Not the best time to release a rally title as Dirt 3 is power-sliding into stores on Tuesday. But if you can't afford that right now Sega hope you might drop a few points for their bite-sized rally release.
This really is a small game though. Five tracks are all you'll find here, along with 13 cars and modes. The initial tracks are a tropical jungle with mud and sand, a canyon with dirt and tarmac, and an alpine mountain pass with tarmac and snow sections. The time limit between sections returns, but never actually presents anything resembling a challenge, unlike the older games.
The car's handling is smooth enough once you learn the tracks. Although power-sliding around corners feels a little restrained given the arcade nature of the game. Don't even think about using the hand-brake for turns as it kills your speed and doesn't result in any cool drifts. All the tracks seem to be enclosed with a glass barrier at the sides, letting you bounce off them which will effect your speed, even if it's just a glancing blow. You're never in danger of spinning out from catching a lone rock, or flipping over, there's no damage whatsoever actually.
Graphically the game uses lots of bright colours and sunshine to try and hide a very old looking title. You would have thought the small number of tracks would have meant they would at least be lookers. But no, it's just one of many signs of a rushed release.
You can warm up with a few surprisingly tough quick races. With only six cars on the track, the action isn't exactly frenzied. After the start, the opponents will stretch out towards the horizon in typically scripted form as they all bugger off to their allotted positions for the rest of the race. With only three tracks initially available here it won't be long before you get used to them well enough to attack the Championship mode.
The Championship is traditional Sega Rally fare. Over three races you must climb from 22nd to first. Other drivers are spaced wide apart, just like you remember. Faithful to the series it may be, but it feels incredibly dated now and lacking in excitement. If you manage to win the Championship you get to try the tougher lakeside bonus stage where you must win a dual to unlock the track permanently. The best track to unlock though is the desert one which you do by playing the classic event with the Lancia Delta or Toyota Celica, both of which pretty much knock the axles off the other cars in the game.
Given the short nature of the game, a lot is resting on the multiplayer's shoulders. With so little content available otherwise, there's not really any point buying this game unless you're planning on playing with friends, locally or online.
Offline splitscreen is sadly a vertical split which is fine, until you want to see what's to the left and right of your car. Race options include with or without AI racers, an eliminator mode, classic cars only and time lag matches where a deadly countdown begins when one player reaches a checkpoint ahead of the other.
When you take the game online most of these options disappear which is just insane really, not to mention incredibly disappointing. You can choose the track, how many racers and whether or not to have AI racers plug the empty slots, but other than that it's standard six-player races only. No eliminators, time lag races or classic cars. What. The. Hell?
The actual racing itself is a lot of fun as real people are much more prone to accidents and ferocity, as opposed to the AI drivers who stick to their racing line religiously. The rubber-banding or scripted AI speed you experience offline disappears making for some much more competitive and fairer races.
However, with only five tracks (if you can unlock the bastard-hard Lake one that is) and sod all modes online it's hard to see people sticking with the game for long, making Sega Rally Online Arcade a bit of a redundant purchase.
- The classic desert track is still awesome
- Online racing is great fun
- 800 MP is almost a good deal...
- …except nobody will be playing this once they buy Dirt 3
- Not enough tracks
- Damaging lack of online modes
The Short Version: As a single-player experience, it's pointless, as a multiplayer racer it's fun, but not for long thanks to a pitiful amount of tracks and race modes.