In the long line of old school Sega titles that have been pushed for the sole purpose of giving gamers a nostalgic vibe, Sega Rally Online Arcade is the newest addition to the genre and it does a great job at supplying just the stuff that rally veterans were looking for.
If you’ve enjoyed Sega Rally Revo and you’re a huge fan of off-road racing and muddy cars, then wait no further.
Power up your Xbox console and start downloading, because Sega Rally Online Arcade is now available on XBLA. Story
Racing arcade games rarely have a background story, neither do they need one. It’s like saying that before driving a car you need to get personal with the engineers that build it.
Suffice to say that all you’ll ever be interested in the game is simply pick out a vehicle (any of the five given cars will do) and then head out to the track and really start testing your driving skills. Gameplay
Sega Rally Online Arcade (SROA) is exactly what you would expect from an arcade game. With only five tracks and a handful of cars, it really doesn’t have all that much to offer in terms of variety and single player growth.
You must come to terms with the fact that SROA is not like other games, where you get to drive really fast cars on smooth roads, and it’s more about getting dirty, pushing the limits of your driving skills and using every trick in the book to defeat opponents who, most of the time, are way better than you.
First things first, Championship mode is the one challenge that will get you set up for the rest of the game, meaning that you have to go through three races and win first place. After doing so, you have a one-on-one match with a Subaru A.I. that will ‘push the pedal to the metal’ and leave you behind in a dust cloud.
Quick Race is pretty straightforward, as you have to choose a car, a track and then get dirty. Classic Mode is basically the same idea, except you only get to drive one of two cars, a Toyota Celica or a Lancia Delta Integrale. Defeating them in a head-to-head match sounds easy, but it feels like playing a mirror image of you.
The A.I. never backs off your tail and once it’s in front of you, it skillfully fills up any gap that you might want to exploit in doing a takeover. I even had the impression that at some point it was actually teasing me by doing zig zags just to prove that it can.
Anyway, in terms of single player, the only difference between cars is that some handle a bit differently (not considerably) than others and there’s also a small difference in acceleration. With no overall specifications for the individual performance of each car, you’re led to believe that they’re almost the same (they just look different).
No customization is available for any of the cars, meaning that you can’t strap on your own colors or change tires and body kits. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because this way everyone gets a fair chance of testing their skills instead of always feeling “special” for being allowed to win. No performance tweaks and simply good old fashion piloting skills are just the thing that rallying is all about.
Also, the tracks that you’ll be racing on have a more than satisfying level of detail that at times will get you looking after sandy beaches and snowy mountains instead of keeping your eyes on the road. Thankfully, the co-pilot is always there to warn you when there’s a tight turn to be made or a bridge to be crossed.
An achievement system is also available (not as many as I would have expected) but to actually get all of them unlocked requires more patience than driving ability. For instance, one of them involves winning fifty races without going multiplayer. Trust me, if you play fifty races not only that you’ll get the achievement, but you’ll also learn those tracks like the back of your hand (this is actually a good thing on the long run). Audio and Video
The great part about each track is that they all have their own unique environment and that it’s actually interacting with your car. For instance, when driving through a muddy terrain you can actually view the rear bumper getting dirty and then washed off as you splash through a puddle or slide through some snow. It’s nice for the visual effect, but it will bring down the acceleration bit.
Even the world outside the track looks like it actually has its own coherence instead of simply being slapped on like wallpaper on the side of the road.
The in-game cars have been given pretty solid and smooth textures, making them realistic enough to want to drive them. Engine sounds are also unique to each car and they don’t feel over the top in any way. It’s just the right volume to get the adrenaline pumping and also listen to the instructions given by your co-pilot.
As far as the soundtrack goes, the rock theme is there to emphasize the dangerously high speeds at which you’ll be racing and the tight turns that you’ll be making. Trust me when I say that you won’t be wasting a lot of time listening to it when you’re desperately trying to take smooth turns, burn rubber and avoid ramming into fences. Multiplayer
Sega Rally Online Arcade features both split-screen multiplayer (for two players) and online multiplayer for up to six racers. If the lobby isn’t filled up, the A.I. will kick in and fill in the available slots so that you can have a full racing experience.
The same single player maps are also available in multiplayer mode, but the difference is that that you’ll be racing against live opponents, which can prove to be a much tougher challenge than anticipated.
When you join a lobby there’s no way of telling apart experienced players from beginners and at times it can be a tad frustrating if you stumble across five pro racers or five beginners. I guess this is the beauty of it, because you never know what to expect and you must always be on your toes.
Also, because there’s no way that cars can be upgraded or tweaked in any way, everyone has a fair chance in winning the race. If you want my advice, master the manual transmission first and then head over to the online multiplayer, because that makes all the difference in the world when going in and coming out of a tight turn. Conclusion
With only a couple of cars and five tracks, Sega Rally Online Arcade might seem like it doesn’t have a lot to offer, when in fact the beauty of it lies in its simplicity. It puts a strong emphasis on driving skills rather than pure horsepower and really nails down the way rallying should be all about.
Single player mode serves more as a training ground to get your skills polished and also to get acquainted with all the cars. Online mode is the place where you’ll be spending most of your time and you won’t get bored easily because there’s always someone better than you to challenge.
Sega Rally Online Arcade is all about bringing back classic arcade gaming in an online challenge by testing your rally driving skills.