Sega Rally Championship 2 for the Dreamcast was the last time North America saw a release of a Sega Rally game, back in 1999. Now, eight years later, the franchise is back in Sega Rally Revo for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and you may be shocked by how little things have changed. Sure, the technology has leapt over a skyscraper or two, but when it comes down to the fundamental arcade style of driving that this series was known for, Revo is like a visit from the past. This actually feels like the sort of game you should be driving in some monolithic arcade cabinet, with powerslide-heavy driving mechanics and physics that are geared decidedly toward keeping you moving forward and moving fast at all times. Is it fun? Absolutely, though how long it will remain fun depends entirely on how well you get on with the game's scant list of available tracks and modes.
Track deformation is Sega Rally Revo's big gimmick, and admittedly, it is pretty cool.
Your first impression of Sega Rally Revo is likely to be the one you'll keep all throughout your time with the game, because for as much as things change in the game, they ultimately stay the same. The second you get on a track, you'll know that this is pure arcade driving. Cars are incapable of going off track, with invisible barriers causing vehicles to bounce off everything from trees to minor shrubs. Tight, accurate, frequent powerslides are the name of the game, no matter what surface you might be driving on. And there is a wide variety of surfaces on display. From mud-bogged jungles to sandy beaches to the icy, snowy mountains, you'll encounter all manner of terrain as you drive.
The terrain is more than window dressing. As drivers race around the track, they're digging up the dirt and snow and whatever else, creating big tears in the track that will actually affect your car's handling when you drive through them. This is where the game's one element of strategy comes into play. These treads are often created over the ideal driving lines. So what do you do? Drive through the harsher portions of the track to keep the proper line? Or take the less beaten path and hope for the best?
As impressive as that notion is, it doesn't necessarily amount to a whole lot. You can get by either way and still perform reasonably well. You'll certainly feel the difference in the track depending on how torn up the surface is, especially if you're playing on the 360, where the force feedback does an absolutely phenomenal job of differentiating the feel of each surface (PS3 owners may want to invest in the Logitech driving wheel, or wait for the DualShock 3 to come around, as the lack of force feedback is a real bummer in this version). It's arguably more important to just get to know the tracks and make precise turns than it is to pay a whole lot of attention to where the torn up track is, especially if you choose the off-road setup prior to a race; the other option, "road," gives you higher speed on flat surfaces, but is ultimately less useful overall. Getting to know the tracks probably won't take you too long, as there are only 23 of them spread across five different environments, and several of those are reverse versions of existing tracks.
Getting a feel for each track takes some time, and when you pull off those really tight, accurate slides around snow-laden turns, it's a highly satisfying feeling. However, the challenge isn't all reliant on your skill, at least not in the offline game. The computer opponents in Sega Rally Revo are a tough lot, almost irritatingly so. The main issue with the game's artificial intelligence is that it's severely rigid. AI drivers stubbornly refuse to move off their racing lines, even when you're banging into them at high speeds. And yet, on the flipside, they have no issue bopping into you and knocking you into a corner the second you try to pass them. The second they do, they move right back onto their natural line and stay put. The AI also has a tendency to just decide when it wants to win, often blazing by you at crazy speeds not long before the end of a race. Once you get good at cornering, you can start taking the AI to task, but small screw-ups usually amount to you getting hosed for the rest of the race.
The game's singular focus on constant powersliding may drive some people insane.