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ups: Great visuals, amazing terrain deformation, intense competitive AI, excellent level design
downs: the analog driving feels loose, no car damage

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Hands-On with Sega Rally Revo (Plus Brand New Super Car Pics)
preview
game: Sega Rally Revo
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: SEGA
developer: SEGA Driving Studio
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date posted: 11:23 PM Mon Sep 10th, 2007
last revision: 12:57 PM Mon Sep 17th, 2007



Click to read.If you're a car enthusiast, you probably have a soft spot for rally racing. And games about rally racing (in the history of rally racing games) generally come in three forms. The first is that of the Colin McRae variety -- and the latest edition: "Dirt." The Colin McRae series is known for simulation rally racing -- although Dirt leans more heavily toward arcade -- pivot-turning, and now, especially, brilliant damage modeling and visuals. Then there's Microsoft's Rallisport Challenge series (1 & 2) that opt for more balance between arcade and sim, nice visuals, and emphasize the sensation of speed over reality. Needless to say, spinning off cliffs and instantly restarting is central to Rallisport Challenge. The third form is SEGA's "SEGA Rally" series, which has emphasized, over all else, fun and playability. This preview is about, among other things, fun.

And that's right in line with SEGA's goal: bringing the enjoyment back to SEGA Rally and into the next generation.

This year we got to play tons of games at PAX 07, and of them, SEGA Rally Revo, the next iteration of the SEGA Rally franchise, was on display. The series has seen quite a few versions on the now defunct N-Gage and Dreamcast, as well as one on PlayStation 2, PC, and wireless. Simply, the series has "been around the track" if you know what I mean. That is to say, it's the kind of racer you don't bring home to momma.

Or, well, it sort of is. Sega Rally generally emphasizes fun and playability through its many iterations, a more arcade approach. The next generation -- namely PS3 and Xbox 360 -- are getting their versions come holiday 07 in the form of SEGA Rally Revo.

And from what I've played at PAX, the holidays couldn't come soon enough. I got to take several cars (including the expert types, against a "hard" AI) around four very different vistas, shredding dirt and snow, and placing modestly well -- or so I was told.

The presenter, whose name I completely forgot to write down (as I was so busy racing; I know, I'm fired), told me first and foremost that the game was not completed. There were small changes and tweaks that were going to occur before "gold status" and, therefore, I shouldn't worry if I see something that looks a little wrong. What I found was that his preface was totally unnecessary as SEGA Rally Revo was then looking really good and playing very fast.

The first thing you'll notice is the visuals, which are sharp as sharp can be. The game is slightly more "accented" than Dirt or Rallisport Challenge, which means that it has a more unrealistic look. Apart from the cars, that is, which look identical to their real life counterparts. Alright, SEGA Rally Revo isn't going to win any awards for "number of polygons on each car" or anything, but the tracks seem very large (some of which can take upwards of five minutes to do a lap on) and the particle effects are stunning. Everything seems to be working to emphasize the feeling of "shit flying everywhere" because not only do the cars' tires kick up tons of dirt, water, sand, dust, and snow, but each of the aforementioned terrains stick realistically to each car. Needless to say, things get very dirty very fast.

It's almost as if Dirt and SEGA Rally Revo could be in a bitching contest about which game is dirtier: it's that dirty. But in favor of SEGA Rally Revo: The terrains deform in real-time as you drive over them.

You've probably heard of this, yes? Mud can depress into water pits and work against your car, forcing you to find ways around. Divots form where tires once traveled, causing more stable racing lines that will affect not only how you drive each level, but how your car handles.

I only got to play the game for the Xbox 360, although I was assured the PS3 version would be identical when it was finished. In retrospect, I'm glad it was the Xbox 360 version because the rumble feature was perfectly (I do mean to say masterfully) implemented into the gameplay. It becomes a somewhat sobering, religious experience for a rally fan like myself, feeling the car cutting over divots and tire tracks in a way that seems not only believable, but excitingly encouraging. The honesty to the deformed terrain found in the 360's rumble is nothing short of amazing. You'll be driving through puddles and into dips from different angles just to see how the rumble handles each line. And the good news is it does handle differently.

I came through the third lap on Canyon II, hitting a line incorrectly (what I did was skip across the amplitudes of each rippled depressions; how's that for subtle?) and went right into a wall. There was a resounding, "OH man, you really ate it there!" from the SEGA rep, but he was a amiable guy and we were laughing together over these sort of mishaps on my part.

I can see SEGA Rally Revo being amazing online, which it supports for you and up to five more of your friends to trade paint.

While Sega Rally Revo has terrain deformation in spades, it does lack the complex car destruction or D!rt, or the "weighty" physics of Rallisport Challenge (or D!rt, actually). SRR a different game, however. This is just to put things into perspective. But it was almost a blessing that there wasn't any form of damage to the cars, because although having my hood fly up in my face would be cool, you will go into the wall a lot in SEGA Rally Revo. This is an arcade style game, after all. And if you're one of those vintage car collectors, you'll enjoy the car selection in Revo (the game features classic rally cars, too -- and I got to drive the 70s Peugeot, which is quick on the uptake but has a lower top speed), although SRR is nothing compared to Forza 2's massive car buffet. There are 30 cars in total, including both 2WD and AWD cars. Plenty to love.

There are six racing environments -- Canyon, Safari, Tropical, Arctic, Alpine, and one yet to be disclosed -- with a total of 16 different tracks and we'll likely see downloadable content as well. The tracks I checked out were Alpine I, Canyon II, Tropical I, and Safari II. Canyon is pretty much what you'd expect from racing your STI through a mud-entrenched canyon, but it had quite a few technical areas that surprised me. Tropical I (I was told to do I because II, and III were "too hard") was a blast. Here I took the 70s Peugeot for a spin and took fourth because the old Peugeot doesn't have a fifth gear - true to history. But while I got passed in the straight-aways, I could easily take the CPU in bends because my car's old bore and stroke engine were superior in torque.

I liked Canyon II and Safari II the best because it was longer than the others I tried (and therefore I had more time with it), but the shorter tracks had their own merits. The game has plenty of variety, anywhere from short 1 minute loops to tracks that might make nurburgring jealous.

The thing that stood out for me about SEGA Rally Revo is essentially the game is easy to pick up and a real blast to play. It is, from what I played (and unless something horrible goes wrong in the next few weeks of development), the best iteration of SEGA Rally. It's also the kind of game you'll want to play with a few friends, as both online and offline multiplayer are available. And there's none of this "100 players racing at the same time but you can't see them" crap like in Dirt. SEGA RAlly features real multiplayer, like many-players-playing-on-the-same-track-at-once multiplayer, including two player split-screen and system-link.

SEGA Rally is about having fun, and fun is has. I'm not sure yet if it's as much fun as Dirt, although all indications point to "yes." It is certainly one of the most enjoyable rally games I've played in many years, although I rack my brain to remember Colin McRae Rally on PC, SEGA Rally for Dreamcast, and Rallisport Challenge 2 on Xbox, which were all good fun, if antiquated. I know, however, the now and in the now there is D!rt and there is SEGA Rally. Both are fun, and SEGA Rally, like D!rt, is going to be an awesome rally experience.

The only thing left to say is: May the dirtiest racer win!

--

Check out the screens below for brand new pics of the just unveiled Super Cars Class. Included herein are the Hummer H3, the Concept X, the "McRae" Enduro, and the Ruf RT 12. Very cool.

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