Sega has proven they are exceptional at one thing: riding the coattails of their past efforts. Since being taken over and incorporated into Sammy, the company has done little original, instead pumping out games on their established franchises. Where a new game couldn’t be pumped out, the company was happy to shove their old Genesis titles down consumers’ throats. Considering the volume of compilations, reboots and sequels, the formula seems to be working for them.
Lately, Sega has started to get wiser in regards to games of a more recent vintage. Recently, they put out the Dreamcast Collection, a port of four early-era Dreamcast games that probably should have been left back there. Since then, they released Sega Rally Online Racing, a reboot of another arcade/Dreamcast game that once fit into a niche of arcade racers created by Daytona USA. The game is largely the same one that we played over a decade ago. Is that a good thing?
In terms of things to do, SRO is a bit light. You can race in a championship, do quick race and time attack modes, and race with classic rally cars in a one-on-one setting to unlock those cars for use elsewhere. That’s it. Digging deeper, even those modes don’t have much going on. The Championship mode – the crux of single player – is just three races, followed by a fourth one on one race. The classic races are just that: one race against another racer. Everything else is what one would expect. There is no depth to the modes, and everything gets old, in a hurry. Championship mode is the same three races on the same three tracks, every time, with the goal being to go from last to first over the course of the three races, with the last race as a bonus for winning. You can race them with different cars, but it ultimately doesn’t matter; the cars are simply a matter of preference, and I didn’t notice any discernible difference between one car to the next.
Unfortunately, completely winning Championship Mode is how to unlock new cars. This means if you’re not good on that fourth track – and I’m not – you’re pretty much screwed for unlocking anything. Since this is the *only* way to unlock cars, it means the game can get overly repetitive at times. In my case, I never could win that last race, so I’ve got a few cars and the last track to unlock still. Unfortunately, there’s not much there; there’s only 17 cars and five tracks, and the locked track only means something to veterans of the older games (it’s the “Desert” track from past versions), so for good racers (I am admittedly average, at best), the entirety of the game can be unlocked in one sitting.
For people who fondly remember Sega Rally, however, none of this matters. All that matters, and will determine if this game is worth $10 or not, is how the game plays. This really depends on how people viewed Sega Rally in the past, but for those looking for a quick arcade experience, SRO performs well. The cars control tight, even on “Arcade” difficulty (in “Casual”, which is default, you can almost do no wrong), and the game tells you what turns are coming in the old standard; old fans will welcome “long, easy right… maybe!” every time they hear it. There’s no real physics to worry about; you can careen into cars and into the side of the road with no consequence, and in some cases, hitting the side can be beneficial since it tends to straighten you out with little penalty. One nice change is that the track gets torn up as cars hit it, so racing behind someone – normally preferable in “standard” racers due to the draft – is actually detrimental because it’s harder to maintain speed and keep control on a rough track. Unfortunately, for fans of newer racers, the HUD is very limited. There’s no silhouette of the track to keep track of where you are, so it’s hard to know what’s coming up except for the vague vocal hints. All you’re given is your place position, and a bar up top that tells you how far you are from a checkpoint, which adds time to your timer. In weeks of playing this game, time has never been a factor once, so it’s more of a nod to the old arcade games than anything relevant.
The main reason to buy this over an older game like Sega Rally Revo is the online component. It’s great to race against people online, though even that’s a bit barebones. You can log on and get into random matches, or start a match, and… that’s about it. Again, it’s cool to race against people over the internet, but one bit of advice I have for anyone who wants to win is to learn how to drive manual stick. It gives a massive advantage to those that learn how to do it, and AT users don’t stand a chance in most cases. I wish there was the option to separate users between auto and manual transmissions.
Overall, Sega Rally Online Racing is what it is: an arcade racer, and little else. Fans of the prior games will enjoy it and get a lot out of it, but anyone looking for a deeper experience should dust off their copies of Project Gotham Racing 3. Either way, SRO is enjoyable while it lasts, but even veterans will pick it up, play for a few minutes, and put it down. Whether that is worth $10 is purely in the eyes of the person holding the money.
* Old school, easy to pick up gameplay.
* Simple and effective online mode.
* Cost effective.
* Virtually no depth to gameplay.
* No variance to game modes. Same races, over and over.
* Online needs more options.
* Whole experience gets old, fast.
FINAL SCORE: C-
Disclosure: Sega Rally Online Racing was purchased by the reviewer, and was not provided by or condoned for review by Sega. Due to his issues with the last championship mode race, he was unable to unlock all cars and tracks, but has unlocked everything there is to unlock from Classic mode. He has ten hours of gameplay logged.