Sunday, 20 September 2015

Reviewed: Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (PS2)

Platform Reviewed: Playstation 2
Also On: Xbox, PC, PSP

I have to begin by admitting that I was never taken by the original Outrun, blasphemy amongst gamers of a certain age, I know. But while I’m not the world’s most avid Ferrari fan (I much prefer Japanese sports cars and fast ‘working class hero’ Fords) I could totally subscribe to Outrun’s idyllic premise of thundering along twisty roads in the beautiful Testarossa with an equally beautiful girl in the passenger seat. I got the fantasy that Outrun was trying to sell me, I really did. My lack of love for the original game likely stemmed from bad game playing skills and bad luck.

I used to own the Mega Drive conversion you see and I was crap at the game. As any Outrun fan knows, a single big collision with a piece of roadside scenery or another vehicle means that you likely won’t make it to the end in time and I crashed a lot. It’s with shame that I confess to giving up with the Mega Drive game after not too long, beaten by Outrun’s unforgiving arcade roots. I came back for more however with the superb Sega Saturn conversion (which every Outrun fan must go and buy NOW if they don’t already own it) which is arcade perfect and runs at a super-smooth 60fps. This version gave me a newfound love for the game and magically, I was better at playing it but alas it was to be a short romance for one day the game disc suddenly decided not to work. I didn’t seek out a replacement copy and I didn’t touch an Outrun game for a long while afterwards.

Some time later on down the line I picked up a pre-owned copy of Outrun 2006 Coast 2 Coast for the PS2 with a big stack of other second-hand PS2 games from Gamestation. C2C lay dormant on my shelf for a long time until one day – when looking through my embarrassing backlog for the next game to play – I decided to give it a chance. I don’t wish to sound clich├ęd but man, I was blown away. THIS was what the original Outrun had been trying to sell me but this time the sale successfully completed.

The dream according to Sega (and their blue skies). I have to concur.

I’ve not played the Outrun 2 series of games in the arcades (the games that C2C are based on) but I’m glad Sega saw fit to produce them so that Sumo Digital could work their magic on bringing this update to home consoles. Playing Coast 2 Coast is such a cool, adrenaline-pumping and epic experience all rolled into one. The driving is arcade-like rather than realistic and rewards players who can master the art of graceful drifting which – again – is unrealistic to a degree but perfect for a dreamlike thrill ride such as this. What could be better than buzzing into the limiter as you slipstream a rival driver before drifting around the outside of his car and other traffic on a U-shaped bend? Not much at all, at least not in terms of videogame experiences.

One of the beauties of Outrun 2006 is that this kind of driving can all be absolutely effortless. Sure, the drifting takes some time to acclimatise to as does the car handling (depending on how you expect them to behave prior to playing) but it’s the kind of game where failure and mishap is all down to player error and a lack of experience. In other words, not the fault of bad game design or dodgy controls. These are the best types of game in my humble opinion because the worst are those that are difficult or unwieldy due to unresponsive controls, bad control schemes or poorly-considered game design. Outrun 2006 is none of those things for it’s up to the player to tame their Ferrari and make the most of slipstreaming and knowing when to drift and when to not let up on the gas. Get it all right and it’s an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience that makes you feel like a God of the open roads. It makes you feel epic. Each time I play the game, it’s the pursuit of the perfect run and successfully chaining together all the elements of the driving that has me smiling away and wishing more games could be this well-realised.

Outrun 2006 offers a lot more beyond the standard Outrun modes however and the various races and challenges add plenty of meat to what is essentially still an arcade game. Some of the later missions in the Coast 2 Coast mode are devilishly difficult to attain the highest possible ranking on but again, master the car and nothing is impossible or balanced in the computer’s favour.

Well, it's the closest I'll ever get to a Ferrari but it's not too bad.

It would also be wrong for me to write about this fantastic game without mentioning the equally stunning soundtrack. The music in this game is just perfect for blasting across America to, being exactly the mix of relaxing and rousing tunes that you’d want to hear whilst plunging through fabulous scenery in a supercar. C2C contains the original BGM from Outrun and Turbo Outrun, the Outrun 2 music plus a selection of remixes, prototypes and instrumental versions of the vocalized tracks. My two personal favourites are the Outrun 2 version of Turbo’s ‘Rush A Difficulty’ and ‘Night Bird’, also from Outrun 2. Every track is special though and it’s just a shame that the Outrun anniversary CD soundtrack box set is so uncommon and massively expensive because it’s one I’d like to own.

The one negative thing I have to say about Coast 2 Coast is that in order to purchase everything from the in-game store, you have to connect the PS2 version of the game to its PSP counterpart via USB link-up and do a transfer of the games’ virtual licenses. When this game was first released, that would have meant owning two full-price pieces of hardware and two full-price copies of the same game. It was a cheeky move to sell more copies but with everything far cheaper to pick up today, the system link-up isn’t such an expensive thing to do. Heck, if you’re an avid gamer reading this then chances are that you already own both a PS2 and PSP like me. The Xbox version boasts the whole lot on the disc but expect to pay a premium for a used copy today since LAN compatibility ensures consistent demand and prices on the same scale as Battlefront 2 and Painkiller.

This sole grumble leads me nicely onto the home straight and the PSP port of Outrun 2006. I bought this one after the PS2 game purely to be able to access all of the cars. I’ll be the first to admit that I expected a cut back, ropey conversion with long load times that didn’t quite fit onto the PSP but I was ridiculously wrong. Obviously the graphics do take a bit of a hit on the handheld but they still look great with decent detail and a fantastic draw distance. Other than that, the PSP version is identical to the PS2 edition. Better still, load times are extremely minimal which is always a blessing when it comes to PSP games. It did take me a while to get used to controlling the car with the sliding analogue nub but it clicked eventually and I was falling in love all over again with a wonderful experience masquerading as a videogame. To be able to play this game on a handheld wherever you are is slightly mind-blowing in the same way that it was for me to play one of the PSP Grand Theft Auto games on the move for the first time. More notably, it’s an incredible conversion by Sumo Digital and easily one of the best games on the PSP, probably a reason to own the system.

The U-Turn: the scene of many an epic drift...

I don’t expect everybody to fall in line and agree with what I’ve said about Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast but if you haven’t already played the game then give it a go if you have the opportunity to pick up a copy on the cheap. I was in CEX the other day and they were selling the PS2 version for a single English pound. If that’s not the dictionary definition of value, I really don’t know what is. Selling such a fantastic game for pocket change is crazy but it should be taken advantage of without question.

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