It was while playing Sega Rally Revo that I was struck with a question that I have yet to be able to answer: In this video game climate is there enough room for an old school arcade racer? It used to be that gamers were just happy to have a game that resembled what you got in the arcade, but these days it feels like every game is trying to be as deep and customizable as possible. Even games that used to be traditional arcade racers (like the Project Gotham Racing series) are starting to look more like Forza and Gran Turismo every day. Is there still room for a simple arcade racer anymore?
While not perfect, Sega Rally Revo makes a convincing argument for the return to the days of no frills racing games that were all about looking good and impressing you with their fast action. That shouldn't be too surprising, since Sega's newest racing game is actually just the next installment of their twelve year old arcade racing franchise. Sega Rally Revo is the perfect title for all of those gamers who have been turned off by the more realistic direction most racing games are going in, it's a return to the days when you didn't have to worry about upgrading your vehicle and thinking about realistic car damage. Sega Rally Revo is just a fun, balls-to-the-wall kind of arcade racer that you don't see much of anymore ... and I like it.
Sega Rally Revo is split into a few different modes, all of which are pretty standard in this kind of arcade racer. The game's main single-player mode is the Championship Mode, which we'll get to in more depth in a moment. On top of that you get the standard Quick Race (which throws you into one of the tracks and lets you race without worrying about earning points), Time Attack (where you challenge the fastest times on any given course), and Multiplayer (where you can go head to head against people online and off). Don't expect to see a lot of new modes when playing Sega Rally Revo, this isn't the kind of game that innovates on the formula.
Chances are the mode you will spend the most amount of time with is going to be the Championship Mode, which plays like a traditional single-player racing campaign. This mode is split up into several different leagues, each with their own set of cars and awards to win. You start out in the Premiere League, which consists of standard rally rides like the Subaru WRX STi and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. After you've earned enough points from racing the various tracks you will be able to move on to the Modified League (which features cars like the VW Golf GTI and Grande Punto Rally) and then the Masters League (where you race classic rally cars like the Lancia Super Delta HF Integrale and Lancia Stratos). The scoring system is simple, each race is worth a total of 10 points (assuming you come in first), the object is to come in first as many times as you can so that you can earn a total of 340 points in each league. Earn enough points and you will unlock new cars, different color schemes, and maybe even a few achievements.
Unlike most racing games where you have to figure out what car will work best against your opponents, in Sega Rally Revo most of the cars you can choose from are good enough to beat whatever is thrown at you. You'll never have to worry about upgrading the car's turbo or engine, the most you ever have to worry about is what paintjob the take and whether you want it to be better off-road or on (one gives you better control when you're off-road, the other is faster when you're on a solid surface). This is pure arcade action, and if you're the kind of gear head that likes to go in and customize your ride, then you will quickly get bored of Sega's newest racing game.
While this is nothing more than an arcade racing game, there is something of a learning curve when it comes to actually sitting down to play the game. At first the game feels completely unruly, I sat there for the first half hour with the feeling that I was never actually in control of the vehicle. I knew that I was racing on slippery surfaces, but for the first few races it just felt like I was bouncing from one wall to the next for no good reason. And then it all finally connected, and from then on I was able to get first or second in just about every race. The truth is that I should have known what to expect going in, this is the same out of control style that people either loved or hated about the first Sega Rally game on the Sega Saturn, and it makes perfect sense for Sega to keep the original game's overall feel.
The biggest problem with Sega Rally Revo has nothing to do with the learning curve or how shallow the overall gameplay is; instead my issue is that you'll see all of the courses within the first few hours of playing the game. The game itself only has five different environments (which include a Safari, Alpine, Canyon, Artic, and Tropical locations). Each of these environments have several variations each, but in total there are only 23 different levels ... and some of those include reverse versions of existing tracks. It would have been nice to see Sega throw in a few more environments and maybe some more variations, that way you can go through entire Championship Mode without getting bored. On a positive note, these five environments do cover pretty much all of the rally locations you could possibly want to race on, even if they don't feel completely new or original.
The various courses in Sega Rally Revo look unbelievable. I was expecting the game to look good (it is on the Xbox 360, after all), but I was blown away with the amount of details each and every one of the levels contained. While games like Forza and Project Gotham Racing are trying to make their graphics as realistic as possible, part of me really enjoyed how over-the-top this arcade racer was. Better yet, no matter what course you're running (be it the snow-covered roads in the arctic or the dirt in the alpine tracks), there are plenty of cool touches in the background. As you race through your levels you will often see an airplane flying overhead, or a boat rooting you on, or animals in the forest. It all looks very good, definitely a lot better than I was expecting going in.
Part of what makes this game look so good are the environmental effects. Sega has been beating this drum when it comes to dynamically deformable terrains. Basically what this means is that as you race through the level the mud (or snow, sand, etc.) will be thrown about by your wheels and ultimately change their patterns. As you race through the level a second or third time you will notice all track marks throughout, which is something that can actually affect the way you race through a particular level. This doesn't play as big of a role as Sega would like you to believe, but there's no denying that it's a cool effect that sets this game apart from all of the other rally racing games on the market. This type of thing gives me hope for the future of Sega Rally, if not all games that could be impacted with dynamically deformable terrains.
It won't take you long to race through all of the events in the Championship Mode, so the various multiplayer modes are a godsend. If all you're looking for is to play the game with a friend at your house, then you'll be happy to know that there's a fun two-player split screen mode built into Sega Rally Revo. But the real meat and potatoes of the multiplayer experience comes when you take the game online using Xbox Live. Online you can play a six-player race. Like the rest of the game, the online modes aren't very deep; expect the basic ranked and player matches and not much more. The good news is that the host can select the track order, so you won't have to constantly jump into a new game or invite your friends to a new room over and over again. In my experience the online rooms ran pretty smoothly, there were a few hiccups here and there, but nothing that you couldn't get over while playing the game. It may not be very deep, but Sega Rally Revo has the best online component of any Xbox 360 rally game.
But no matter how good the game looks, the thing I couldn't get over was how similar each event felt. You never really feel like you're doing anything new or different while playing Sega Rally Revo, each level feels the same as the last, only with a different background to look at. By the end of the game I realized that this wasn't that big of a deal, it's nice to have an arcade racing game that is so much fun. My problem is that I'm not sure how much I'll actually pull it out to play it, outside of the single player Championship Mode there really isn't much incentive to keep playing. This is the kind of game that is perfect for those gamers who grew up with games like Ridge Racer, San Francisco Rush and Cruis'n USA, but if you're looking for something deeper than an arcade game you will be disappointed.
In the end I do feel that there's enough room for an arcade racing game, but it's important to realize that this type of game is not for everybody. Then again, this type of game will surely scratch a certain kind of itch that neither Forza nor Project Gotham Racing has been able to get to. Despite my criticisms I do like this game, I would just hope that in Sega's next installment they actually give us more of an incentive to keep playing. The fundamentals are good, they just need to figure out how to put it all together in a package that is as appealing as all of those other racing games currently on the market.
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Sega Rally Revo is a solid racing game, assuming what you're looking for is a short and shallow arcade racer experience. The graphics are great and the levels are detailed, but there just isn't enough content to keep you engaged as long as some of the other racers currently on the market.