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CVG
15 Reviews

Sega Rally

Review: 'Sticks' to tradition

If you're one for reams of car-tweaking performance options and bodywork customisation, Sega Rally isn't for you. Sticking faithful to the long-running series, Sega Rally is as streamlined as they come - it's all about going fast.

It's great not being bogged down in the rigmarole of getting your head around a complex career mode or extensive modification system (unlike in Colin McRae: Dirt, which locks you into an infuriating two-minute tutorial lecture the first time you play).

Nope, here you'll simply find the basic selection of Championship, Quick Play, Time Attack and Multiplayer modes.

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Championship mode is as old-school as it comes - there are three leagues; amateur, pro and expert, each one consisting of multiple rallies. A rally stretches over four events in which you race opponents (there are no timed checkpoints here) to earn points, which are totalled at the end.

You don't have to win every race, but your aim is to come out on top overall, and winning one rally simply opens up the next one, as well as unlocking a new car and a livery for your cars (a selection of three possible pre-set paint jobs per car is all the customisation you'll get).

This simplicity comes in stark contrast to the new surface deformation that Sega was so keen to show off in preview showings of the game. And it really is incredible to see it at work.

In case you missed all the hype, Sega Rally's surface deformation is an advanced physics system that lets the tyres have a physical effect on the ground. So you make deep tyre grooves in mud and snow, and the more the cars go over any one spot, the deeper the deformation becomes.

It looks incredible but it's not just decoration (like in Motorstorm) - it was intended to form part of the gameplay mechanics, too. For example, on the first lap of a race in a snow-covered mountain track the white powder will completely cover roads, but as the race goes on the deformation mechanic will see snow dispersed revealing hard tarmac underneath.

This also works on dirt tracks too, where loose mud and gravel is shifted revealing an all-round better surface along the racing line of the cars.

Now, Sega's proposal is that advanced players would use this to their advantage by keeping their car on the worn trail to benefit from the extra grip, but it doesn't really play out that way.

It turns out that the whole surface deformation bears far less prominence as a gameplay mechanic than was expected, mostly because these cars are tough to drive, and it'll take all your concentration just to keep your bloody car off the walls, much less following a thin path etched into the tracks for the sake of a barely-noticeable increase in traction.

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The steering is twitchy - a little too over-responsive if anything - yet the car's light feeling and the rally game-style slippery nature of the physics makes the car feel rather floaty.

So, even when powering down straights, you find yourself making constant twitch-reaction corrections to the steering to keep the car on the road.

Now, it's not a bad thing - we cope with it just fine. But challenging handling is a strange trait for such an arcade franchise, where it's usually important that anyone and everyone can have a go. The perfect arcade racer - something Sega is known for producing - is usually easy to play, but tough to master.

Look at OutRun, Daytona, old school Sega Rally and even Crazy Taxi for example: with tight and concise handling, anyone can grab the pad and enjoy zooming around a few corners with a decent level of competency.

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