Reviewed: May 14, 2006
Released: April 25, 2006
Sega’s OutRun franchise is turning twenty this year but rather than reinvent the series for next-gen consoles Sumo Digital seems content to offer some minor gameplay upgrades and a new presentation style. Ultimately, this puts OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast in the same retro category as the Midway and Namco collections. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this title on the Xbox Live Marketplace by next year.
Coast 2 Coast is the ultimate evolution of the OutRun franchise, incorporating the tracks, cars, and music from just about every installment in its epic historic run. This is great news for those of you who have never played an OutRun game, but veterans of the series will probably find too much familiar ground here. Especially considering that much of the content is lifted directly from the $19 OutRun 2 that released a year or so ago.
Of course the other side of the equation is just as problematic since newcomers to the OutRun franchise will probably scoff at the poor graphics, rudimentary arcade gameplay, and antiquated music. Let’s face it – the racing genre is rife with competition and most of it outshines Coast 2 Coast, at least at face value.
You can’t deny that Coast 2 Coast comes with loads of content including 30 tracks pulled from previous titles that can be driven in reverse for a total of 60 courses. It’s the same landscape and cities we’ve been driving for years now with a few minor tweaks for those with the discriminating eye.
The core format is the same as always with a pyramid structure of zones arranged like bowling pins. At the end of each zone you choose left or right and that takes you to the next zone, allowing you the limited freedom to plot your own course through the Coast 2 Coast world. Of course the clock is always ticking, so top speeds and careful driving are crucial to getting to that checkpoint and earning those previous bonus seconds.
Coast 2 Coast is all about flexibility when it comes to how you want to play. You can play the new single player game or relive your misspent youth in the arcade by tackling the OutRun2: SP game, which is basically a pixel-perfect port of the coin-op. There is also a respectable multiplayer game for split-screen or online gaming.
The single player game offers a lengthy series of challenges that requires you to either win races or perform certain racing feats. There are also Heart Attack challenges where your demanding girlfriend will want you to risk your shiny Ferrari by driving dangerously, only instead of PGR kudos you get hearts.
Heart challenges are pretty fun and varied. You might need to drift or drive in a striped zone or possibly pass a lengthy convoy or simply pass a sequence of staggered cars. You might have to break yellow lines stretched between cars or avoid falling meteors or UFO tractor beams. The better you do the higher your grade and each challenge makes up part of the zone score and all the zones are averaged together for your final grade.
The Flagman is your other taskmaster and his challenges are usually of a speed variety, either winning races or driving better and faster than a rival driver who is trying to steal your girl. Racing fast requires precise drifting and careful slipstreaming of rival racers and civilian traffic as this is the only “boost” you get in OutRun.
The structure is nice in that once you have passed through a zone during a normal race you can then revisit that zone and play the individual challenges in that zone to perfect your score and increase your overall world average. In fact, some challenges aren’t even available until you unlock them by obtaining higher scores.
Physics and control are definitely arcade and tweaked for fun. Drifting is totally intuitive and with a bit of practice you can keep a sustained drift for upwards of a minute or more. Collision detection can be a bit iffy with the computer almost always coming out ahead.
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast is an arcade racer through and through, so don’t expect to tweak your car or purchase upgrades or vinyls. At most, you get to pick from a modest selection of cars (all Ferraris) and a few paint styles for each of those. It’s simplistic fun that will have you looking for the slot to insert your token to continue the game when the timer expires.
Regrettably, Coast 2 Coast looks like a 20-year old game. Despite claims inside the manual that this game supports widescreen and progressive scan, neither the back of the box nor my TV (which shows the current resolution) confirms that. I’m guessing the manual was printed before the HDTV support was dropped, so playing this game on my 61” plasma was visually painful.
With no widescreen support the already-jaggy game is even jaggier when stretched to 16:9 and there is more shimmering and pixilization than the legendary Ridge Racer launch title on PS2. Oddly enough, not all levels look like crap. The forest level looks really nice and there is another mountain pass level with fog that seems to hide the visual defects.
On a positive note, there are some nice real-time reflections that were inconceivable 20 years ago, as well as tire smoke and debris that kicks up when you veer into the grass, dirt, or sand. The Vegas zone has nice water puddles with reflections and a few zones vary the time of day including two spectacular night zones, one with fireworks and another with a star-filled sky that is quite dazzling.
The draw distance is surprisingly short considering the power inside the Xbox, but rather than obtrusive pop-up the game actually “grows” the scenery so you can see buildings and even mountains slowly rise from the borders of the track, at least for close scenery.
You’ll either love or hate the music in OutRun 2006. It’s basically a compilation of just about every tune from the entire series of games, some of it remixed, but all of it hauntingly familiar if you have ever played an OutRun game. You’ll have to unlock a lot of it, but the clever radio interface lets you sample and pick your music before each race, or just hit the randomize button and be pleasantly surprised.
The rest of the sound package is all of the retro sound effects we’ve heard and come to expect from racing games and the OutRun series, only remastered for Dolby Digital surround. The sound of passing cars going from front to rear channels is quite immersive.
Coast 2 Coast is a hard recommendation at $40, and chances are if you rent this title you’ll likely finish it, or at least play as much as you can stand during a normal rental period. There is a modest attempt at offering some bonus material as incentive to keep playing longer than you would or should, but since most of the 150 showroom goodies are merely a few new cars or alternate paint jobs, it’s not terribly enticing.
Whether you are a veteran or a racing novice, it will take you less than a single race to master the controls, and once you do there is a lot of pure racing fun to be had in a primitive, yet quality package. However, if you are looking for more substance or prefer graphics to gameplay, you might want to pass.
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast is like the unattractive girl at the high school mixer. While all the popular guys are dancing with Need For Speed and Burnout, OutRun is standing quietly in the corner waiting for that special guy who can appreciate an old-fashion good time.