Sega Rally is back and all expectations have been met. Sega’s new Sega Racing Studio in the UK and Bugbear in Finland have brought us two very different, stellar takes on the Tetsuya Mizuguchi original (1995!).
Last night I was chasing the lead car through a muddy riverbed in an African gorge. The sun was glaring down above the torrent of mud. It was the last lap and our six race cars had ploughed a deep, uneven path through the dirt. I was bursting on so violently, it felt like driving in a massive, ongoing explosion, riding the blastwave. I laughed. I haven’t had this much fun in a videogame in ages.
And it’s so beautiful. Every track is full of vibrant color and lively details, the cars are caked in mud in a very convincing manner, dirt and gravel is flying in your face every second of the way – bonnet camera being, of course, the only real way to play Sega Rally.
The track deformation is really something new. It changes the gameplay lap to lap, as you look for the path others have made to find grip on the loose surface, but on the other hand a seriously shredded section can throw you around so hard that you lose control.
Just make sure you switch from the default control config to one using the face buttons for throttle. Your hands will cramp fast if you don’t – the Sixaxis triggers are absolutely not fitting for prolonged application of pressure. And don’t be alarmed by the twitchy handling. It can take some getting used to and you may actually find the D-pad a better alternative to the analogue.
The PSP version is not a kid brother. They’ve taken a different route, and it’s just a different game. Overall, it’s closer to the original in speed and feel – the simpler graphics enforcing the feel of really going back in time. Visuals are excellent throughout, recreating the same vibrancy and dirt-diggery of the PS3 version, but of course limited by the hardware’s muscle. The handling is spot on, at least with the D-pad.
Regardless of version, forget other rally games as you go in. This is not a simulation of the sport, this is Sega Rally, a parallel universe re-imagining of the same ingredients. You will harmlessly bounce along the sides when coming in too hard for a turn, you will wrestle shoulder to shoulder with five other cars, you will grin as you attack the dirt.