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August 25, 2011
Sega Rally Online Arcade - PS3 Review
Release Launch Price Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
6/7/2011$AUTBASegaSega Racing Studio1-22-6
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Sega Rally Online Arcade is out now.
When I was a kid I never played games in arcades. Why spend a dollar every couple of minutes to play a game when I could go home and play unlimited games on whatever console I had, without breaking the bank? Despite my cheapness I did occasionally splash out, and back then the most popular games outside of Streetfighter 2 were Daytona USA and Sega Rally Championship. It has to be said that the few pennies I had were invested into Daytona, not Sega Rally, but now, years later, Sega is giving me the chance to play an updated version of their classic arcade racer without spending a dollar per attempt. Is it worth picking up? Read on...

Beyond winning every race you can, there is no story to Sega Rally Online Arcade. There are multiple game modes to participate in; Championship, Quick Race, Time Attack and Classic. The game features both local split-screen and online multiplayer. Youíll also find online leaderboards of the fastest times from around the world as well as your own best times.

In Championship you start in 22nd place and have three races to work your way into first place. Whatever position you finish the first race in is where youíll start the second race and the same for the third. Quick Race is just that; a one off race on the track and in the car of your choice. Classic mode pits you in a one-on-one race with just two cars to choose from - the Toyota Celica and the Lancia, both of which were available in the first Sega Rally title. Time Attack is an all out assault on the record books, as you strive to beat your best times on any given track. A neat feature here, which is becoming common in racing games, is the ability to download the ghost cars of the people with the fastest recorded times. Itís also possible to download your friendsí ghost cars, or those of slower times with whom youíre more likely to compete. Itís a neat feature and gives you the best chance of getting your own times up near the best in the world.

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Coming in 4th place.
Online multiplayer is limited to one-off races between you and up to five other people. You can take a look at the available matches to join, or create your own. When creating your own you select the maximum number of players (2-6), the number of laps, whether or not AI racers make up the numbers and the difficulty setting. Like the single player game you have the choice of casual or arcade difficulty levels for AI racers. There are six local multiplayer game modes, but unfortunately there isnít much variety between them. Thereís your standard head-to-head race, as well as Classic Battle which is the same as head-to-head but with the classic cars. Dominator gives you points for overtaking cars, Knockout eliminates the person in last place at the conclusion of each lap and Time Lag will end if youíre more than a few seconds behind your opponent at checkpoints.

Once you decide which game mode you want to play itís on to your car selection. Initially there are six cars to choose from, though you can unlock five others. There are no ratings for the various cars, so I assume they all have identical stats, with no advantage between them. You can choose manual or automatic transmission and given how easy manual transmission is, pretty much everyone should use it. Changing gears is a matter of pushing circle or square, and once you reach top gear thereís almost no reason to switch down.

With the car and transmission picked itís on to the course selection. Initially you have three tracks to drive on; Tropical, Canyon and Alpine. Two others, Desert and Lakeside, can be unlocked by winning the Classic race with both cars, and winning the Championship. The tracks differ significantly in terms of their appearance, surface and difficulty. The Tropical track is remarkably straightforward with just the one medium turn. The Canyon track steps it up a notch with plenty of medium turns, as well as a few ninety degree turns. The Alpine track introduces hairpin turns as well as a couple of chicanes.

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It's not all about the dirt tracks.
The game looks and plays almost exactly like its arcade equivalent. The head-up display still has a time counter which extends when you reach checkpoints, and ends your game if it falls to zero. Itís mostly cosmetic though, as the only time youíre likely to run out of time is during the Championship on Arcade difficulty, and with a bit of practice it wonít happen there either. The head-up display has pretty much all the information you need; a progress bar showing where you are in relation to checkpoints and the finish line, your position, the lap, lap time, total time, your speed, a tachometer (which shows engine revs), your gear, and an upshift indicator that flashes when you should change gears. Itís all bright and glossy and very easy to interpret.

All of the cars handle well and are only too happy to slide around corners. The key to shaving seconds off your time appears to be mastering the power-slide, where you take your foot off the gas, angle the car into the turn and then power through it. A perfectly done power-slide will see you fly around all but the sharpest corners with next to no drop off in speed. Itís easy to slightly oversteer or take your foot of the gas for too long and doing either will see you drop 20km/h or more. You canít go off the track; getting close to the edge of the track will see you bounce off a wall and lose some speed. There is no damage, so thereís no need to worry about totaling your car.

