Ok this may get slightly confusing so let’s get this out of the way first shall we?
Outrun 2 is the direct sequel to the 1986 arcade smash hit that was then translated onto every system in the known universe except systems that quite frankly suck because the original was/is/always will be a total boss classic of the highest order. The slightly strange thing here is that although the game being reviewed today is in fact the next game in the series it’s actually the fifth true series game to be released, yup that’s Sega being, well, Sega I guess.
The creator of the original game Yu Suzuki who has several times in interviews regarded the franchise as driving games and not racing games considers all other games released post Outrun until the Arcade 2003 cabinet direct sequel as un-official spin-offs and here at RGG we tend to listen to what the creators say, after all they know best!
Of course right now some of you are wondering what some of the other games were well since I’m in the sharing mood here goes…Turbo Outrun, Battle Outrun, Outrun Europa and OutRunners, there is also a game called Outrun 2019 on the Megadrive but let’s be honest it didn’t exist! Everyone up to speed now? Awesome, then let’s get down to this. Released as an exclusive on Microsoft’s Xbox console in 2004 this port by the sexy beasts at Sumo Digital contained everything the Arcade cabinet did and added in some amazing stuff to allow players to gain a lot more replayability from their purchase, but more on this later as it’s the main reason in all fairness to play this and the reason for the overall score at the bottom more than anything else.
For those of you who are not familiar with the game (really!?) Outrun 2 much like it’s predecessor is a simple point A to point B style driving game where as a driver of a nice red Ferrari with a hot lady in the passenger seat you cruise along overtaking traffic until you reach the end within a time limit. On paper this sounds really boring however in reality it is anything but as the route you take is completely your choice with 5 possible destinations that take in a multitude of backdrops designed to make the driver feel like they are indeed seeing the world. Your start point is always the same and I like to think of the overall map as a pyramid laying on it’s side with the beginning point being the tip of said pyramid and the final stages being the base of the pyramid, maybe that’s not helpful enough so I shall try to find a screenshot to highlight the game map to simplify.
The challenge of the game is to get to a destination within the time limit and you can do this the easy way by always taking left turns at junctions (point where you choose next stage) or the hard way (choose right every time at said junctions) To make things more interesting and to see all the possible endings cut scene wise a mixture of left and right will be needed to get to finish points B,C and D. Right now this all sounds a bit dull and honestly if that’s all this was then it would be because that’s what the 1986 game did so for a 2004 game quite frankly more is expected…. Thankfully Sega obliges.
On top of the standard Arcade mode detailed just now this second game adds in challenges via the use of the ‘Heart Mode’ option. In this version the game is played the same with the added gameplay function of having to do specific tasks given to you by the lady in the front seat, tasks such as power sliding in the designated areas or hitting certain colour traffic cones or not hitting any oncoming traffic. If as a player you complete these tasks she gives you lots of these little hearts which activate a meter at the side to give you an overall score that adds to the ranking of your driving, it’s a lovely little addition and really adds an element of personal achievement whilst distracting you from the fact that you are in fact still driving over the same massive course again and again. Lastly ‘Time Attack Mode’ is also there for those who love to get the fastest lap times, this is something I generally don’t care about myself but it’s great to have for those who enjoy these kinds of things.
Had this been everything that Outrun 2 was offering an average score would be winging it’s way onto the bottom of the screen but it’s at this point where Sumo Digital hit the ball out of the park with the XBOX exclusive extra’s of which online play (no longer usable due to xbox live for the original console being switched off) and stage ghost time attack are available. Party options such as System link races (still work) or old fashioned take it turns modes that record times and rankings are on offer as well. Things like true widescreen modes and extra music tracks appear too but that’s not where the magic lies here, oh no.
Outrun Challenge is where the party is at for this game and it’s the reason why for me this is a title all fans of arcade games in general as well as driving fans will spend all of their time once they see the destination cut scenes from the original modes. In a nutshell the game is once again placed in the main world map only this time everything is locked! In order to get to the next stage you have to complete a series of tasks to open up the next route, this time the focus switches from driving to get to a destination quickest to driving with skill and precision. In order to finish this massive mode a total of 101 missions will have to be completed so that the complete world map is unlocked and trust me, this is not easy at all.
