Thanks to the ?arcade? portion in Sega Rally Online Arcade for XBLA, any gamer will be able to easily hop right into the high speed races. Unfortunately, the game?s handful of tracks and steeper difficulty factor might ruin the longevity for casual players.
Sega Rally Online Arcade is without a doubt an entertaining game. Unlike the strict game elements in realistic racers, this game promotes very responsive control, straightforward design, and cars do not receive damage. While these elements make the game user friendly, the ruthless quest for perfection is daunting and always just out of reach. Even after many attempts, I was still unable to achieve a first place rank even after memorizing the first track (which is also the easiest). The first place AI racer is usually within sight but is rarely passable. And the only way to unlock more tracks and cars is to obtain that coveted first place; only dedicated players will unlock the game?s limited content.
The game might be user friendly thanks to the nature of the play control, but skill comes from memorizing each track and learning how to drift turn. If you want any chance at grabbing that first place position, you will need to know how to handle your car and even the location of puddles (they will slow you down but will remove mud). Each race?s success can be easily determined in milliseconds.
Championship Mode is also a little difference than your standard racer. Here, the player starts Track 1 in last place. But the goal for the first track is not to obtain first place, but rather, work your way up the pack as much as possible. So let?s say you finish the first track in 16th place. You will then start Track 2 in 16th place. Instead of using a point system, like in any Mario Kart game for example, Sega Rally Online Arcade essentially links all its tracks together to form one long race. This is a refreshing approach to the standard racing point system, but the game?s rubberbanding AI will frustrate players. No matter how well, or how poorly, your racing performance is, AI controlled opponents will always be right next to you. This can either be seen as a curse or a blessing.
Sure, the game is very playable with its highly responsive and friendly control, but there are a few other elements that hold this game back besides the hardcore difficulty. First, there are only three camera views: one zoomed out, and two from the windshield perspective. Unfortunately, none of these views pleased me. I wanted a more zoomed out perspective to judge upcoming turns. This brings up the next point ? the announcer. Instead of offering a zoomed out camera perspective, the developers implemented an announcer that foretells upcoming turns along with a pop-up arrow indicator, similar to a GPS system. Needless to say, this becomes a little annoying and the complete lack of a mini-map leaves players in the dark in regards to the location of the competition and the layout of each track.
The best part about Sega Rally Online Arcade is probably the realistic approach to the visuals, justifying the 1+gb download size. Even though this is an arcade game, the game looks like a realistic racer complete with high def graphics and great effects like mud build up and snow drifts. Environments and vehicles look great. Negatively, the difference between each car is purely cosmetic. So much so that the game does not even list the stats for each car. In a way, this creates a very competitive online multiplayer component, but doesn?t provide a great incentive in terms of unlockables. Standardizing the race between all players will separate the veterans from the rookies, but lowers the single player need to seek that first place medal against the AI.
And strangely enough, the menu system is actually quite terrible. The game forces the player to scroll through each option individually as opposed to listing all options on the same screen. For example, the 360?s dashboard always lists several tiles at the same time. This allows the player quickly make selection decisions and browsing easy. Sega Rally Online Arcade lists each option as its own screen with no indication of what is next. It might seem like a small nuisance, but it makes a difference when you want to simply hop into a game.
Once you find the multiplayer option, playing against buddies and random strangers is a pretty easy to use and straightforward experience. Because each race is determined by only a few seconds between the first place finisher and last place finisher, competition is always fierce. Luckily, each match I played was virtually lag free.
Sega Rally Online Arcade has the appeal to attract newcomers thanks to its controllability, but quickly turns into a more hardcore offering due to the highly competitive AI. Grabbing a first place position is rare, which is why the game only has a handful of cars and a couple of tracks to unlock; even Achievement points are difficult to come by. But even though the game?s arcadeyness appeals to a broader spectrum of players, this is really a game more for the dedicated gamer.
Better Than: installing Yosamitity Sam mud flaps
Also Try: Sega Rally 3 (arcade), Hydro Thunder
Wait For It: Chu Chu Rocket XBLA
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