The overall feel of the game is very close to its next-gen relatives. The PSP game has been coded by a different team (Bugbear, who made the FlatOut series on Xbox and 360) but the same environments are present and the colour palette is very similar. There are six environments with different tracks within them, just like the big version, although the exact track layouts do seem different. The tropical stage looks best, with waterfalls coming from rocks that overhang the track and pools of reflective water to jump through.
The game has a good replay feature, so you can watch the whole race again from different camera angles to see what your lines were like. It's even got one over its big brothers by having a slow motion button, so you can see the dust scatter across the track as you slide into a turn. It's very serene.
Above: The tyres don't make troughs in the snow, but they do leave marks. Signature time!
Perhaps the best news is that this feels like a Sega Rally game. It's not a remake - everything here is different. But in terms of gameplay, it's obviously at home in the series. The pacenotes sound right, the movement feels right and the sensation of speed is spot-on. Perhaps it's not quite as precise as the original, where gameplay ultimately became a test of perfect lines and weight shifting, but in its place it's got the sort of coin-op feeling that got us into games in the first place.
Of course, with such an old and revered game as a template, the gameplay isn't going to break any new ground. This is just fast racing against five other cars, with invisible walls and no damage. In that respect, it isn't cutting-edge at all. Some gamers won't have played the original, so this might seem like a very generic experience. On the other hand, arcade immediacy is exactly what handheld games thrive on, so it might find mass appeal - especially with it looking so good and playing so well. We'll find out when the game goes on sale next month.