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OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

One gigantic bundle of utter racing joy that sticks its middle finger up at the 'norm'

When it comes to pulling off ridiculous high-speed power-slides around the most insane courses imaginable, nothing comes close to the thrill of OutRun. The king of arcade racers is back, with even more spectacular tracks and outrageous challenges - and we love it even more.

There's enough OutRun in here to make fans wet their pants in excitement. Coast 2 Coast takes everything in OutRun2 and OutRun2SP (the arcade version), combining SP's improved handling with more forgiving collisions, and chucking in heaps of new cars and challenges. The resulting package is one gigantic bundle of utter racing joy. Obviously the standard checkpoint-based OutRun race is back, where you go up against the clock to reach the end of the course, with a choice of routes at each checkpoint. Only now you have the option to race through the courses from either OutRun2 or OutRun2SP.

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Multiplayer has also made a return, and although there's still no split-screen option, the System Link and Xbox Live races still kick ass, with eight-players on the course causing utter carnage.

But playing OutRun by yourself is just as much fun as it is in multiplayer, and the Coast 2 Coast mode is where you'll find all the single-player thrills you'll ever need. It's similar to the Challenge mode in OutRun2, only beefed up with heaps more stuff. All-new Flagman races have you competing against other Ferraris in insane races to the finish, or completing specific challenges like drifting or overtaking traffic to earn a set number of hearts. If you've tackled the challenges in OutRun2 you'll know what to expect.

Also similar to OutRun2's Challenge mode is a new feature that has you trying to win the heart of a girl. Only this girl doesn't want a bunch of flowers and a slap-up meal. She likes fat power-slides, crashes, high speeds and loads of even weirder stuff. It's another perfect excuse for Sega to set you hundreds of insane but hugely entertaining challenges. As you race along the course, she shouts out your task, and you'll have a set amount of time to fulfil her demands. All the old challenges are there, like knocking over cones, overtaking a convoy of trucks or driving on a brightly coloured lane, but there are also a bunch of totally new ones.

"Dribble the beach ball!" she'll shout, and moments later you'll see a giant ball in the road that you have to shunt to the goal ahead. If she yells "Hit the cars!" you have to do some Burnout-style traffic mashing and batter through every car in your path. Then she tells you to "avoid the meteors!" and seconds later enormous rocks start falling from the sky, crashing into the road ahead. 'BLOODY HELL,' you'll think, as you swerve your motor desperately to avoid the giant space rocks. One mission even has you dodging the tractor beams of dozens of UFOs hovering over the track, in an attempt to "avoid abduction".

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That's what's so cool about OutRun - it sticks its middle finger up at the 'norm'. Everything, from the challenges to the courses and the handling, is fun and original. Even the transitions from one environment to another are bonkers - one minute the sun's beaming down as you cruise past a flowery meadow (with the series' famous Magical Sound Shower tune blaring from the stereo, of course), the next you'll pass a checkpoint where mountains suddenly pop out of the ground, the sky clouds over and it starts snowing.

Sixty seconds later you'll be burning past pyramids in a desert, or you might find yourself surrounded by inner-city skyscrapers, or blistering past a space station under a starry night sky. And every last environment looks absolutely stunning. This is without a doubt one of the most gorgeously colourful games ever.

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