Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review: Have a blast offroad with "Sega Rally Revo"

When Sega announced they were going to bring back the arcade smash, "Sega Rally," the dirt gods rejoiced.

"Sega Rally Revo" is an updated version of "Sega Rally Championship." The original is an arcade racing game developed by AM5 in 1995. What made "Sega Rally Chmapionship" unqiue was the ability to drive on different surfaces. Just like "Sega Rally Championship," "Revo" gives gamers the ability to go onroad and offroad with many more features.

"Revo" features a variety of surfaces types for drivers to race, slide, drift on. The tracks can be challenging, and offer a mixture of dusty trails, gravel paths and asphalt. Sega took a linear approach to the tracks. You can't shoot yourself off of the tracks - invisible barriers keep you in place. In "DiRT," you could propel yourself so far off the track it's not funny - and then drive yourself back onto the track. "Revo" also offers 'catch up' if you are falling too far behind the AI drivers.

What really makes this game shine are the deformable tracks. You can either make your own path or follow your opponents. The feature, called "GeoDeformation," dynamically changes the race/rally course during each lap. This can be good or bad for racers, especially when the surfaces are rather muddy. You really have to take this in mind when you are doing laps because getting caught in an opponent's trail can really slow you down.

There are also other cool features in "Revo." The game has over 30 vehicles, including 4WD, 2WD, Classic and Bonus types. You start the game off with three cars, including a Subaru Impreza and a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. As you advance in the game, you can earn liveries by fulfilling certain conditions (driving 20 miles in a vehicle to unlock that car's stickers, or beating a certain rally course). There are up to 3 alternate setups for every car in the game.

When you start the game, you can choose between quick race, championship, time attack and multiplayer. For racers that want to get their feet wet, the quick race mode offers instant action. The championship mode is a career mode of sorts, and gives gamers the chance to capture 3 rally championships. You earn points for winning championships, and use the points to open up the next championship.

Initially, when you start the championship mode, the only mode you can race is the Premier Championship. When you achieve a certain criteria, you will unlock Modified and Master's modes. You have to race 3 difficulty leagues before advancing. You unlock the professional league after beating amateur, and expert after beating the professional league.

You don't have to complete and win every event to unlock additional classes - you just need to acquire enough points to progress. You may miss an achievement or two, but that's up to the gamer if they are craving points.

Time attack mode is interesting. It lets players see if they can get the fastest times possible on a course. It's a solo affair and after their trial, their scores are uploaded to Xbox LIVE. You can also download ghost cars to compete against, which is a pretty cool feature.

However, racing online players via LIVE is where it's at. The multiplayer mode pits you against a friend on your 360, or foes on LIVE. Forget the AI - racing real gamers really proves how good you are.

You can also save your replays and check your game status by visiting your garage.

The graphics are awesome - from the lush, tropical settings, to the blistering sahara and the Alpine mountain rally trails, the environments look nice. The cars are very detailed, the crowds have some life and the deformed track looks menacing. It's not as awesome as "Forza 2," but the graphics are sweet. You will find yourself racing across the Safari, Artic, Alpine, Canyon, Lakeside in hyper-realistic environments.

The sounds are good - the car sounds are great, the sloshing of the mud and dirt rocks, but the music/soundtrack really needs work. If you don't mind some generic techno-inspired elevator music, you will be in heaven.

The controls are solid - especially when half of the time you are sliding all over the place. I have drifted in real life - and it's all about control. On a few races, gamers race in riverbeds and the car is basically hydroplaning the entire time. Amazingly, the controls aren't too sensitive or too hard, but just right.

There aren't many rally racers on the 360 and really, "Revo's" only competition is Codemaster's "DiRT." This offers good arcade racing while "DiRT" offers rock-solid simulation racing and much more polished presentation than "Revo."

"DiRT" offers real locales, real racers and a true by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience while "Revo" gives gamers some fun racing, but generic locales and an overall generic, recycled feeling really hurt the game. It is a good game and a blast with friends, but if you are looking for some depth and great replay value, "Revo" will leave gamers in neutral.

Why should I care: Sega revived an old franchise, added some updates and is gunning for the finish line with "Sega Rally Revo."

The good: Real cars, roads that deform as you race on them, a variety of surfaces to drift and race on, good-looking graphics, multiplayer racing and solid controls on and offroad

The bad: The soundtrack (hurl), the generic feeling of the locales, niche title that brings nothing really new to the table except for GeoDeformation

The ugly: Hitting a high wall, spinning out of control and barely losing a race to an AI driver

Overall: 7 (out of 10): Rally racing is one cool motorsport and Sega did a good job reviving "Sega Rally Championship." However, in reviving the game and adding a few features, Sega forget to update the game. In several new racing games (PGR, Test Drive Unlimited, DiRT, Forza 2), real locales are used, and some of the games feature real drivers. Plus, there's a touch of tuning in those games. "Revo?" Not so much. However, it's still a fun arcade racer that does "Sega Rally Championship" good.

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