“What’s this,” I can hear you asking, “a port of an arcade game available on Xbox Live Arcade?” I know, I’m as shocked as you are! But yes, you’re quite correct reader. Sega Rally Online Arcade is essentially Sega Rally 3 ported to be on XBLA & PSN with a few extras. This is interesting because it has that “at the arcade” racing game feel to it in every aspect of it, though I feel a little something is lost without the flashing and beeping stuff in the background or the kids running around screaming. Read on to see how you can at the same time be impressed and disappointed with a game.
Right from the opening menu, every aspect of Sega Rally Online Arcade exudes old school Arcade charm, from the presentation of the menu to the little sound effects that play with each selection. This unfortunately translates itself into some of the gameplay mechanics, though we’ll touch upon that in a moment. SROA is of course at it’s heart a Rally racing game as the title gives away, but struggles at times to really feel like one. A typical race will have you rushing full throttle through a stage at top speed, and that rarely becomes an invalid strategy.
There are a large number of cars available right from the beginning with a few more available to unlock as you progress. Unfortunately this is almost a moot point as all the cars more or less handle exactly the same, save a few small differences in top speed and acceleration. In the end you might as well just choose which car either looks the coolest or which model you prefer.
Thankfully looks are one thing SROA has in spades. It might not be the most realistic looking game ever, nor the most graphically impressive but it’s very nice to look at all around. The tracks are widely varied from each other with bright sharp visuals providing a pleasant background to the action on the tracks. Mud clings to your car, building up as the race progresses. Snow flies sharply behind your tires, and water splashes everywhere. Everything is bright and crisp with sharp contrasts between all of the colors.
While the tracks do look good, you better get used to them fast as there are only a handful to select from. Combine this with the small number of game modes available and you end up with a game full of ambition but with not a lot of content. You’ll have seen everything there is to see very soon in your playtime, and the staying power of the title will result in how you feel about the racing.
The racing itself is very solid, and the cars very responsive to your every movement. Whichever car you’re racing has a true feeling of weight to it as you slide around corners or miss that slide and slam into a wall instead. Sadly these rules only apply to your car, as the other vehicles on the track seem to have the weight of a semi and the mobility of a compact. They retain all the handling and steering power of your car, while at the same time being cemented onto their chosen track on the course.
This results in moments where you might tap into an AI car that might send you spinning out of control while they head along their current path undeterred. Should you actually manage to whip past all of the other drivers without wiping out, you’re going to have to drive perfectly to keep that lead as one of my most hated things in a racing games rears it’s ugly head; rubber-band AI.
No matter how fast and hard you race, your opponents will always be just a moment behind you and a single mistake from taking the lead. Some people might view this as a nice challenge, I simply view it as a cheap, archaic video game design choice and it frustrates me to no end. I hate few things in a game as much as I do artificial challenge.
I suppose the last paragraph truly sums up my frustrations with the title in their entirety. Outdated design mechanics reign at the forefront of Sega Rally Online Arcade to create what is ultimately a solid but not very exciting experience. When the racing is fun, it’s an absolute blast. But when one of the designed AI characteristics comes into the forefront it ruins all of the fun and brings my enjoyment to a screeching halt.
Should you find yourself enjoying the title, every aspect of the single player experience is replicated online where you can race in single a quick-race with up to six players on any of the games tracks. Racing online is smooth and I never experienced any lag or connection issues, and actually found myself enjoying it much more than the single player selections.
Ultimately, Sega Rally Online Arcade is a solid if un-fulfilling experience. There were no major glitches or problems with the game, though I personally don’t agree with all of the design choices. My enjoyment wasn’t there, but I can’t fault the game for being a style of racer that doesn’t appeal to me. If any of the issues I brought up are a deterrent for you, you’re probably better off skipping this one. But if you enjoy Arcade racing games and are fine with rubberband AI and similar old school design choices, SROA packs a decent experience in a cheap package.
Title: Sega Rally Online Arcade
Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
Developer: SUMO Digital
Release Date: May 18, 2011
MSRP: $9.99 / 800 Microsoft Points
Review Copy Info: A download code for this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.