I remember first hearing the announcement of Sega Rally hitting next-gen consoles, a part of me had a feeling that we'd finally see a proper Sega Rally game again. The return of Sega Rally has been keenly followed by fans of the arcade series, die-hard Sega fans, and rally fans. With the demise of Microsoft's own RalliSport franchise, Sega Rally has arrived just in time to fill in that void. But it wasn't much later after the announcement of the PS3 and Xbox 360 Sega Rally titles that Sega would then announce one for the PSP, as well. And this marks one of the very few rally games currently available for the handheld unit.
Earlier in the year, when Sega ported Virtua Tennis 3 to the PSP, the game was nearly a carbon-copy of its big-brother versions, just with different graphics. I was expecting to see that same treatment from the PSP's Sega Rally, but I didn't. Now this is neither good or bad, it's just surprising. For starters, the entire presentation, such as the menu layout is totally different. Furthermore, the tracks share little to no structural resemblance to their next-gen counterparts, not visually, but in design.
Now, while the aforementioned stuff didn't bother me, the game's Time-Attack mode does. You see, instead of a mode that allows you to practice laps, the PSP version features timed checkpoints that you have to cross, with a distance meter counting up as you drive around the track. This doesn't sit well with me because the alotted times per checkpoint aren't very gracious (a decent player will narrowly clear a check with only 3 seconds to spare). So if you want to get experimental with your driving, prepare to hit the restart option, because a mistake on the road will rob you of time to clear the checkpoint. It'd have been nice if BugBear could've incorporated both styles of time attack, but they didn't.
First thing's first, you have to remember that Sega Rally Revo is an arcade racer primarily. With that in mind, the game's controls are setup for sharp cornering and drifting. You won't find yourself using the brakes often, as the cars will whip their tails around just about every corner, unless you're rounding about hairpins. The cars feel a little weightless at first, though considering the lack of concrete traction you have, it's nothing out of the ordinary. But when you get used to the game, you'll start finding ways to exploit their characteristics around every bend, personally I'd use the D-pad for steering. The stages exhibit fantastic design, with multiple turns linked together in order to really excel the sense of speed and thrill. And it works. Some of the stages feel downright like rollercoasters. There's just something exciting about seeing your car's profile as it carves the road, drifting at a high speed.
There are three car classes, Premier, Modified, and Classics. The Premier car lineup consists of the popular rally racers such as the iconic Subaru Impreza WRX STi (Spec-C Type RA), The Lancer Evolution IX (FX340), Citroen Xsara RallyCross 2004, Skoda Fabia, Ford Focus RS, Peugeot 206, and more. The Modified list of cars inclues: Skoda Octavia (Kit Car), Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark V, Citroen C2 Super 1600, Toyota Celica T230, Peugeot 207, and more.
The Classic lineup consist of vehicles legendary in the rally circuit, such as the: Toyota Celica ST205, Lancia Super Delta HF, Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Audi A2 Quattro, Peugeot 205 T16, Lancia Stratos, and others. By now, it should be well apparent that Sega Rally boasts a fantastic lineup of vehicles – over 30 in total, with secret cars including a highly modified Hummer 3, RUF Rt12 (a modified Porsche 997/911 Carrera S), and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Concept.
Gameplay modes include Championship, Quick Race, Time Attack, and Multiplayer. Mark my words, no matter which mode you choose, you will spend quite a bit of time in it. Because the game has a decent number of vehicles to choose from, about half of them will need to be unlocked. So as you progress in the game, and earn the necessary amount of points, you'll unlock vehicles. What's great about Sega Rally is that it's one of the few games on the PSP to offer a proper online multiplayer mode. So if you're up for a challenge against other people, you can race in either ad-hoc or infrastructure, with three other people. And if you choose to go the local/LAN route with ad-hoc, gamesharing is also supported. Big plus, that is.
Track selection is another strong aspect for Sega Rally. I've already mentioned how great the tracks are and how much fun they are to drive around on. Thankfully, you'll have a total of 15 tracks (30 if you count reversed) to cause as much mudslinging chaos as you want. Scattered across five stunning locales are three tracks per location, all of which can be raced on reversed. Apparently a sixth locale called Lakeside is unlockable.
For the PSP, Sega Rally Revo looks pretty acceptable. Cars will sheen and you'll be able to spot the paint sporting a nice polish. When I played the game at E3, I thought that the car detail could've been a little better, and I couldn't help but notice the dithering. Between the E3 build and the final product, change in visuals seems to have occurred only with the vehicles. Where as I recall the cars looking a bit simplistic and bland, BugBear has spruced them up, adding that aforementioned polish to them.
The textures that make up the environment are nice, and the ground looks better than expected. But with all of that flare comes a slight blemish, the dreaded dithering effect. In case you aren't familiar with it, dithering is when the screen looks like it's got a bunch of dots all over it, preventing the image from looking as sharp as possible. You won't notice the problem unless you concentrate on it, thankfully. Surprisingly, mud and snow still splatters all over the cars, and in large quantities too. And it doesn't just splatter on the car, it also gets kicked up a good bit as you drive over it.
Most importantly though, Sega Rally wouldn't have been a proper racer if the framerate didn't do its job. And thankfully, despite being a PSP game, it boasts a terrific framerate that moves the game at a brisk 30 frames, and never gets any lower.
The audio in Sega Rally is precisely what you'd expect, if you're a fan of the series. A rock/metal soundtrack composed by the folks at Sega accompanies your driving experience. And of course, a co-pilot reads off the twists, turns and hazards on every track as you approach them. The cars themselves sound very nice, and sound particularly better when you're playing the game using the first-person/bonnet view. There isn't a whole lot to hear, but what else can you really do for audio in a racing game, right?
After a poor Sega Rally attempt on the PlayStation 2, which never saw the light of day in the US, Sega Rally Revo is precisely the comeback that we've been wanting and waiting for. Things can only get bigger and better for the franchise from here on. With a proper multiplayer setup that allows for ad-hoc, infrastructure and gamesharing, and gameplay that engrosses you from the start to finish[line], Sega Rally Revo really does have everything rally fans, racing fans, and fans of the arcade franchise will love. Best of all, you can take it on the road with you.