Review: Sega Rally Online Arcade (XBLA/PSN)

6 mins read
Most any teenage gamer in the 90’s will likely have fond memories of playing games in public arcades. One game that gobbled up loads of hard begged for quarters was the Sega Rally series; slipping into the plastic racing seat, gripping the steering wheel and tearing through the tracks was a blast in itself, but it was the competing player beside us in the double seated arcade cabinet that had us coming back time and again. The series is still going strong today, and a the new Sega Rally Online Arcade (SROA) lets you take the competition online from your home, and at a cost that is much less than what the arcades ate through years ago.

Kickin’ up snow. Not the safest place for car racing

Sega Rally Online Arcade (SROA) isn’t the first game in the series to grace the 360/PS3, as Sega Rally Revo released a few years back, and brought the arcade rally racing action of the past to a new HD era. While Revo is a fully featured retail game, SROA takes a sampling of Revo and brings the arcade rally racing series to XBLA/PSN as a digital download, and at the low price of 800MSP (No PSN price yet due to the current lack of a shop).
A lovely Sunday drive through the alps. 
Shifting into single player the Champion Battle Mode will be familiar to anyone who has played the SEGA Rally 3 arcade cabinet before. Starting off in 22nd position on the first of three themed tracks, the goal is to race through the pack to first position by gaining as high a position possible during each track. The Tropical, Dessert and Artic tracks offer a substantial challenge until the perfect racing line is found on them, and if first place is achieved on the final stage, the Lakeside track is opened and a difficult head-to-head challenge awaits. While nowhere near as difficult as what was found in the series past on the arcades cabinets, the Champion Battle Mode offers a nice challenge to veterans, while still being accessible to those new to the series as well.

Time Attack, Quick Race Modes and Local Multiplayer round out the offerings here with one main exception, and that’s the online mode. Entering the online world in SROA is as easy as sitting down beside someone at the arcades and popping a few quarters in the coin slot. Just jump in a lobby, select a car, and race against up to five human opponents – AI opponents filling open spots to keep the grid full if necessary. Human opponents offer an enormous challenge compared to what’s found in the single player modes and mastering each track prior to entering the online racing world is recommended. We just wish that winning races online gained driver ranking instead of just bragging rights, but it’s a small gripe.
Online is where the fun’s at
SROA sounds and looks every bit as arcade as it plays. The bright environments blaze off the screen, abundant in colour, while the co-pilots voice and rock music fill the speakers. Maintaining constant speed through turns with high-speed drifts and hand braking tight bends precisely is what made the series famous years ago, and today the action remains unchanged. Track deformation featured in Revo makes it return, and staying in the tracks ruts allows for better traction and speed which are paramount to setting leader board times, and with steering wheel support available here, the memories of the series arcade past can truly be felt once again.

One additional track and two extra cars from past games are thrown into the mix and while a nice addition to the game; they can’t be taken online or used in Champion Battle. The extra track would be great for online play, but all the cars featured in the game have extremely similar statistics, and these additional cars are like the others – cosmetic changes. This is likely used to keep the online gameplay balanced, but it’s still disappointing to unlock a car to only find it drives the same as the one used to unlock it.
So, how’s about some Gauntlet next, while we’re doing this arcade thing?
While only a handful of tracks are available here, unlocking all the cars and perfecting the tracks to set leader board records and will have fans drifting away for hours. Taking the game online to find out who’s the ultimate rally racer adds tremendous value to the already budget priced title. While racing games push further into the realm of simulation, Sega Rally Online Arcade stands on its mud-slinging, fast action rally racing arcade past. While nothing will ever beat the nostalgic memories of sitting in that double seated arcade cabinet years ago, Sega Rally Online Arcade is still a podium contender.

– Chris I

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