Have you ever experienced déjà vu in your video games? You're sitting there, control pad in your hands, and it hits you: You've done this before. Sure, the presentation is a bit different, but the core gameplay is exactly like something else that you played years ago. Sega Rally Revo is a great example of this because it's essentially Sega Rally Championship and Sega Rally Championship 2, only with prettier graphics. Unfortunately, this is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Sega Racing Studio picked two really fun games on which to base Revo and, for the most part, it ends up being a solid, fast-paced racer. However, compared to some of the newer racing games, like Dirt, the gameplay feels shallow and antiquated.
If you've never played the first two games, let me explain: The Sega Rally titles are arcade racers at their finest. There's no customization or deep racing simulation; it's just incredibly fast-paced, powersliding fun. Now, if you think this description sounds a bit flat, you'd be right because beyond that, there's almost nothing to Sega Rally Revo.
Now, I say "almost" because Revo does try to add something new in real-time deformable tracks. This is actually really cool and, for the most part, succeeds in refreshing the franchise a bit. As you drive over certain surfaces, like mud and snow, your tires leave permanent treads in the ground. On later laps, driving over these ruts affects your handling and can even jar your control a bit, especially with the insane vibration that the 360 controller kicks out.
Fortunately, the developers decided to take this feature and run with it, creating about 20 tracks that are almost exclusively "off-road." They'll have you driving on every surface imaginable. Sure, there is an occasional spot of asphalt is there, but 99 percent of the game takes place on some deformable surface that you tear up along the way. Heck, there are even a few tracks on beaches, which give you plenty of sand to kick up with your tires.
The core gameplay of Revo can be found in Championship mode, where you compete against five other racers in three different classes of cars. You start off in the Premier Championship, and if you win enough races, you'll move on to the Modified Championship and after that, the Masters Championship. Each class features a different set of cars, and this is where the game starts to feel a bit shallow.
Over the years, I've come to expect certain things from certain genres. For example, I expect my first-person shooters to have loud explosions and a great arsenal of weapons. With racing games, I expect to be able to select my car and know what I'm getting into. Now, each vehicle in Revo is different; some are faster and some take turns better, but the game doesn't tell you which is which. There's no graph or informational bar or anything to tell you how the car you're about to choose is going to handle the race ahead.
Another place the game feels shallow is in the amount of tracks. Since you're going to be racing numerous races with only a handful of tracks, you expect to see some repeats early on. After the fourth or fifth time you race some of these tracks, though, you start to realize exactly how few tracks there are in Revo.
Fortunately, racing on these few tracks is still about as fun as it was 10 years ago. If you're looking for a realistic racing simulator, play Forza or Gran Turismo because the driving in Revo is about as unrealistic as you can get. There is really no speed control or braking skill involved; the game is all about power slides. As you come up to a corner, release the gas, crank the stick to the right and hit the gas again. Your tires may spin out, and you may drop a bit of speed, but if you do it correctly, you'll sail around the corner and into the next part of the track.
While the powersliding is certainly enjoyable, I'm sure there are quite a few racing fans who won't be able to get into it. Most of the time, a lot of it comes down to luck, and the slightest mistake can send you spinning out of control. It can indeed get frustrating, but I can tell you that there's nothing like the euphoria that you feel the first time you successfully nail a powerslide.
Graphically, Revo is miles above almost every other racing title out there. Everything, from the cars to the environments, jumps off the screen to create an amazing visual racing experience. The cars are all rendered with immaculate detail and super-shiny textures, and the game handles an impressive amount of real-time changes in the graphics. In addition to the track deformation mentioned earlier, the cars experience changes as they race around the tracks. Go through a mud puddle, and you'll take a bit of it with you, which creates drag. You can clean it off by flying through a pool of water, but that might slow you down even more.
While there are only about 20 tracks in Revo, each one is almost as detailed as the cars. The tracks are split into six different environments, such as the African plains and a quiet mountain road. Each environment is completely different and presents different visuals, all crafted beautifully by the artists at the Sega Racing Studio. I've never been a gamer who sees graphics as important, but the visuals are absolutely gorgeous and completely immerse you in the title.
The sound in Revo has its highs and lows. The sound effects are pretty good: engines sound like car engines, and mud sounds like mud. However, the brightest audio element is the music, which really helps to get you revved up for the arcade rally racing that's about to ensue. Each environment has its own style of music, and most of it is really good.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the controls. The game is not about technical driving skills or racing simulations, but about speed. The controls, however, are not nearly tight enough to handle the super-fast speeds that your car reaches. While you're playing Revo, a lot of times, it feels like you're driving on ice, with your car shooting from one side of the track to the other. Eventually, practice minimizes this problem, but in the early stages of the game, it's nothing but frustrating.
By far, the biggest downside to the title is perfect opponents. While the driving mechanics often feel sloppy and loose, your opponents don't seem to mind, taking every turn and curve without missing a beat. Also, no matter how fast you go and how well you take turns, the opponents are right there behind you. It's unfortunate because one mistake on your part sends you careening out of control and, usually, into last place.
Revo gets infinitely less frustrating online, when you're put up against five opponents who make just as many mistakes as you. It's pretty fun to watch your opponents slide around a corner, hit a wall and spin out of control, right before you do the same thing. The online component takes an even better turn with custom championships, which allow the host to put together six different tracks and keep the same opponents through each one.
If you played racing games in the arcade during the early to mid '90s, chances are that you've played Sega Rally Revo. Sure, the package is prettier now, and Sega has tried to update the franchise with the addition of deformable terrain, but compared to some of the newer racing titles available, everything else just feels like old hat.
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