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Sega Rally Online Arcade looks great.
Sega Rally Online Arcade is playable with the dual-shock controller as well as the Move (and apparently a few different steering wheel controllers, but I couldnít test this). The game handles like a dream using the dual-shock, but the Move controls are not as successful. Using the Move, the trigger controls acceleration and you twist the controller left and right to steer. Aside from the motion being uncomfortable after a while (one race was enough to leave my wrist sore), itís also less precise than the dual-shock controller. Trying to make slight course corrections with the Move often results in no movement, which will have you bouncing off the walls and losing precious seconds. Iím all for Move support, but it adds nothing to the game here and I canít imagine many people persisting with it for more than a race or two.

The primary issue with Sega Rally Online Arcade is the lack of depth. Unlocking everything wonít take more than a few hours, and once that is done there isnít a whole lot to bring you back. You canít customize or upgrade your cars, so beyond shaving a few milliseconds off your best times thereís not much to do. The game doesnít provide you with much information either Ė thereís no tutorial (though to be honest you donít need it), multiplayer game modes are never explained, and the few tips the game does give you during loading screens often disappear before you can read them. The online leaderboards are bugged too Ė currently the top two times are less than one minute, and the next best is just under two and a half minutes. Time Attack, where you can load the ghosts of the best times is also bugged Ė when I downloaded one of the fastest times to race against, the ghost car never appeared.

The graphics are one area where Sega Rally Online Arcade excels. The high-definition graphics retain the same look as the arcade game, but may be even better on the PS3. Every colour is exceptionally bright, from the cars to the tracks themselves. The cars are accurately rendered and there is a whole lot going on in the background. The canyon has a dam built into the side of the track, and a jet goes flying overhead as you complete your first lap in the Championship. On the Alpine track you see rays of sunlight bursting between the pillars of a bridge as you drive underneath, and a train puffing out smoke goes past just before you reach the finish line. The Lakeside track has houses and boats aplenty, making the town youíre driving through look like a living, breathing town. The use of light on this track is impressive, with shadows covering half the track, only for the sun to break through in other sections.

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Taking to a street circuit.
The surface can change multiple times within each course. On the Tropical course youíve got mud and sand, while the Canyon tosses up dirt and tarmac. The Alpine course has snow in plenty, but also has paved roads and a bit of tarmac in the race to the line. The Desert course has sand and mud, while the Lakeside course has a bit of everything. Whether youíre racing through dirt, mud or snow your car will spray debris into the air. It can be tricky to follow cars too closely on the Alpine course because itís so hard to see through the snow theyíre spraying. The back-end of your car will likely get dirty from the mud and snow, but if you drive through water you might wash some of it away. All in all Sega Rally Online Arcade is one good-looking game, particularly for a downloaded title.

Thereís not much to remark on as far as the sound goes. The music is upbeat and high tempo, which provides perfect accompaniment to the races. Engine sounds are what youíd expect, while gravel, mud and snow all make slushy sound as they are sprayed over the track by passing cars. The thud of cars crashing into each other, or hitting the barrier on each trackís edge donít have much substance to them and could use work, but this is a minor thing. You co-driver yells out directions as you make your way around the track, and heís mostly helpful. He does add the odd 'maybe' in there to keep you on your toes (i.e. 'long easy left... maybe') but overall he does a good job as co-driver.

Sega Rally Online Arcade is arcade racing down to a tee, and that comes with pros and cons. In terms of pros you have an excellent racing engine that makes the thrills of rally racing accessible to anyone thanks to straightforward controls. The graphics are also first-rate, particularly for a downloadable title. On the downside there is very little depth, and youíll have unlocked all there is to see after just a few hours of play. If youíre looking for a fast and fun online racing game then Sega Rally Online Arcade will be perfect for you. If you want something with a bit more substance there are plenty of quality racing titles out there for PS3 (Dirt 3 anyone?) that are more suitable.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe colour of cars and tracks alike are extremely vibrant, making it an eye-catching title. The action is fast and furious with no technical glitches and thereís plenty to see in the background.
SOUNDNothing remarkable here, but most everything is suitable.
GAMEPLAYGreat fun that with controls generous enough for anyone to pick up and play.
VALUEThis is where the game falls down. Youíll have done all there is to do in around five hours.
OVERALLI had a lot of fun with Sega Rally Online Arcade, but thereís no denying itís a short game. If the latter doesnít bother you then this is well worth checking out.

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