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OutRun: Online Arcade on Game and Player

OutRun: Online Arcade

Michael Ubaldi  //  April 22, 2009

Borrowed brilliance.


recall playing OutRun vicariously every time but once or twice. Twenty-three years ago, when the distances between accelerator, brake and steering wheel were nearly irreconcilable, my experience of the auto-racing game consisted mostly of watching an upright cabinet's attract mode in a smoky bowling alley. A vague memory of a teenager skillfully driving the course before me persists, as does certainty that the few coins I put in myself weren't sound investments.

The release of OutRun: Online Arcade on the Xbox Live Marketplace struck me, then, as the extension of a privilege — here was the game I had once pined to play. Developer Sumo Digital has amply reproduced the character and essence of Sega's classic, fortunately enough to moderate its off-key, modern embellishments.

Car, sunshine, girlfriend: all the
right cues have been followed.
Correspondent to its 1980s Pacific Coast fetishism, OutRun's race celebrates independence; a singular test of the driver well before any contention with rival racers. Players choose their path through a pyramidal, branching course, attempting to reach one of five destinations within the time allotted. Checkpoints qualify the car and add to the clock, but only a little — so a player might succumb in the first heat or mere feet from the finish line. Where could you have made up that lost 3 percent of the course? You know exactly where, though not how to regain it on the next go. OutRun breezily acquaints, if only for a stiff challenge.

Sega's original had luxuriant graphics for the time. Sumo toys with memories by adding just enough to the game's scenery for one to assume OutRun looked that way in 1986 — whereas the arcade version's locations do, now, look sparse by comparison. And all the cues have been followed: a sleek ride, an ineluctably blond girlfriend, a highway full of contestants and tourists and trucks and chumps who still signal to change lanes. Since, limited to a controller, the thrill of gear changes can only be approximated, Sumo allows for automatic transmission — may as well have, most time is spent in fourth gear or overdrive — but introduces its own features, from banked curves to basic weather effects and animations of the girlfriend's ire (two of which faithfully dramatize domestic violence).

Alongside the classic arcade run, there are several single-player modes, including an extended cross-country tour, enhanced time mode, direct competition with a meetly named "ghost car," and a game of car-trick Simon Says dictated by the girlfriend. Multiplayer on Xbox Live is a little hit-or-miss. Players might be drawn into lobbies for races they can't join, as I was twice; although once inside, anybody with the urge to pay full-contact homage to Spy Hunter will be satisfied. After a performance that cannot be described as anything other than appalling, I finished with a time respectable had the race been cross-country. Enjoyable nonetheless.

In making OutRun's latest incarnation, however — it is one of several — Sumo Digital either fell short of a truly modern recasting or else misinterpreted the game's appeal, replacing charm with schmaltz. In-game music, which could have been quirky or hip, wilts like Muzak. The female announcer has all the verve of an electronic cashier in the supermarket's self-checkout lane. Animations, presentation, sounds — chintzy.

OutRun: Online Arcade borrows a lot of brilliance, commanding some value in the market. Me, I had the game, once played only by big kids, to myself. Nostalgia carried this time, and likely couldn't again.

OutRun: Online Arcade



Sumo Digital



NA Release

April 15, 2009


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Captures fun of original
  • Array of play options


  • Uninspired presentation
  • Open lobbies for closed games?

G&P Rating

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