Outrun Europa - Game Gear / Master System / Commodore 64 / Commodore Amiga (1991)


American Game Gear Cover

Outrun Europa (SMS)

Outrun Europa (SMS)

Outrun Europa can barely be considered an Outrun game. It was farmed out to European publisher US Gold rather than made by Sega. You chase criminals through Europe, switching vehicles every couple of stages (a motorcycle, jetski, and a car), but it feels weird to play an Outrun game with a shield meter. The motorcycle levels play like some bad Road Rash clone, in that you can punch other bikers and cause them to explode (!) and the cops will try to pull you over. The jet ski scenes are even more action packed, as you attempt to fight helicopters with a very meager gun. And then the driving stages are about what you'd expect. The graphics are relatively impressive for the Master System, featuring some rather large buildings on the sidelines. Unfortunately, the scrolling is a bit jerky as a result. For the most part, you will probably not spend much time on this one either. Ports include Commodore Amiga and Commodore 64, amongst others, although none of them are any better.

Outrun Europa (SMS)

Outrunners - Arcade / Genesis (1993)


American Cover

Outrunners (Arcade)

Outrunners (Arcade)

Alright, here comes the good stuff. After a whole slew of disappointing semi-sequels, AM2 gets behind the wheel again and brings back the graphics, the music and their characteristic style. This game was presented most often in its sitting cabinet form, usually linked to 3 more machines for a total of 4 players. Outrunners has 8 cars you can choose from, each with different attributes and resembling real life cars like the red sprinter in the original Outrun. Every stage is now a different country. The game route still has the same "pyramid" pattern it did back in the early days, but there are two completely different maps. There's now an east side and a west side map, and the very first fork in the road (right after you start the game) will let you choose which of these two layouts you want to play through. This means double the number of stages of the original Outrun.

The game plays pretty much the same, with smooth-as-hell sprite scaling. But with Outrunners now running on Sega's Multi 32 board everything looks better. For the first time, the road appears to actually be textured, instead of the cycling grey/blacks of the earlier games. The backgrounds are incredible and have a lot more detail than any other game, as well as huge hills, which makes the tracks feel less flat. The stages are even more gorgeous as you blaze over bridges, near waterfalls, through dense forests, and even underwater. Selectable music includes our classical four original tunes remixed ("Last Wave" included!!), as well as several new songs. These aren't quite as good as the originals, but there's some decent stuff, like "Looking for the Rainbow".

The voice effects are particularly notable as well. In between the selectable music tracks, there's a station called "Mega Driver". It's not a song, but a radio station announcer. His name is Jake Elwood (a reference to the Blues Brothers?), and will make the in-race announcements as well as off-race comments backed up by the roaring of the crowd. It really helps up the game's cool factor, especially if you're sitting in an arcade cabinet, with those 2 speakers behind your head.

Unfortunately, the Genesis version was part of the last breed of games for the then dying console, and was ported by Data East rather than Sega. The system couldn't handle the special effects of the original Outrun, let alone this powerful sequel. Consequently, the game feels very scaled back, worse than the Genesis version of Turbo Outrun. Additionally, they tried to include the multiplayer mode by dividing the screen in two, but it looks so bad its silly. Worse, you always have to play split-screen even in single player mode, making the view extremely cramped. Even the controls are pretty bad. Don't even bother test-driving this one, just fire up MAME for the real thing.

MP3s

Mega Driver
Splash Wave 1993

Outrunners (Arcade)

Outrunners (Arcade)

Outrunners (Arcade)

Screenshot Comparisons

Arcade

Genesis

Outrun 2019 - Genesis (1993)


American Cover

Japanese

Outrun 2019

OutRun 2019's roots are probably the most curious in the franchise. The project was originally conceived in the early 90's as a Mega CD racing title under the name of "Cyber Road". Sims Co., its creator, transferred the development to the Genesis while at the same time renaming the game "Junker's High". Sega then granted them the Outrun brand, most likely to give Sims' work the extra marketing push, resulting in the Genesis-exclusive futuristic take on the franchise. The general feel of the game is a little more somber and darker than it's predecessor's breezy and sunny california beaches, and the music is a collection of bad techno songs, apparently composed by real bands like "Dual Noise" and "Hyper Sonic Gang" that have nothing to do with Outrun. So the Outrun spirit is gone (replaced by F-Zero deja-vu) and the excellent music is missing too. What do we have left?

