Thursday, May 23, 2024

Developer: Sega CS3 Publisher: Data East Release: 06/14/94 Genre: Racing

Outrun is one of the most beloved racing games of the 80s. From its style to its music the game was a first class effort all around. However Sega produced a number of sequels that did little to advance the formula, so to speak. They would finally get it right with Outrunners by going back to basics, removing the gimmicks and focusing on what made the original great. Unfortunately there is only a single home port of Outrunners, and it is of mixed quality. Despite not living up to its predecessor the Genesis version of Outrunners is still a decent game but not one I would recommend right away.

Outrunners 002 Outrunners 003 Outrunners 004

Outrunners was a visual spectacle in the arcade. The textured road, scaled sprites that made up the trackside detail and hills gave it a 3d look months before Virtua Racing would hit arcades. As the races take place all over the world you saw attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Egyptian pyramids, and the streets of Akihabara. The Genesis port lacks most of this visual splendor. It certainly tries to mimic the looks but can only get so far with its reduced color palette and lack of scaling. Whatever extra detail was given to the backgrounds is drowned out by the split screen that reduces your view. At least the expanded soundtrack is intact.

In the arcade you could link up 8 cabinets for madcap multiplayer fun, something that would also become a staple of arcade racing games soon after. Sadly the multiplayer in the Genesis version is limited. Rather than allowing two players to travel the world together instead you are limited to original mode. Here you choose a single track and compete in a single race. I suppose it is for the best; two players driving separate routes was not possible on the Genesis as evidenced by the limits in arcade mode. This was their way of navigating around that but it is still lame.

The general gameplay features are significantly better at the very least. You have a choice of 8 cars, each with different attributes such as top speed and handling. In the home port you have a rival that you are technically competing against. But in reality you are still racing against the clock. This is the first of many controversial decisions that earn the game derision. If you or your rival gains too large a lead they will choose the path you follow through the game and regardless of where you are the game will automatically teleport you to keep up. This does not happen often; the AI tends to make mistakes when in the lead so you can catch up.

The other big change is the split screen. Outrunners has multiplayer, a feature missing from the original. But between the low field of view and framerate hit it is not worth bothering. Unfortunately even in single player the game uses the split screen view. Seeing as this is one of the reasons the game barely looks better than the years old port of Outrun I do not know why they would double down on it for the whole game. Just because you can does not mean you should.

The most unique feature of Outrun was its structure. With its large map and branching paths it had more replay value than most racing games of its time. Outrunners doubles its map by adding separate east and west routes, all with their own stages. While they share a few stages for the most part choosing a side at the first fork determines your experience. The track design loses a bit of its luster since the Genesis cannot replicate the hills of the arcade sadly. But since you are traveling around the world the visual variety in scenery and traffic is second to none. As much as I still like it I cannot hide my disappointed. Sega used the increased technical capabilities of the arcade board to deliver a different racing experience from Outrun. Sadly this feels like a retread with forced split screen.

In Closing

I am torn with Outrunners. It does not match the splendor of the arcade game but has the same gameplay. It also has all of its content which is significant for a racing game. Whether you will like the game depends on what you are looking for. If you want a respectable home port look elsewhere. But if you want good racing in spite of its faults Outrunners has plenty to offer.

6 out of 10

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles