Since dropping their status as a hardware/console manufacturer, you could argue that Sega has made little headway. They’ve done everything in their power to come out strong as a third-party publisher, but for all intents and purposes, many of the games they’ve been releasing of late lack the sort of charm we remember from consoles such as the MegaDrive, Saturn and Dreamcast (those of you who own
the last two, anyway). On top of this they also seem to have lost their way in the arcade field – the days of Daytona and Sega Rally almost seem like long lost memories. Now, however, Sega have come back to the fray with what is most definitely a return to their classy arcade roots with the latest Sega Rally offering, Revo.
The first thing that hits you about SEGA Rally Revo is the sheer slickness of its robust visual innards. It doesn’t have a damage model (in fact your car is never even scratched), or destructible environments (aside from the odd fence post), but each car looks amazing with unbelievable likenesses to their real-life counterparts. Racing around the various types of terrain (dusty, muddy, snowy and wet), you’ll revel in your car’s change in appearance through each one as a powerslide around a muddy bend cakes your vehicle in what can only be described as Best. Mud. Ever. (in a videogame). Equally, snow will also pile up on your car while dusty roads will paint a thin layer of dirt on your panels – all in real-time and in a believable sense, too (the mud and dust even washes off if you drive through clear water puddles). Environments equally look great with variations between deserts, towns, jungles, snow peaks and more. There isn’t a massive shift in geometry, but this is an arcade racer after all, so it’s not the customisation and realism of the sport of rally driving you get here, it’s the fun.
Speaking of customisation, there isn’t much of this at all. In fact, SEGA Rally Revo offers you only two types of tyres to use (on and off road, that affect the likes of acceleration, top speed and handling) and a few different paint jobs (aesthetics, really). That’s it. But ultimately, despite not being able to tweak your differentials, breaks, weight distribution, engine and so on, SEGA Rally Revo excels because it’s racing at its purest; this is all about skill. However, that being said, the pick-up-and-play factor here is off the chart and not needing to know anything about the rally-driving experience makes it all the more engaging through accessibility.
From the menu you can jump straight into a Quick Race which, as you would guess, is a simple arcade romp through any of the immediately available courses with the current roster of cars. You also have Time Attack which is self-explanatory, but you can post your scores up on Xbox Live and even download ghost cars to tackle. Multiplayer is either local two-player split-screen or on Xbox Live with six players. The real meat of the game though is in the Championship mode where you race to unlock newer race modes and cars, Initially you only have the Premier Championship available, and within this there are four difficulty modes in Amateur, Professional, Expert and Final. You unlock Professional by beating Amateur, Expert by beating Professional and so on. Once you beat Premier you then unlock Modified and finally Masters. Modified hands over pre-rally tweaked vehicles for you to play with while Masters will give you access to both modern and classic cars to race with.
The Championship mode has been structured around a points system which makes it easier for those who don’t often dabble in this type of game. Each race rewards your place in the field with points; 10 for coming first, eight for second, six for third and so on. This makes gathering points a blessing as you’re not necessarily forced to finish every race first to unlock the next level of racing, however, your overall points are what get you into the final race for each mode, so be sure not to coast through lest you fall short of the invite. The further on you progress through the game, the more cars and courses you’ll unlock, and while it might sound like this is a repetitive task, each mode’s vehicles unlocked offer a very different driving experience. For example, in Premiere mode it’s likely you’ll beat your car around the track like it owes you money, but as soon as you get to the vehicles in Modified or Masters, you’ll notice a significant difference in things like weight, speed and handling making it more difficult to ultimately feel
like you own any particular track or car.
There are some 30-odd rally cars on offer throughout including favourites like the Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and Peugeot 207 among many, many more and as the name suggests, Modified mode will give you special modified
versions of all of these (funny that). What makes this feature so appealing is in the face of such a bare-bones game structure, there is still a lot to master here giving the game plenty of overall life and something even car nuts can sink their teeth into. This is also due, not solely in part to the differences between cars and tracks, but also the AI you’ll encounter throughout which, while at the start often even moves out of your way, gradually becomes more daring, aggressive and selfish. They’ll block your inroads when you think you’ve found a path to overtake and will even aggressively push you aside in order to make their own way to the front. Moreover, while at the start of the game the invisible walls surrounding each track make no real impact on your driving, the further in you get the more careful you need to be of these lest you wind up dropping from first to last in the blink of an eye.
With all that being said, SEGA Rally Revo still could have done with a few things. Four-player local split-screen should have also been included, and I feel the variation in courses, despite the cool elemental shifts, could have also done with a bit more variety. The lack of a damage model also hurts the game some (nothing that affects your driving, but on an aesthetic level it would have been cool), while the in-car view could have sported mud, snow and water splashes on the windscreen in the wake of everything else looking so damn nice. However, most of these gripes are merely superficial. At its gameplay core, SEGA Rally Revo is a return to glory for Sega in the sense it delivers a fun arcade-driven game that still manages to throw enough of a challenge at you to keep you coming back for more. Here’s hoping some of their other franchises receive the same treatment as this.