Well thankfully, the game still succeeds on a technical level. There are 4 stages, each divided in many tracks, which makes the game much longer than the original. Each section has its own background and ramps you can use to jump to other sections of the road. There are also some nice graphical effects, like tunnels and overpasses. It's extremely easy to fall off if you are not paying attention and don't break. Also new is the big techy dashboard on the bottom of the screen and an automatic turbo that triggers when you reach top speed. No futuristic weapons or violence to see as you might expect. Points to Sims Corp. for not taking that road...thank you! Outrun 2019's lifespan is short in spite of its many tracks, as you will finish the game in 30 to 45 minutes.But give it a try, pretend it is titled something else other than Outrun and you realize that the game is actually quite fun.

Outrun 2019 was also released in 2005 in one of those standalone game systems that hook directly up to the TV, complete with an analog "steering wheel". Why they went with Outrun 2019 and not the original is beyond me.

MP3s

Feel the Beat

Outrun 2019

Outrun 2019

Outrun 2 - Arcade / Xbox (2004)


American Cover

European Cover

Outrun 2

Nearly ten years after the release of Outrunners, Sega finally brings us Outrun 2, a marvel of a game. Outrun 2 looks and sounds so good, yet it's unbelievable how close to its roots it feels and plays in spite of its vastly upgraded graphics. The Sega Chihiro board is the new platform for the game. It includes a 733 MHZ Intel Pentium III and nVidia graphics processor, exactly the same as the Xbox, which in turn makes for an excellent home conversion. Sega offered three different cabinets for Outrun 2,the "Twin" one being the most popular for linked racing.But the real surprise is Ferrari finally licensing their cars to Sega for this version, so we get 8 classic sports cars from the Italian manufacturer that look fantastic and drive like a dream. The biggest addition to the game are the drift mechanics. By braking and turning at the same time you'll activate a drift, which allows you to take rough corners with ease. Mastering this technique is the key to getting the best times and finishing the game.

Included are three single player modes. Outrun Mode is the standard arcade mode, as you race through five out of fifteen possible stages. Heart Attack Mode lets you show off your driving skills by performing different tricks and tasks, and third is the deeply boring Time Attack Mode. There's also of course a linked multiplayer mode like in Outrunners. Graphic-wise I can't say enough, just take a look at the pictures. Everything is there. Breathtaking stages (AM2 style of course!), a silky smooth 3D engine, and the stars of the game: the shiny expensive Ferraris. Each of the real world locations look stunning, as you drive past the Eiffel Tower at night, speed along the pyramids of Egypt, blaze through the flower gardens of Holland, and through the classic beachfront, just like the original title. It's also the only game to make a rundown industrial complex look gorgeous.The five different goofy endings make an appearance too, depending on which course you take, just like old times.

In the audio department, we get our three classic Outrun tunes, again remixed and sounding their best ever, plus four new songs that are actually pretty good. But if you are like me, you will listen over and over again to the best version of "Splash Wave" ever produced, no matter how many times you play. Outrun 2 takes a more mature and classy approach than Outrunners, so the cool radio announcer and roaring of the crowd is now gone. It is still a pleasure though to just drive through each stage and indulge your senses, not having a care in the world. Sega added plenty of fan service too: the horizon shrinks and grows back when you change levels, and the voice that yells out "Checkpoint!" is the same.

Sega put United Kingdom-based company Sumo Digital in charge of porting the game to the Xbox, and did a spectacular job.They added plenty of hidden cars and stages, most notably some from other Sega racing games like Daytona 2 and SCUD racing. There's an expansive mission mode that puts you through various parts of each level and has you attempting to fulfill certain goals like in the Heart Attack mode. Plenty of additional new tunes (especially some nice remixes courtesy of Richard Jacques, notably for his work on Sonic 3D Jam and Jet Grind Radio), online head-to-head for up to 8 players through Xbox Live, and finally the 1986 original arcade gem to unlock. Can't beat a package like that.

