Developed alongside Sega Rally Revo, Sega Rally 3 shared a lot with its console-based sibling. At its core, however, Sega Rally 3 was an arcade racer, designed to impress with floaty physics and chomp quarters as quickly as possible, while Revo made a push toward realism. Now that the arcade machine is no longer brand new, Sega Rally 3 has made it home under a slightly modified name: Sega Rally Online Arcade.
The primary differences between Sega Rally Online Arcade and Sega Rally 3 are frame rate (the arcade version ran at 60 fps while the PS3 version runs at 30 fps) and car selection (blame licensing restrictions for this one). Aside from those two biggies, everything else is relatively identical. Handling is intact, the arcade-styled AI is here in full force and the five tracks on offer are just like the arcade originals.
Jumping behind the wheel, you'll find yourself racing on Alpine, Canyon, Desert, Lakeside and Tropical. Alpine is a mountain run that offers up a mix of pavement and icy, snow-packed roads. Canyon takes you over the top of a dam before alternating between dirt roads and dry pavement. Desert is a turn-by-turn re-creation of the first track in the original Sega Rally game. It can only be played with the two cars from the original game, and prior to Sega Rally Online Arcade's release, the Desert remake was an arcade exclusive. Lakeside is a bonus track that only appears if you finish the championship in first place. It is mostly loose dirt, with sharp turns and a little pavement. The final track, Tropical, is a sandy course, starting on a palm shaded beach and running through a muddy forest.
Players familiar with Revo might think the tracks in Sega Rally Online Arcade look a bit familiar at first, but that is only because the two games share some iconic locations, such as the run across the top of the dam. While small sections of track are shared, the actual courses used are quite different. Just because you mastered the dam run in Revo doesn't mean you know what to expect here.
Control is where Sega Rally Online Arcade excels. The arcade physics used in this game strike the perfect balance between speed and control, often making you feel like you're hanging on by a thread as you powerslide through a corner, praying that your wheels don't lose grip at the wrong moment. If you're playing with a wheel, it's just like being in arcade, minus the noise, smell and sticky controls.
Where the game stumbles is in how it handles the default AI behavior. Just like the Xbox 360 version of the game, the PS3 release is stupid easy on the default settings when using the standard analog controller. It's possible to simply mash on the accelerator and win the first three rounds of the championship without much difficulty. The AI ramps up its game in Lakeside, providing a real challenge for the first time. As a result, if you just hop in with the DualShock 3, you might be a bit underwhelmed at first. Thankfully, when it comes to control options, Sega Rally Online Arcade shines.
In addition to standard analog controls, the PS3 version supports steering via SixAxis, motion control with the PS Move and three different Logitech racing wheels. We tested the game with the Logitech Driving Force Pro, otherwise known as the official Gran Turismo 4 wheel. That's right, Sega Rally Online Arcade has full support for a PlayStation 2 steering wheel. Yay for USB ports.
Playing with SixAxis was amusing, but using the Driving Force Pro is where the game really hits its stride. It only supports 200 degrees of movement in the wheel, but that's the only negative. You can configure the Logitech wheel for either paddle shifting or stick shifting, and the force feedback offered quite a bit of tactile response. Powering through a turn with the perfect line when the force feedback was on full bore requires a bit more concentration than just flicking an analog stick with your thumb.
Sega Rally Online Arcade supports both online and offline multiplayer, with the latter being a split-screen affair. Going online is fun when it works, but the lack of any sort of coherent party or ranking system hampers this aspect of the game. Realistically, it's something you might toy with once or twice, but probably won't bother returning to very often.
Directly comparing the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game, the two are very close in most respects. The Xbox 360 has a slight edge in the visual department with cleaner, less saturated reds and some sharper lines, but the PS3 version wins when it comes to control options. Ultimately, when it comes to a racing game, having a good wheel is key, and it's difficult to find a better option than the Logitech fare. The Xbox 360 wireless wheel is good, but it can be nearly impossible to find if you don't already own one.
At a retail price of $10, Sega Rally Online Arcade is the perfect impulse buy for an arcade racing fanatic. It loses some of its luster when played with a standard controller, but if you have a wheel on hand, there's little reason not to jump behind the wheel.
Editor's Note: Want to score a FREE copy of Sega Rally Online Arcade? Then head on over to Twitter and follow @WorthPlaying. We're giving away FIVE copies of the game today (7/29/2011).
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