Sega Rally Online Arcade Review
Sega Rally Online Arcade, aside from having one of the silliest names to grace Xbox Live, is a disappointing homage to the Sega Rally games of yore. The focus on arcade style racing will appeal, for a short while at least, to casual racing fans and those with a nostalgic investment in the franchise, but those spoiled by years of superior Colin McRae games will find little to enjoy here.
Contrary to what the title suggests, Sega Rally Online Arcade (SROA from now on) is not a strictly online experience. While online features are blended cleverly into the offline sections, you'll find traditional championship and quick race options. The championship requires you to complete three tracks. You begin in last place and must overtake other competitors to gain first place by the end of your third race (your position carries over to the next track). Coming in first unlocks a one-on-one on a new track, and it's not easy.
To get in some practice, the familiar quick race option is also available. This is completely standard, allowing you to set up a race on any available track with any available car. The selection of tracks is incredibly limited, with barely half a dozen present. Admittedly, each track is differentiated well from the others thanks to a variety of locations, including snow and swamp, but the selection is painfully slim. Worse, there's no actual rallying on show: everything is either lap-based racing or time trials.
Similarly, the number of cars available is tiny. A few favorites, such as the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, are present, while lesser known models such as the Skoda Fabia add a bit of variety. The most interesting additions are two classic cars: the Lancia Delta and Toyota Celica, which will be instantly recognizable to Rally fans. There are also a few unlockable off-road vehicles, which aren't hugely exciting.
The final offline option is the time trial. The neat twist here is that you can race against a ghost--either a “Staff” ghost that comes with the game or one from any entry on the leaderboards. It means you can try your luck against the fastest player in the world without having to actually challenge him. Whether this is good or bad will depend on the individual player. You can even download friends' ghosts to try for bragging rights.
Multiplayer is where SROA's greatest strength lies. Multiplayer is fairly fun, though the limited number of tracks means it gets old quickly. Split-screen multiplayer fares better: as the game has such a short learning curve, virtually anybody can jump in and get playing, making SROA a decent party game for a brief distraction.
The game looks and handles OK for an arcade game. The camera fixes to the back of the car, a design that's off-putting and did throw off my sense of direction more than once during drifts, but it isn't game-breaking by any means. Some may even prefer it. There's also very little to distinguish the cars from one another--only a few minor speed or handling differences. This is good for balance and fairness online, but it would have been nice to have to put in more effort to master each car. The cars themselves are instantly recognizable and don't look too bad, though there are plenty of arcade games that look better. Frame rates are decent, but you'd expect them to be flawless at this level of detail.
Sega Rally Online Arcade is exactly what it says on the tin: it's an arcade throwback with online functionality. While many will appreciate the nostalgia value, just as many won't, both camps will be disappointed by the lack of content. It's fun racing your favorite rally cars around the decent tracks, and it makes for a fun split-screen distraction for a while, but there's just not enough content to justify the cost.