Thursday, June 17, 2021

Game 77: Outrun

Time:3 hours

For a guy with a lot of games to play, I sure find ways to add more to my trouble. I forget when it was, but I was thinking, hey, a lot of games you're looking forward to playing involve driving cars, so why not play some games that revolve around driving cars? Thus, another genre started to bloat up my list. I think my reasoning is sound at least. There are none that strike my mind as much as Outrun. There are earlier games and there are better games, but Outrun is a perfect balance of early and quality. And it was probably the first game of its kind I played. In my mind, these kinds of games are all Outrun-clones, even if it wasn't the first game in this style. I'll be playing the Saturn version, a first for this blog, though I've spent most of the time I've played Outrun in the past on Genesis. This is different from that version in where places are located.

This game is a double-edged sword in what it succeeds in being. A first time player could be fooled into firing up the game, and getting distracted by the beautiful scenery. The game lets you pick what musical track you want, so what could possibly go wrong. You're driving at 180 MPH, in a Ferrari, a beautiful woman by your side, and as you pass by the sea, the music changes. One could be fooled into thinking Outrun is a very chill game right until the point your Ferrari hits something, and flips through the air like it was made out of paper. Don't worry you're fine. You probably won't make it to the next check point before you run out of time, but you're still alive. Which, come to think of it, would be some good shakes in real life.

So its a hardcore racing game, right? Well, it sort of is if you crank it to the hardest difficulty, and choose a particular route. Even then its just a hard arcade-style. On regular difficulty, you'll probably reach most of the areas after a few tries. One way or another, you're going to master the opening section and one of the two next sections. Actually, its kind of tricky saying this, since you have the option of choosing the overseas or the Japanese mode, which affect where sections are placed. I played the overseas, which is not the same as the Genesis release you might know and love.
I know the game is based off Europe, but this whole game feels very American in places. We've got scenic beaches, mountain ranges, vaguely savannah areas. Okay, we don't have an abundance of windmills and sandy deserts, but otherwise this is very buyable as America. Maybe we're driving across Mexico too.
Regardless of location, Outrun is a joy to drive...for the most part. Like I said, the difficulty isn't consistent and the point where you're going to care about it, you aren't going to know which way you should go. If you go down, you could be randomly driving along, when suddenly you're in some harsh hellscape. Well, in the Genesis version, or the Japanese mode on Saturn. The two opening paths on the overseas mode are about the same, both being more unforgiving than most. I thought I had it bad in the Genesis title back then.
One of the worst examples of the difficulty is the absolute top path. If you want to reach all the endings, its unavoidable, you can't skip past any of the top ones. The first is this grassland, where you pass by a series of arches that look kind of like Stonehedge. I kind of wish this road existed in real life, but I feel like that would be an accident waiting to happen, not to mention it wouldn't be as cool. But what makes it annoying in-game isn't those arches, its the turns towards the end of this area, which I seemingly always crash into some guy's windmill.
There's a desert area that isn't too bad. Its got some bendy turns, but it isn't too bad. This area doesn't really feel like it should exist in either Europe or America, both locations' deserts to my knowledge are more rocky than sandy. Sand dunes are more Middle East or Africa. I swear I saw a pyramid here too. That could be in America, apparently there's an abandoned set to some Egyptian movie just lying around, buried. Someone could have turned it into a tourist trap in the Outrun universe.
To the absolute hell that is this thing. It doesn't look like much, but this gave me the most crap. This one's so bad there's even a tree practically in the road. Yhugh. This one took me so many tries to get through. So many. I had my difficulty set so I had the least amount of cars on the road, but the least amount of time. The thing is, this section's idea of few cars is not my idea of few cars. Maybe the odd one I can pass, not three, sometimes even blocking my path like I'm stuck behind the trio from The Grand Tour.
But while that selection was hell, the rest doesn't tickle my rage nearly as much. You've got a scenic mountain with a castle in the distance; Villages next to rivers; Old castles. The racing part in some of these do approach that window dressing feel. Which honestly is all I really want out of a driving game. There's a river to my left, and a castle up over there. I can't necessarily drive to either of those, but it should feel like I can drive to those scenic places. So many driving games shackle themselves to mundane things like street racing or race tracks. That is the ultimate appeal of Outrun, driving somewhere not tethered completely in reality.

Other cars on the road, not much worth speaking of. 1/10


I'm not especially clear on how tracks are actually different from each other, but the scenery goes a long way towards making each area feel different. 5/10

Player Agency:
I don't care for how the car drives in this game. Its not quite arcade, yet its very obviously not realistic. That combined with the gear changing makes an unorthodox experience, that I ultimately don't have strong feelings for. 3/10


This perfectly captures what I like about driving games. Interesting scenery passing by, cool car and some nice tunes. There is just something about seeing every single gorgeous bit of scenery you can think of passing by. 10/10

The gorgeous scenery bit wouldn't work if the scenery wasn't gorgeous. Now, of course the game has some fuggly bits that have become obvious over 20 years, and sometimes the scnery can screw with your mind. But it does have it where it counts, amazing art direction. 6/10


Unfortunately, here I think the Saturn version lags behind the Genesis one. You only have three tracks, and one of those tracks is inferior to the Genesis version. You get three arrange tracks, but they lack the charm, and in one case don't really sound like the original track. Still, it'll last you long enough. The sounds are fine, everything sounds like it should, and some decent engine roar. 5/10

That's 30. Taking the crown from The Sentinel as the highest rated since Freaks. Its not surprising that it got a high rating for a game with quite a few weak categories, its the 16-bit racing game for a good chunk of people. Checking Mobygames, all the bad ratings are for half-baked home computer ports. They're not even worth mentioning, because they're not worth playing today.

Next up, 1000 Miglia, an arcade racing title that I don't think I'm going to be doing justice to.

1 comment:

  1. I remember having fun with the arcade version of this game. Gauntlet and some Star Wars game were also popular that year when I didn't have access to a home computer.