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For fans of Sega’s flagship racing series, the following sentence will come as a big relief. The new Sega Rally game feels like a Sega Rally game. We know because we’ve played it for hours, racing on four different tracks at Sega Racing Studio in Birmingham on both PS3 and Xbox 360.
If we sound surprised, or at least relieved, it’s because up until now we had only been shown what was basically a tech demo of six cars racing around a pretty, but featureless track. It looked alright, but not great.
But after sitting behind a Logitech steering wheel and enjoying (and winning, we might add) race series after race series in an online tournament against five fellow games journalists, we’re convinced. The new game is fun. Like, insanely good fun.
The PS3s were linked over the internet (not LAN), with a surprisingly lag-free game despite the connection dipping to two out of five bars for most of the session. Although there were a few technical hitches, as you’d expect from a lengthy showing of unfinished code, what started as a professional playtest soon turned to an enthusiastic competition.
Something we didn’t expect to be saying is that it feels like a simulation. Despite the invisible walls around the track, the enhanced grip of the vehicles and the bright, shiny colors of a Sega racer, this is the closest we’ve ever felt to the sensation of driving while playing a game.
It could be the superb Force Feedback integration, with every single ridge in the deformable track fed back to your body perfectly, but it just feels so right. And much more believable than many dedicated driving sims we could mention.
So what about that deformable track then? We first thought it was likely to be an aesthetically pleasing but ultimately pointless feature for the press release to bullet point. But it’s turned out to be everything the development team said it would be.