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Outrun Online Arcade

Outrun Arcade Online

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade, PSN
Publisher: Sega
Price: 800 MS Points, £7.99

There’s a moment in a history of alternative rock documentary when Mötley Crüe’s be-permed, leather-trouser clad, leather-skinned singer Vince Neil remembers the moment of his extinction: seeing Nirvana on the cover of Rolling Stone, and taking a moment to realise that they were not, in fact, homeless hobos illustrating a state-of-society story, but a big rich rock band.

As grunge was to hair metal, so Gran Turismo seemed to be arcade racing games such as Outrun. All of a sudden, simple looked stupid. There’s an argument that Gran Turismo’s template of thousands of cars, obsessively detailed components and endless courses has become bloated and tiresome, and now Outrun is back to take its revenge as Outrun Arcade Online.

It’s a downloadable title for the 360 and PS3, priced at very reasonable 800 MS points (£7.99 for the PS3). US readers will be disappointed to note that for completely unexplained reasons, the game is only available for the PS3 in Europe. You can get round it by registering a European PSN account, but it seems a lot of unnecessary hassle.

Outrun Online Arcade
The best way to corner is sideways

Like any long-running franchise, it’s not that simple to figure out where Outrun Arcade Online fits in. Its most closely related to Outrun 2 SP (lazily, ‘Outrun 2 SP’ appears on several transition screens when Outrun Arcade Online is loading data). This was an updated version of the Outrun 2 arcade machine, with a new 15-part course based on American locations. 2 SP’s track was then bundled as part of Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast which was released on the PS2, Xbox, PSP and PC.

Not of course, that this really matters, because Outrun is Outrun – Kurt Cobain would admire the absolute purity of its convictions and its refusal to sell out. You’re driving a Ferrari, you’ve got a blonde girlfriend in the passenger seat, it’s insanely sunny, and you need to drive fast. A timer ticks down, extended each time you finish a stage. Stages blend smoothly into each other: there are 15 levels of various difficulty, branching off from each other with five endpoints. You need to dodge traffic and overtake rivals, gaining points as you do.

Outrun Online Arcade Outrun Online Arcade
The game features several classic Ferraris

To this basic structure, Outrun Arcade Online adds a choice of different Ferraris in various colours, including the F50, F40, Enzo, 360 Spider, and classics such as the 288 GTO, Dino 246 and 512 BB. Of course, the classic Testarossa is there, too. There are multiple game modes, in addition to the basic Outrun mode: there’s a time attack mode (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and a ‘heart attack’ mode, where you need to hit targets on the track to keep your passenger’s heart rate pumping.

The game also has multiple achievements (and identical trophies on the PS3), which, true to its spirit are tough, and decidedly retro in feel. They’re all about high scores and fast times, just like the score table on the arcade machine, and will take a good week or two of solid playing to grab.