OutRun 2 SP ★★★★★
OutRun 2 SP aims for perfection. From the music on the radio to the curves on the track, all its elements work to create an ideal experience. Drifting at two hundred kilometers per hour through the most breathtaking landscapes, it creates an utopia reality where driving is the best it could ever hope to be.
OutRun had several sequels in the 80s and 90s. None were heralded by Yu Suzuki and they did not match the original in quality. It took 17 years, the combined forces of SEGA veterans Daichi Katagari and Makoto Osaki with Suzuki himself as producer to create a worthwhile sequel. It paid off. OutRun 2 SP is one of the best racers ever made.
OutRun rejects realism. Real life is not able to represent an ideal driving experience. We drive at high speed through an equally speed-up traffic, drifting in such wide curves that the car moves perpendicularly to the direction of the road. From the sunny coasts of Spain to Petra and the tulip fields of the Netherlands, every location is beautiful and unique.
The car’s handling is soft and precise. Drifts can be achieved by tapping the brake and turning the steering wheel in the direction of the curve. It is, however, a fanciful drift. It can be performed at any speed and controlled in both length and width. We can change our angle to sneak through the traffic and shave seconds of the clock.
However, drifting reduces our speed. It’s not always the best way to take a curve. Getting closer to the edge of the road and keeping our hands on the wheel is harder, but provides better results. Even in places where high-speed drifting is mandatory, timing and appropriate control are vital. It’s not enough to drift, one must do so skillfully.
Like the original, OutRun 2 SP features branching paths. Each stage allows us to choose between two different exits, one easier than the other. One playthrough takes about five minutes to complete, a bit more than one per stage. The level design is sublime, worth playing over and over until mastery is achieved.
It’s this level design that sets OutRun 2 SP apart. No other game I’ve played, from Gran Turismo to Ridge Racer has seen such an artful implementation. Each curve, straight and chicane is a joy to drift in. It benefits from a density that is not seen outside of arcade titles. It’s pure design in ways other games don’t attempt to be.
In fact, a large part of this design is traffic itself. It’s not randomly generated but choreographed by the designers. A simple artificial intelligence pushes them from one lane to the another, allowing us to make way for ourselves. Drifting between the traffic is an exhilarating experience with more nuance than a normal circuit.
The slipstream mechanic is the perfect example of the game’s depth. Whenever we are close to the back of another car, our top speed increases slightly. For a casual player, this is a neat bonus that encourages sneaking in and out of traffic. It promotes getting close to obstacles and then dodging them, a quite fun experience.
Slipstream is key to another unique feature which is scoring. OutRun 2 SP is, to my knowledge, the only racing game to feature such a detailed system. Each passed car gives us a number of points, which are doubled if we drive under the slipstream and halved if we are out of the road or hit an obstacle.
Another new introduction is the Heart Attack mode in which we must impress our girlfriend by following her requests. From simple drifting to racing against rivals and dribbling a giant beach ball, it promotes technical skills while being silly and fun in the best way possible.
The beauty of it all is that they are not necessary. They are additional layers to an already great game. The level design and the car’s handling are enough. Once you drift down back-to-back curves of the Alps in a Ferrari, see the falling stars on your way to Cape Canaveral or climb the steep climbs of Satorini, you don’t need anything else.
Despite its age, OutRun 2 SP remains a beautiful title. Like always, a good art style prevails where technology doesn’t. It’s a holistic experience where the sensations of the mechanic and the virtual world before our eyes combine in a fulfilling whole. Other games have better graphics. OutRun 2 SP has something more valuable which is character.
There is a little animation in which the driver sticks out his arm out of the car if we haven’t crashed in a while. Seagulls accompany our driving if doing well and the sounds of each Ferrari, be it on the road or the sand alongside it are perfectly captured. Each goal has a different, lighthearted ending like Hang-On and the original OutRun.
All of this is, of course, complimented by a fantastic soundtrack. Magical Sound Shower, Splash Wave and Passing Breeze are again featured alongside newer tracks and mixes, including some fantastic variants from Turbo OutRun. It’s a great package which helps to create that idealistic experience.
There are, however, two black spots in OutRun 2 SP‘s attempts at perfection. The first are the cardboard people, which become noticeable even at high speed. The second and most serious of the two is the product placement. Driving down a beautiful canyon only to see Vodafone’s logo is grating. It’s brands infiltrating utopia.
Most importantly, the game is no longer available for purchase. Due to licensing issues, there are no ports for current consoles and no store offers it in its PC catalog. While arcade cabinets remain common and the fantastic OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast releases for PC, PS2 and Gamecube are easily found, such an excellent game should be accessible
Still, they are minor annoyances that do not diminish the overall experience. Today, even with arcade racing long gone, OutRun 2 SP resonates. It’s as easy to enjoy as it ever was and 18 years later, it remains one of my favourite titles.
|OUTRUN 2 SP (2004)|
|GAME DIRECTION||Makoto Osaki|
|DEVELOPMENT||SEGA AM2||MUSIC||Hiro et al.|