When you’ve got such a fondly remembered classic in your latest game’s title, chances are you’re pitching the thing at a very specific crowd. Sega Rally fans are deliciously hardcore – I should know – the original coin-ops not only a personal favourite but for many a treasured collection of memories wrapped up in silicon. 2007’s Sega Rally was an attempt to reignite doused flames but the handling was off and the frame rate, locked at thirty frames per second, certainly didn’t feel like the arcade game we all loved so much.
It’s surprising, then, to learn that Online Arcade was to be little more than a cut-down version of the last game, with a tweaked handling model and a relatively minor chunk of fan service thrown in in the shape of a one-on-one with two retro cars if you do well enough in the so-called Championship mode. Which, to be fair to the game’s arcade roots, is at least on the same sort of levels length-wise (you’ll get through the first four main tracks in about ten minutes) and if you end up coming first you’ll get the aforementioned fifth bonus event.
The cars are indestructible, don't expect damage - visual or otherwise. This is pure arcade racing without the fuss or the detailed mechanics.
In the same way that I found Outrun Arcade such an addictive delight, the pleasure in Sega Rally Online Arcade comes from the pure joy of the basic but reliable controls and the pressure to better yourself at each run. It’s not a tough game by any stretch, and the removal of the clever surface deformation (and resulting physics) means that you don’t need to think as much when you’re rattling around the tracks, but there’s always the chance to go faster, especially in the time trial mode which will make up most of the playtime.
However, and here’s the rub: this Sega Rally is, even if you count the multiplayer, decidedly bare bones. Sure, it’s only £7 or so (800 Microsoft Points and presumably around the same when the PSN Store flicks back into life) but if you discount the ability to race people online you can probably get much better value out of the disk-based Sega Rally, which I’ve seen for about the same price second hand. Online Arcade’s track count is minimal and there’s no deep single player, it’s purely the same quick five course sprint every time.
And given that the graphics are somewhat tired looking it’s a real shame the game doesn’t run at the full sixty frames per second. Yes, it’s locked at thirty and it doesn’t waver, once, but surely this could have clocked in at the proper arcade speed, which would have at least given it a fresher feel. The tracks included are decent looking enough, and the cars are serviceable (albeit hardly the most current models) but this is a game all about the fun, so don’t go in expecting demo material for your console – it’s certainly not.
- Lightweight, immediate fun
- You’ve probably already played most of this
- It’s a tad expensive given the content
- Feels and looks dated
Your mileage, as they say, may vary. You’ll get more out of this if you pour time into the online multiplayer – going toe to toe with fellow humans is always better than weaving past dumb AI, but – much like GTi Club or Outrun Online Arcade – the game itself won’t hold your attention for much longer than an hour or so if you don’t. Time trials may hold your attention for longer, of course, and some will find an addictive supply of opponents ready to strip your total by a second or so keeping things active and interesting.
Me? I just adore driving sideways.