||Sega Rally 2
Sega's flagship racer is finally here - Review By Tren
When Sega originally announced the Dreamcast, back when it was known as the Katana, it was obvious either Sega Rally 2 or Daytona USA would be the machine's flagship racing title. Although Daytona's future on the Dreamcast is still unknown, Sega Rally 2 was confirmed soon after the Dreamcast itself. The first build of the Dreamcast version was apparently rejected by Sega, who weren't happy with how much like a PC game it looked compared to the Model 3 arcade original. The Japanese launch of the Dreamcast came and went, and Sega's flagship racer was nowhere to be seen. It finally appeared in Japan last January to a great reception, looking almost identical to its Model 3 counterpart. Now 12 months later the Western version of the game is here, but how good is it?
As one of the first racing games to hit the Dreamcast, Sega Rally 2 looks incredible. The car models look fantastic and have been accurately modelled from the real things. The detail is so great that you can see the drivers inside the car. Nice little touches like flame-out on the exhaust and mud stains on your car as you slide round a corner all help contribute to the atmosphere of the game.
Of course the game would be nothing were it not for the legendary Rally gameplay. The main gripe with the original Sega Rally was its length. Although the gameplay was outstanding with courses designed to perfection, there were only four of them. Thankfully Sega has shown that they won't rest on their laurels with arcade conversions anymore, as there are 12 new tracks in addition to the original four. The 16 tracks in total fit into one of six categories: Desert, Mountain, Isle, Muddy, Snowy and Riviera. With the old gameplay back in full-force, featuring cars which are a sheer joy to drive as well as the inclusion of new tracks, Sega Rally 2 gets off to a flying start.
Along with all the usual racing modes found in Saturn Rally, such as Arcade, Practice, Time Attack, and 2Player Challenge, the main addition to the game is the 10-Year championship mode. You start off on the relatively easy first year, which once completed gives you access to the second year. Once the second year is completed you gain access to the third year and so on. Each year consists of 4 courses. You start in 15th position in the first course, and over the 4 courses you must make you way into pole position. Each year is unique and is progressively more difficult than the last. Completion is made more difficult by weather that effects how your car may handle. Thankfully, before each race, you can tune your car by choosing the tire type or how loose or tight you want the suspension to be, for example, to make sure it handles as well as possible during the race. The 10-year championship is very challenging, especially in the higher difficulties. However, with practice taking even the tightest of turns will become effortless. Time attack mode comes into excellent use for this. Beating each year in pole position is challenging but rewarding.
2-Player mode is pretty fun, although you may notice some frame rate drops.
The 2-player challenge is great fun once you get used to it, although the emphasis is more on speed and concentrating on your own race than trying to ram your opponent off the road. Although the track side detail is cut down and the frame rate suffers slightly, this is an excellent addition. Hopefully, in future racing games, we will see 4-player modes which still maintain a high frame rate and little if no cut down in track side detail.
The AI in the game is much improved over the set path, limited interaction of the opponents in the prequel. The opponent cars will drive in your way if they can, especially in the harder difficulties. The main challenge in Sega Rally is the clock, just like in real-life rallying. The cars are merely a distraction which you're much better off trying to avoid whilst racing.
Sound doesn't make or break a game but it definitely helps add a lot of ambience and authenticity. The music in Sega Rally 2 isn't particularly excellent, although it does help to get your adrenaline pumping as you near that final checkpoint with only a matter of seconds on the clock. The sound effects are great, with cheering crowds and great sampled engine noises. I particularly like the swishing noise as the car powerslides around a corner.
My main gripe with Sega Rally 2 is the lack of the originally planned Internet features. Although the Japanese version allows on-line real-time racing, Westerners must make do with an Internet time ranking system. This is no substitute for on-line racing but is still a worthy addition and is better than having no Internet function at all.
Unfortunately, the dreaded frame rate demon has not been fully exorcised from the game.
The only other gripe with the game is the infamous frame rate. At times, especially in time attack, the game runs at a glorious 60 frames per second. In championship it hovers around 30fps. A little of the slow down has been eliminated in the US version by stopping the frame rate rising above 30fps in the game, thus reducing the fluctuating considerably. The European version needs a code entered for this, though once entered it is identical in every respect to the US version. It is a pity less was done to optimise the frame rate than was expected, however remember that this is a first generation title. Just compare the polygonal mess that is Saturn Daytona USA to the legendary Saturn Sega Rally. The graphical difference is huge, and we can expect this kind of improvement over the graphics in Sega Rally 2 in the next generation of Dreamcast racers. It also must be remembered that Sega Rally 2 was developed before the Microsoft CE developers kit was finalised, meaning it could have been optimised further were it not for the game engine's potential being limited through the original beta developer tools.
Also the omission of a four player mode is another bad point, although it probably would have been hardly playable seeing as how the game's engine can only just manage 2 players. As I said before, Dreamcast racing games in the conceivable future will definitely feature a four player mode. As developers get to grips with the Dreamcast as a machine, more of its potential will be realized.
The Final Word
Overall, Sega Rally 2 is an excellent racing game which proves Sega can do arcade conversions which have longevity and depth. The 10-year championship is a challenge worthy of any racing fan, so if you like racing games, give Sega Rally 2 a try if you haven't already.
Highs: Great graphics, superb to play, 10 year championship.
Lows: Lack of 4-player mode, lack of on-line racing, the frame rate.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU Compatible, Racing Controller Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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