Sega Rally hit the arcades (Remember them? That's where people went when they didn't have option of sitting on their backside at home playing top quality games) back in 1995 and had a huge impact on simulation racing mainly due to its realistic feel and car movement physics. But for every breakthrough in gaming there are many copycats who take the best bits from the breakthrough and immediately incorporate them into their own titles. That's progress however and it raises the bar yet again. As a result of not being able to quickly repeat this breakthrough, over the years Sega Rally has become another run-of-the-mill racing title. Here we are on the latest generation hardware and Sega are claiming that "Sega Rally is back and set to reinvigorate the genre with the vital ingredients that many modern racers lack - fun, character and beauty." It's just as easy to be highly critical of updates of a once great game of the past, as it is to look on its predecessors with rose tinted spectacles. So are Sega right?
Well the first thing to say is that Sega try and continue many elements of the Sega Rally predecessors. The `Championship' options are pretty simple yet effective. Pick your car, select your tyres (tarmac or off-road), select gearbox (yep, manual or automatic), select your course (Safari, Canyon, Arctic, Alpine or Tropical) and off you go. Simple, but effective. Don't confuse people with many elaborate choices, get rallying! The game also looks quintessentially Sega with bright colours and backgrounds reminding you of titles from the original Sega Rally to Sonic the Hedgehog.
All of which brings us to the racing itself. The racing takes a generally different focus to previous Sega Rally titles in that it is fundamentally based on `bumper-to-bumper' rallying with a plethora of other rally cars and with AI of your opponents being particularly aggressive is a good idea to get ahead quickly. This is a movement away from how previous titles have been focussed with their check point based gameplay. This is a risk of course because there was nothing more satisfying than crossing the checkpoint with 0.01 seconds to spare but is an attempt at providing a more realistic feel to the title. Whether this is a masterstroke or a grave mistake will ultimately depend on your love or blasé attitude to the original Sega Rally titles. Moving on the track and off track surfaces are now part of the rally world with a real emphasis placed on the grip of differing surfaces from tarmac to gravel or mud. Find the right line and you're laughing otherwise you will find yourself losing pace.
Other game mode options include a multiplayer and the now permanent fixture of an online mode. The online mode runs at a very nice and consistent frame rate and rarely differs from the main game itself which is praise in itself.
Sega Rally is a fun title that is very intense and requires much concentration to stop your aggressive competition ramming you off the track at every corner. To give you an idea it is the level of concentration where you fail to notice anything about how much effort have gone into the graphics. Sega Rally probably isn't one for the purists, but it is a good racing title in its own right. Maybe not a reinvigoration of the genre however.
8 out of 10