Review: "I wanna go fast!"
The original OutRun first graced arcades in that wonderful year known as 1986. In spite of the fact that Sega developed numerous sequels and spinoffs to the original OutRun in the following years, it would take eighteen years for Sega to release a game dubbed "OutRun 2". But in 2004 they did just that and released OutRun 2 in the arcades and later on the Xbox. An update, called OutRun 2 SP, would also be unleashed on arcade gamers before the end of the year. But what about the rest of us? Didn't we deserve to go outrunnin' too? Of course we did, which is why I'm incredibly pleased that Sega brought OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, a package containing OutRun 2, OutRun SP and a bunch of new content, to the PS2 earlier this year.
Whenever someone talks about arcade racers, they're referring to OutRun, the granddaddy of them all. You know the type. Gas and brake, it's all there is and it's all you need. Rad Racer, Daytona USA, Cruis'n USA, Ridge Racer, Rush Racing, all of them owe a debt to OutRun. So it sits with this old school gamer very well that OutRun 2006 plays like a modern game while still maintaining that unique "arcade racer" feeling.
OutRun 2006 doesn't bother with any of the simulation and tuner options that have become all the rage in racing games these days. It's just a guy and a girl racing for the horizon in one of three dozen souped up Ferraris. While simplicity in its racing is what OutRun strives for, there are a ton of racing options to keep everyone busy. There's Coast 2 Coast mode, which places the player in the middle of a series of qualifying races (called Flagman races) against other drivers and tests their racing skills by requiring them to learn the art of drifting and slipstreaming (drafting). And if you can't seem to wrap your head around a certain set of qualifying races, there are several Time Trial and point races to practice all of the game's thirty tracks. A port of the arcade version of OutRun 2 SP is also included for your racing pleasure. All of OutRun 2006's modes will reward you with OutRun Miles. This is your in-game currency to unlock new cars, new tracks and new soundtrack options. The game does a very good job of gradually doling out new stuff while still leaving the majority of the game unlocked as soon as players first sit down to play.
The real highlight of OutRun 2006 is the inclusion of Heart Attack mode. Heart Attack mode puts your girlfriend in charge of the racing and she demands that you perform a variety of wild stunts to win her love (symbolized here by Heart Points). The tasks can be as normal as passing a lot of cars or drifting as often as you can. They can also be more complicated and require you to stay on one designated piece of asphalt or collect a batch of floating coins. Still others are completely out of this world including running down a group of ghosts haunting the track or avoiding an alien tractor beam. The tasks always manage to entertain and earning enough hearts to move on to the next girl is a frustrating but fun experience that I could spend hours on.
Like any good arcade racer, OutRun 2006 will give players the opportunity to visit a variety of different locales including cities, mountains, valleys, snow-covered peaks and old world landmarks. The tracks are very diverse, with the European-flavored OutRun 2 tracks offering something different from the America-soaked OutRun 2 SP tracks and vice versa. While some of the tracks feel similarly styled, all of them have their own quirks and offer something special. They're also ridiculously beautiful and while they don't sport some of the PS2's best graphics, each track looks very good and features only the slightest bit of slowdown (confined almost exclusively to the Casino Town track). But otherwise, the racing is fast and the action is furious.
The game's soundtrack has always been an important part of OutRun's charm and Sega went all out to supply OutRun 2006 with an almost endless series of remixes along with a handful of new songs. These remixes include the include 1986 tunes along with several techno-styled variations. While the songs are far from memorable, they provide that extra kick that the excellent sound effects need to create an awesome audio experience. And Sega must be doing something right with these songs, as several soundtracks have been released over the series' history.