Tom Armitage

9 Replies

I don’t know about the weather where you are, but where I am, spring really has taken hold, and in the past week or two given me the most tantalizing glimpse of summer just around the corner; it’s been shirt-sleeve weather all week. How apt, then, that the recent release of OutRun Online Arcade coincided almost perfectly with the start of a hot spell.

OutRun is summer gaming personified: taught, arcade racing, with a blazing blue sky, an open road, a girl at your side, and heady salsa rhythms blaring from the stereo. Although OutRun saw release in 1986, it’s really 2003’s OutRun 2 that my heart belongs to, with its rolling roads, spectacular scenery, and thumping Richard Jacques re-workings of the classic OutRun score. Sumo Digital’s OutRun Online Arcade is an HD reworking of OutRun 2 SP, the arcade follow-up to OutRun 2. Sumo were responsible for both the original Xbox OutRun 2 port, as well as the majestic OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast – spectacular on a powerful PC, and still one of the few games to let you share saves between a PS2 and PSP.

OutRun‘s gameplay has barely been altered in 23 years: you race your Ferrari through a forking map of stages, dodging traffic and other racers, left turns taking you to easier stages, right turns to more challenging. The end of each stage extends your time; if you’re good, you’ll make it to one of the five goals. And that’s it: it’s a pure Arcade racer, better as time-attack than competitive. What the 2003 sequel – and subsequent iterations – add to this a fabulous drift model.

When it comes to drifting, OutRun is not quite Ridge Racer: drifting is not always the best solution to every corner, but it is a spectacular one, and one that your female passenger always seems to enjoy. The careful balancing of drift with conventional cornering, sliding the car from lock to lock through hairpins, and slipstreaming through traffic to make ever-tighter deadlines is a real challenge, and there’s a lot of pleasure to be gained from shaving second after second off your times.


A few notes for first-time OutRunners; the trial version is a bit crippled, as it doesn’t extend time after checkpoints, meaning it’s quite hard to envisage what full-on time attack looks like. By default, the game is set to VERY EASY and has over-sensitive handling – you can fix this in the options menu, and you should find Normal difficulty offers a fair bit of a challenge. And, whilst it’s a remarkably impressive game squeezed into Live Arcade’s 350mb cap, a lot of the sound has been heavily compressed – which is, sadly, most noticeable on the marvellous soundtrack. It should sound a little better than that, honest.

But: give it a chance and it will slowly win your heart. The stage design never ceases to charm; the first time you speed past its waterfall or Easter-Island-inspired statues at 300kmh, you can’t help but grin. There’s no time to stop and take pictures, because there’s racing to be done; you’ll just have to come past this spot again. Whenever it’s grey and wet outside, you’ll know it’s always a Mediterranean summmer in OutRun land, and five stages should do as a cure for any Seasonal Affective Disorder.

OutRun Online Arcade is polished, joyous, arcade fun, and the perfect game to get you in the mood for a spring weekend in the sun. That’s what I’ll be doing with some of my weekend (along with the ever present levelling in Feralas); what are you going to be up to, Offworlders?

[OutRun Online Arcade is available on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade, right now]

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  1. Remember the hydraulic sit-down cabinet with nostalgic glee, so picked it up the other day – and the SEGA-blue skies never disappoint… Finding it pretty difficult to shave seconds off my time though, think my best time for 5 stages is around the 4:50 mark… Not acceptable! ;)

  2. A New Challenger

    I bought Coast 2 Coast for PC during a ridiculously awesome Circuit City PC game clearance at the beginning of last year and it runs pretty well even on this laptop. My only complaint is that after 20 years people learned to wear seatbelts.

    The scenery is great. I wish I’d had the fortune to happen upon an arcade cabinet, but the lack of multiplayer probably keeps it out of the local Dave & Buster’s in favor of Fast And The Furious and Mario Kart GP.

  3. I enjoyed the demo for OutRun, but I don’t have an extra 800 points to spend on a new game right now. To make up for it, though, I broke out my Dreamcast and my launch copy of my personal favorite arcade racing game: Hydro Thunder. It’s my ultimate summer game, with some of the best course design and environments of anything I’ve played. Each course has so many secret areas that exploration is as fun as the time attack. It’s a shame that it and my other favorite Midway racing game, Rush 2049, haven’t made it to XBLA or PSN yet.

  4. I feel the same way about Need For Speed II: Hot Pursuit and Autumn. Racing around in a beautiful fall countryside just makes me feel awesome.

  5. I used to love this game! I got good enough that I would just ask people watching whether to go left or right and let the crowd play navigator. :)

    Not quite as good as Race Driving, which is still my number one favorite game ever, but a good solid top 10.

  6. Been playing OR2:C2C on PC recently (via Steam) – love it!

    @Ticklemonster, you’ll be glad to hear that there’s a SEQUEL to Hydro Thunder coming out shortly in the arcades. The guys at the “Arcade Heroes” blog have gameplay videos. :)

  7. I may have played this game one or twice in arcades as a kid, but I have no nostalgia for it. I downloaded it anyway and have been addicted since. I thought my favorite mode would be heart attack, but I was surprised that I loved saving seconds in time attack, especially the 15 continuous mode. I can see why it was a classic.

    I do have fond memories of NFS: Hot Pursuit, and I enjoyed Porsche Unleashed as well.

    The only thing I don’t understand is whether there is a difference between each car (other than 5 vs 6 gears).

    Makes up for the disappointing puzzle quest galactrix.