Review: SEGA Rally Online Arcade

Sega Rally Online Arcade retains the infamous “Game Over YEEAHH!” exclamation that plays upon completion of a race, but it just doesn’t sound the same. It’s not campy enough and didn’t make me giggle as much as the series’ previous incarnations, namely its first arcade appearance in 1995 with Sega Rally Championship, as well as subsequent iterations on the various Sega consoles since. This ran through my head during my first few moments with the game’s incredibly skimpy trial version, offering one track and one car, with a whopping one race built to entice players into buying. Did it entice me? Not so much, but it didn’t matter since I was keying in the review code.

Odd, really, to offer prospective players the startlingly high amount of test races and test tracks, you know…one, in order to decide on a purchase. But as I played through more of the retail copy, it dawned on me that perhaps Sega was trying to communicate a little something to people like me: this is bite-sized racing done correctly. This is an extremely stripped-down, enjoyable experience that doesn’t require much time or thought to breeze through, and we don’t have enough racers that can fit that niche. SROA allows you to jump online, pick a car, pick a track, play solo or play online, and finish without investing a few hours into a championship or series of races you just don’t have enough time for.

Right off the bat you’ll notice that there isn’t too much variety packed into this arcade offering. Five tracks, about twelve cars, and vague unlockables doesn’t seem like too much to entice players into initiating race after race, but SROA’s main appeal lies in the fact that it’s so much like an arcade racer you’d sit down to at your local game hall (if you still have one, lucky) that it feels like you’re paying more for the experience and less for content – this is a decent offering for roughly a third of the price a retail game would go for.

If you’re a hardcore race fan you’ll also take note of the game’s physics – yes, they’re terribly unrealistic, but it was done deliberately and as a result you’re less steering the car than you are the camera with the car, or so it seemed to me. You can take turns a lot faster than with, say, a game like Need for Speed or the far-removed Gran Turismo, which is great for people like me who hit corners and turns with the pedal to the metal. Pfft. Who needs drifting? Even a speed demon like myself was able to perform decently with the Subaru Impreza I chose from the game’s trial version. And because it doesn’t rely on punishing difficulty to attract players, it kept me coming back to try and top my time or advance further.

The game isn’t going to win any awards for graphics, but takes the cake with lush, colorful environments and tracks as well as attractive cars and menu design. As previously mentioned, the familiar “game over” voice is a bit different, but still a welcome addition. Interestingly, SROA offers racing wheel support, so if you’re looking for something else to try out your wireless steering wheel, look no further. Any title that offers support for an oft-overlooked peripheral gets my vote – do you know how much I actually used my Vision camera? Not much.

If simple arcade physics, a campy narrator, and relatively smooth online gameplay doesn’t strike your fancy, it may be worth your MS Points (if getting the game for that amount wasn’t enough) to unlock some simple achievements and even a racing suit for your Avatar. Sure, naysayers may boast they don’t NEED any more digital clothing, they don’t care, etc., it’s a cool extra that you’re not paying any extra for, so why not add it to your virtual self’s closet?

Sega Rally Online Arcade is a decently-priced, bite-sized arcade racer that should please that inner 10-year-old who’d jump at the chance to play the game in a full-size cabinet complete with the uncomfortable plastic seat, or just about anyone with a few minutes to kill and wants to hop online, race someone across the world in a matter of minutes, and get right back offline to attend to other pressing matters. In this respect the game does really approximate the same arcade-like feel of its namesake and successfully approximates it into today’s online multiplayer scene, arguably the successor to the great quarter gobbling parlors of the past. It’s no-frills, that’s for sure, but it’s packed full of nostalgia and is a welcome addition to any fan of arcade racing jonesing for a little more “Game Over YEEAHH!”

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