The last time consoles saw the Sega Rally franchise, it was 2007. The first and only product from the now-defunct Sega Racing Studio, Sega Rally Revo was a challenging, pretty, and unusually deep attempt at arcade-style off-road racing. The game didn’t fare very well – an unfortunate circumstance likely due to the declining interest in racing games this console cycle. Four years later, the franchise returns to gaming platforms as the download-only Sega Rally Online Arcade. A stripped-down game based heavily on the engine used in Sega Rally Revo, the game captures the loose, arcadey gameplay the series is known for. Due to its heritage, it’s one of the better looking racing games for any console’s downloadable game service. At $10 SROA is definitely affordable, but keep in mind you have to be an avid online player to get the most out of it.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Developer: Sumo Digital
Genre: Arcade-style Rally Racing
Release Date: May 18, 2011 (Xbox 360), June 2, 2011 (PS3)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
As Sega Rally Online Arcade is, for all intents and purposes, a port of the arcade game Sega Rally 3, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the feature set is much smaller than your average racing game – even if it is a downloadable title. The core single-player event is the Championship mode. This will be a familiar setup for fans of the franchise, as your job is to start at the very back of the pack and move your way to first or second by the time you complete three races. Doing so drops you into a final one-on-one encounter that you must win to emerge victorious. It’s very arcade-like in nature, to the point that you’d almost want to pop in a quarter when you start. In addition, there’s quick race, time trial, and online options that are more standard head-to-head fare. With time trials specifically, it’s possible to download either a staff or online ghost to compete with, similar to Sega Rally Revo.
While Sega Rally Revo was a bit more simmy than the franchise was known for, SROA tosses that out the window. The game is much looser this time around, with more emphasis on throwing your car around corners without taking your foot off the gas. It hasn’t completely abandoned its roots, however; the handling of the vehicles varies greatly depending on the surface. Driving through a puddle, for instance, causes your car to slow down – making it imperative to avoid doing so. Racing on slick, icy surfaces is rougher and wilder, yet racing on plain old asphalt (a rare occurrence) is mostly pleasant.
Though the track selection is minimal, with just a handful of variants (tropical, outback, alpine, etc), there’s enough differences in each track to make them all interesting. As a bonus, the game features a recreated version of a course from the original Sega Rally. The AI can be customized with two difficulty levels – the game sets things to Casual by default, but there’s an “Arcade” difficulty that – at least in my opinion – isn’t all that different. Compared with the uber-challenging Revo, SROA is pretty standard fare.
The trouble with Sega Rally Online Arcade is that even for $10, the game feels slim on content. The Championship mode can be completed in five minutes, and there’s only those handful of courses for quick races and time attacks. Even the bonus “Classic” mode is one track and two selectable cars. There’s just not a lot here, unless you’re expecting to spend a lot of time playing online. Here’s the rub: if you haven’t played it, go find a copy of Sega Rally Revo on the cheap. A used copy runs less than $10, and new copies can be had for a few bucks more (observant Xbox 360 players might notice that SRR vanished from Games On Demand recently, likely due to the release of SROA). At least with Revo, you get a challenging racer with ten times the content for roughly the same price. If you have played Revo, this might be worth a look – but probably not until it goes on sale. It’s a good, fun game… just a smidge overpriced for what you get.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Sega Rally Online Arcade was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.