May 11 2009

You take that back little G! :x

Big G

11:26:52, May 11 2009

PS3's are for losers, Xbox rules!

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