This fantastic bit of the game takes the existing ‘Heart’ mode from the arcade original and goes one stage further by adding in new tasks that will require in some cases better cars and a hell of a lot of practice, as well as those traffic cones you may have to drive in a certain lane or at a certain speed all whilst power sliding and avoiding traffic and again to a time limit, sounds intense because on some of the trials it bloody well is. Missions for each stage are very varied to completely stop the player from becoming bored and to also keep you coming back for more until you either finish it or beat a previous time or score, it’s addictive as hell. Unlockable rewards also make everything so much sweeter.
For me personally when I was on stage 2 doing my 8th or 9th mission it suddenly occurred to me that this mode was actually teaching me how to be better at the game in general. The running over of certain colour cones or driving on coloured pieces of tarmac were actually showing me the racing lines for that stage and the collecting of hearts by power sliding through corners were showing me how to corner without ever losing speed. This meant that when I returned to the main Arcade mode I flew through each stage because I know knew how to attack it, it shaved several seconds off of each area. All in all spending about an hour on this Outrun Challenge mode helped me smash the Arcade mode out of the water when I returned to see ending ’E’ which is the hardest route through the world map. Clever Sega!
It’s clear that this is the reason to play this Outrun game and what hugely separates it from the original which now to me although superb and nostalgic suddenly seems very ordinary almost to the point of being basic in many ways. Outrun 2 does what every next game should do and totally blows the first out of the water, bold words but trust me in that after a few hours on this you will be hooked. In it’s day with Xbox live racing against other players around the world this would have easily been an essential part of any gamers collection and whilst part of this has now been lost what remains is still both brilliant and a must for play. Im hard to please and this managed it easily!
Now any Outrun gamer worth their salt will obviously want to know how this looks and sounds compared to the original and once again Sega and Sumo digital deliver with all the original arcade soundtracks plus some new not as great tunes to accompany the package. To be honest though how on earth can you better ’Passing Breeze‘, ‘Splash Wave’ or ’Magical Sound Shower’ these pieces of music are timeless and perfect so honestly I used them for most of the review play through.
Graphically this is a treat as well, the different route stages all look very colourful with lovely background scenes that tempt the driver to look around and enjoy the experience. The game engine is silky smooth too with no lag or slowdown of any kind and honestly huge draw distances. I have to say it really blew me away in this department and for once it backed up my memories of how it looked then and how well it has held up after a decade.
So it may have taken gamers 18 years to get a true second game from the man himself after the 1986 smash hit but it really was a wait that was worth it. A perfect mixture of arcade spills and thrills for the quick one more go fix matched with a complete and perfectly executed mission mode that puts other games to shame. It does the series a massive positive service, is a clear indicator of why the XBOX was the console of choice for any Sega fan post Dreamcast and is as great today as it always was. Microsoft may have switched off the Xbox live service for the original console but nothing can switch off such fantastic gameplay this title simply oozes. Real class is always real class. My advice is to go out and play this as soon as you possibly can! PS2 fans should check out Outrun 2006 Coast to Coast, same score applies.
Verdict:- When Sega feel like it they produce stuff that is quite frankly digital gold, welcome to one of those times.
Not only does it look and sound amazing but like any top class car it handles like a dream, like it’s gliding on air whilst still having real power under the hood.
It has everything a must play game should have and will be perfect for a night with friends or a solo evening of intense time and score attack’s this is quite simply a one game fit’s all moment and that’s coming from a man who doesn’t even like driving games, that’s how great this is.
The irony of finding 7 un-used 2 month FREE Xbox live cards inside the box of my copy of the game now that the server has been shut off isn’t lost on me either! If it wasn’t for bad luck I really would have none at all!
Second Opinion:- Being one of Sega's finest creations I guess it's up to me to give the final verdict on this pretender to my crown as dominant Sega franchise. For once though I shall be a forgiving and kind overlord because when something this great arrives even the mighty must bow it's head.
This is just a perfect follow up to an arcade classic on a console that just felt so much like a Sega machine it's scary. My lasers are no match for this example of gaming greatness and as such I salute it's magnificence and skill in earning it's place at my side as an equal.
Everyone should play this, all hail me, but play this!
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10