Catch my drift?
Innovation in driving games seems to be as elusive as Gran Turismo 4 itself. "How about crashes in bullet-time?" Done! "Okay, uh, night-time only racing?" Done! "Oh, what the hell, just put everything on dubs." Done and done! What's a developer with a penchant for speed left to do?
Tickle the nostalgia bone, of course.
Cue Sega's star developer AM2, who recently released an update of a timeless old favorite in OutRun 2. The classic has been dropped, chopped, lowered and modded for the latest generation. The result is a fun, solid racer that will bring back plenty of memories, but like an old muscle car, you won't find anything particularly new or cutting edge under the hood.
OutRun 2 is very much an arcade racer. There's no story or anything, just an assortment of very straightforward Race modes – Arcade, Mission or Xbox Live. You will then be asked to pick your desired Ferrari from a small initial batch of four.
Other Ferraris with different performance ratings can be unlocked mainly through the Mission mode, in which you compete against computer-controlled opponents to unlock special cards in the Gallery. The cards represent everything from T-shirts to previously unavailable tracks, events and cars. The concept is notoriously familiar.
The missions range from the simple to the exhilarating. Some are merely lap races, while others require much more driving skill, such as negotiating around and through a convoy of 16-wheelers. There are drifting missions, knockout races and many, many others. With a whopping 101 missions in all, the variety is quite satisfying.
Don't think that this is some kind of brave new game, however. OutRun 2 sticks very firmly to its roots as an arcade style racer. You'll find no damage modeling of any sort. Wiping out, scraping sides or even head-on collisions leave your car just as buffed and waxed as it was the day you drove it off the digital lot. Even after you manage to get airborne, flipping end over end, you'll magically land like a sleek feline on all fours, ready to tear away from the scene. Such high-wire antics slow you down and halt your momentum considerably, but not a single scratch will be found on any car. Even for an arcade racer, this is one piece of nostalgia I could do without.
Aesthetically,OutRun 2 fares pretty good while retaining the old look and feel. The game's collection of 12 licensed Ferraris shows where most of the polish went. It's as colorful and vibrant as you'll remember, but the higher texture quality adds depth and realism to the package. Dirt and gravel is believably kicked up as you veer off the road into the shoulders and grass. Tire tracks and smoke are left behind as your Ferrari drifts around corners, which is a classic OutRun gameplay feature.
From careening through the landscapes of Palm Beach to drifting around the Great Pyramid in Egypt, the framerate and graphic quality hold up quite nicely. Several other locales include Old Western city streets, familiar European locations and a few others.
Getting a handle on each Ferrari takes a little practice. Drifting around corners to shave off precious seconds from your time is the main point of study in OutRun 2, as is where to start and end a powerslide. It's all about finding those sweet spots in order to perform a smooth series of drifts and ending the race without incident.
The A.I. will try to make that difficult by dishing out some good, hard racing, though your opponents are not very aggressive. Since battling and collisions are discouraged, it can get a little bland. The A.I. won't cut you off while being passed or force you into traffic, two concepts that would have added some much needed spice.
I suppose this is where Xbox Live come in. The game supports 8 players total and is generally fun online. A number of features can be tweaked, such as selecting an available race type, routes, car type and max number of players. You can even reserve slots for friends to join later. You may experience some lag and car-warping, but no more than has been seen in other games, including the excellent Burnout 3.
If racing others directly online is too daunting for your wimpy butt, OutRun 2 offers leaderboards for each track. Here you can download someone else's Ghost race and then try to best their time around the track. And yes, you will actually see the ghost car on the track with you. Plus, those digitally sheltered few without Live functionality will still be able to enjoy the 2-4 player split screen. Groovy.
OutRun 2 is definitely a fun, nostalgic package. While it doesn't have the complexity or depth to compete with the likes of Burnout 3, it easily holds its own in the arcade race arena. Looks like the glory days still have some glory left in 'em after all.