Oct. 9, 2007
Way back in 1995, Sega Rally Championship's innovation was its varying friction on the different surfaces. It's a gimmick Sega Rally Revo (plain old Sega Rally in the UK) has run with, with a dozen different surfaces, all of which can be torn up, making subsequent laps entirely unlike the first. Like Motorstorm on the PS3, tracks made by the cars remain in the mud - but unlike Motorstorm, those tracks can be dug deep, leaving whopping great trenches all over the place if you rack up enough laps on the same racing line. A lot's been made of the terrain deformation, but that's not what makes this game so very good.
Proving that the world is a weird place, Colin McRae: Dirt offers fine rallying, while Sega Rally is far better at the dirty business. As you tear up the track, much of it ends up coating your car - mud and dust clinging to your bumpers, with trips through the wet washing the grime off. It's the slick design that makes Sega Rally look so seamless, rather than just a hundred billion polygons - but although a lot has been made of the graphics, that's not what makes the game, either.
Nope. It's that old arcade feeling that you get in your guts that makes Sega Rally. It's a seat-of-your-pants ride beneath beautiful blue Sega skies, where seaplanes will take off and fly alongside your car, where trains whip by in the Alpine mountains, and where elephants trumpet on the African plains. Modern arcade racers are rarely arcade-y enough - all of them afraid to go overboard for fear of appearing silly or simplistic. Even the likes of Burnout aren't quite as silly as we'd like. Sega Rally is about racing in a perfect world on a perfect day, making no concession to reality - it has the best tracks, the longest curves, the fastest straights and the silliest drift physics.
Sega Rally demands perfection from its drivers, too - the slightest deviation from the racing line can cost you dearly. Some might object to just how tough the AI can be, but it's a part of the game's arcade nature that it wants to beat you to death. Sega Rally is a game based on half-second victories and shaving hundredths of a second from your time trial scores.
If we have any complaint at all, it's that it's all a little bare. The front-end is as plain as a Bulgarian nun and there's nothing more to the game, both online and off, than the straight championship racing. While Burnout offers crash junctions and elimination modes, and FlatOut offers just about everything else, Sega Rally is very simple and pure.
But it's just mean to criticise Sega Rally for the things that it's not when what it actually is, is this good. We're all for extra content, but this has the most thrilling, intensely competitive racing experience on the PC, complemented by the toughest and, fortunately, fairest AI competitors you'll ever face.
Sega Rally Revo is the best game to carry the name since '95, but more than that - it's the best straight racing game you'll find on this console and indeed one of the best pure racers you'll have played in years.