MP3s

Splash Wave
Passing Breeze

Outrun 2

Outrun 2

Outrun 2

Outrun 2

Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast / Outrun 2 SP / Outrun Online Arcade - Arcade/Playstation 2/Xbox/PSP/PC/XBLA (2005)


American Cover

Outrun 2 SP

Outrun 2 SP

I'm tempted to start describing Outrun 2 SP as "just an upgrade" to Outrun 2, but no. I'm not going to do that. Why not? Because all the extras of the Xbox version of Outrun 2, plus fifteen totally new stages, tweaked physics, more tunes and better (shinier!!) graphics is way more than your average upgrade. It elevates the quality work that was Outrun 2 to perfection. In the new levels, you'll drive across the Golden Gate bridge, through gigantic sequoia trees, past an arctic oil refinery, see the Moai heads of Easter Island, and under a starry night sky next to a space shuttle launch.

New to this edition is the use of the "slipstream" technique during racing, in which you position yourself right behind an opponents car to reduce wind resistance and go above your top speed. Another added feature is the increased ease of play, as players receive less damage and less speed reduction when they crash their car. This makes the experience a extremely easier to regulars but friendlier to new players. Maybe, and just maybe, it's a little bit too easy. But I have spent more money on it than any other Outrun out there. Proving once again that Outrun is not about beating the game, but enjoying the ride. By the way, I challenge you to finish SP's fifteen course play mode, where you marathon for around twenty minutes through all of the stages! Remember the cameos by other Sega games that you could see if you were a good driver back in 1986? They're back, including the jet from After Burner, the dragon from Panzer Dragoon, and others.

Two special edition cabinets saw a limited release under the denomination of "deluxe" (DX) and "super deluxe" (SDX), the first one supporting 4 players and the second up to 8. Strangely, the exclusive cooperative mode this version was created for allows up to four teams (SDX cabinet) of 2 players each to alternate control of the car throughout a race. These special cabinets house bigger screens with resolutions of 800 x 480, Sega's "Lindbergh" hardware instead of the former Chihiro, an electronic billboard indicating real-time ranking of players, CCD cameras pointed at the players faces, and a "public announcement" system for an attendant or race official.

The North American and European console versions of Outrun 2 SP are called Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast. Not only does it feature tracks from both games (for a total of thirty), but it includes a mission mode that manages to outclass the original: You now earn points when you play, which lets you buy different tracks, cars, music tracks and other bonuses. There are even music tracks from Turbo Outrun, and the Xbox version has support for custom soundtracks. Even though it may seem like a mere "director's cut", there's more than enough material here to keep fans elated. While the Xbox version is considered the best, the PS2 port is still an outstanding port, even if you need to connect to the PSP version to unlock certain stuff. The PSP version is no slouch either, but it runs at a lower framerate.

More recently, Outrun 2 SP appeared on Xbox Live Arcade as Outrun Online Arcade. This new port ditches all the extras of the former console versions, so no challenge mode and no music remixes. The main reason to have this port - besides continued online multiplayer, since the original Xbox servers have been shut down - is to enjoy the game in all HD glory, anyway. And it really looks quite brilliant.

Outrun 2 SP

Outrun 2 SP

Outrun 2 SP

Outrun Online Arcade

People that normally hate racing games tend to love Outrun. Maybe because even its conceiver always called it a "driving game" instead of a racing one. At first it seems hard to isolate what makes an arcade game from the mid-80s so special. But the combination of bright visuals, gorgeous scenery, catchy music, and fast, no-frills action all add up to one of Sega's most well recognized titles.

Links

Blame the Control Pad - Outrun Another article detailing the series.
Outrun.org The definitive site for everything Outrun
Sega-16 - History of Outrun Another excellent retrospective.
Mobygames - Outrun series Lots of screenshots
Masters of Outrun Another great Outrun site
Outrun in Wikipedia Outrun's little space in Wikipedia

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