SEGA Rally Online Arcade – The PS3 Attitude Review
The aspect I appreciate most about SEGA Rally Online Arcade (SROA) is its unapologetic allegiance to its title. At a time when gamers struggle to discern gameplay hints from the likes of Ar tonelico Qoga, SROA shines like a beacon of relative transparency.
For better or worse SROA gives you exactly what its namesake implies, a rally-racer with arcade roots that sports basic online functionality. Unfortunately it is from this steadfast commitment to a somewhat outdated genus that many of the games problems are forged.
For fans of the SEGA Rally series SROA will present very familiar gameplay mechanics. Racers are sent sliding around a total of five tracks through dirt, mud, snow, sand, etc. Proper utilization of centrifugal force inducing power slides and quick adaptation to environmental shifts are the keys to capturing the pole.
The game boasts both single and multiplayer modes as well as the online component. The main thrust of the multiplayer experience is designed to be sustained online but local split-screen races are available as well.
The single-player experience is divided amongst four subcatagories: Championship, Quick Race, Time Trial, and Classic. Championship mode is a three-race sprint that places you at the bottom of a 22 car pack. Your ending position at each race’s conclusion feeds directly into your starting position at the commencement of the following race. So if you finish race 1 in 10th place, you will then start race 2 in 10th place. Quick race does exactly as advertised while Classic races allow rally fans the chance to get behind the wheel of some of SEGA Rally’s signature cars.
Time Trial modes represents one of SROA’s strongest features. Gamers can upload track specific, computer-controlled ghost cars to compete with or select a fellow PSN user’s ghost from the online leaderboards. For me part of the attraction to the Time Trial modes was trying to figure out how it was humanly possible for another user to shave 20 solid seconds off my lap time. With the lack of any tutorials, competing against and observing the technique of fellow racers is the best way to hone one’s skills.
Additionally SEGA has allowed for a number of controller choices. Players can have at it with the Dual Shock 3, Move controller, or a trio of Logitech driving wheels (Driving Force EX, Driving Force Pro, G25 Racing Wheel).
At first the Dual Shock controls can take some getting used to. Taking corners requires proper timing more than anything else and braking normally causes more harm than good. Mostly I was disappointed in the performance of the handbrake which I quickly abandoned as it consistently spun me out. Using the Move requires one to hold the controller horizontally, pointed directly at the screen and turn the car as one would turn a doorknob. All told I wasn’t able to try it out but it does seem a bit awkward and cumbersome. A right or left turn, depending on which hand is holding the Move, would be potentially straining.
The most accurate way to describe SROA is to say that it is an arcade game through-and-through. So much so that the screen reads: ‘Game Over’ at the conclusion of a round of Championship races and checkpoints are scattered about the track to refresh your time allotment. I practically expected the game to ask me to insert more coins. Only a handful of alterations (mainly found on the online portion) separate this download from the arcade cabinet.
The extent to which players can expand their experience off the track resides in the ability to unlock a handful of cars and track. Vehicle customization options or upgradable attributes would have been welcome additions to induce creativity and replay but alas they were nowhere to be found.
Visually the arcade racer excels. Nobody will confuse it with Gran Turismo 5 but these are some of the best graphics I’ve seen in a downloadable racer to date. Each car from the Ford Focus to the Lancia Super Delta has been accurately rendered and the tracks really pop. There’s enough variety within the five tracks to keep you interested and the backdrops do a wonderful job staving off the boredom that can arise with repetition. Despite the fact that there are only five, each track has its own fell and generally does something different than the others.
In the end SEGA Rally Online Arcade is an exceedingly adequate racer. The mechanics are sound and most of the time you won’t feel cheated after a race but there just isn’t a whole lot to unearth. It’s tough to fault a game for being so incredibly true to the arcade experience when by all measures that seems to have been the goal but in the comfort of my home I felt that the game lacked the qualities that would keep me involved beyond the individual races. Unfortunately once you’ve conquered each track there isn’t much incentive to return.
In a way SEGA Rally Online Arcade is like that incredibly alluring girl you see at a party. You finally work (or drink) up the courage to talk to her but as you spend more time with her you quickly realize there’s not much happening below the surface.
If you enjoy rally racers and you’re content with the rather basic nature of an arcade game, SROA would be a fine pickup at $9.99 (expected £7.99/€9.99 price tag). However the breadth of outstanding racing titles currently available on the PS3 makes a strong recommendation very difficult, even at its low price point.