Sega Rally Hands-On Preview

We powerslide all the way to the Sega's British racing studio for a first play of Sega Rally on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The latest entry in Sega's highly successful racing series isn't called Sega Rally 2007. Nor is it Sega Rally Anniversary, Sega Rally Redux, or even Sega Rally HD. Anything that suggests this might be a mere update has been willfully disregarded. In what could be seen as an ambitious statement of intent for a brand-new studio, "Sega Rally" suggests that with this game, they're aiming to for nothing less than the definitive entry in the series. With such obvious confidence on show, we've been particularly eager to play Sega Rally and see how it could possibly improve on the arcade classic. Luckily, Sega Racing Team was only too happy to give us a full hands-on during a recent visit to its headquarters.

Like MotorStorm, Sega Rally uses multiple layers of track to create deformable terrain.

It's fair to say that the studio was keen to make a good first impression. Laid out in a dedicated gaming room were no less than six custom-built driving setups, each with a Logitech force feedback wheel, a PlayStation 3 debug unit, and a Sony high-definition LCD TV. What's more, this rig was solely to demonstrate the multiplayer part of the game, and a further five Xbox 360 consoles were also around to show off the single-player game. There were a couple of restrictions with both versions, though--only four tracks and six cars were available to play at this stage.

While these limitations were a shame, they did allow Sega to present the game in a fairly polished state. Wasting no time in getting started, we joined the assembled throng of journalists and staff members to indulge in a spot of head-to-head racing. Perhaps because of the recent release of simulations like Forza Motorsport 2 and Colin McRae: DIRT, it took most of the players a while to adjust to the arcade style of Sega Rally, but after a couple of laps we rediscovered the familiarity of the game. Anyone worried that the new studio might not be able to recapture the feel of the arcade original should put their doubts to rest--even at this stage, the game had all the characteristics of the arcade original.

So while the overriding principle for Sega Rally is evolution rather than revolution, there are many features in the new game that would have been unimaginable on last generation's consoles, let alone the arcade original. Perhaps spotting a new trend with the arrival of MotorStorm, the ace up Sega Rally's sleeve is deformable terrain, and it's used to great visual and physical effect in the game. Sega throws all sorts of environments at its engine and adapts them dynamically, meaning that no one lap is ever the same as the last. For example, tracks in the snow melt to reveal a slushy mess, while the inroads left in dirt tracks will throw your car around considerably more on the second lap than they did on the first. With force feedback through the wheel or joypad, races in Sega Rally become noticeably more difficult as you progress.

We played all four tracks a number of times during our day out, and by the end we were pretty familiar with their ins and outs. Only time will tell if any of them will become as iconic as the desert track in the arcade game, but the tropical levels certainly feel as though they could have been in the original Sega Rally. Full of long bends and a couple of tricky hairpins, these tracks allow you to reach a high speed while also practicing your powerslides. They also look beautiful, with fisherman, shanty houses, and mountains all dangerously tempting your eyes away from the road for split seconds at a time. As with the original game, there are lots of characteristic little flourishes, like the helicopters and birds that pass overhead at very convenient points during the race. Unlike the original, though, the technology has progressed enough to offer breakable roadside features, with wooden housing extensions teasing those who venture too far off the road.

As for the other tracks, the alpine one is a devious mix of both tarmac and snow, meaning that it's perfect for seeing both the game's speed and powerslides. The snow can be particularly difficult to drive through at first, but as you master the acceleration and braking routine, you can cut through huge bends with one elegant slide. The backgrounds are also particularly luscious on the alpine level, with snow-capped mountains filling up the distance. The canyon track is a more traditional mix of dirt, mud, and tarmac, with some narrow straights and particularly difficult bends.

The PlayStation 3 test units were running online code, meaning that they were sending information around the world before it got back to the adjacent players. The net code seemed stable, rarely slowing or crashing under the strain of six simultaneous players. The collision detection was certainly rough, but it provided hilarious crashes that threw cars several meters into the air. The Xbox 360 version seemed slightly more stable by comparison, with more convincing crashes and a more stable frame rate. The team is currently programming five levels of difficulty for the opposition, but only the first two had been tested for our preview. While the first level was easy to beat, the second proved to be more aggressive and we could only muster second place on most races.

There'll be online multiplayer support for up to six players on both the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Six cars were included in the demo--the Subaru Impreza, Citroen Xsara, Skoda Fabia, Ford Focus, Mitsubishi Lancer, and Peugeot 206. Sega claims that all these cars will be in the same class, so they're all comparable in terms of performance. With so many racers offering full-fledged online modes, it's a competitive market out there for any new multiplayer racer. By offering gameplay for up to six players online, Sega Rally already has one up on rival Colin McRae DiRT, which didn't allow rival players to compete simultaneously on-track. Online matches can be created with restrictions on car classes, so you can either specialise in one type of vehicle or open a match up to all types of cars. Sadly, though, there will be no way of forcing all players to have an in-car viewpoint, as is the case with Project Gotham Racing 3.

Sega Rally is in an impressively advanced form right now, which bodes well for its September release. While both versions were polished and highly playable, the Xbox 360 demo looked slightly more advanced, with a smoother overall frame rate and easier controls thanks to the standard joypad. The final game promises to run at 30 frames per second on both consoles (although the physics are modelled at 60fps), but this is yet to be optimised on either the PS3 or Xbox 360. The result is that the game never slowed down to a sluggish pace, but it did seem to be smoother on Microsoft's console overall. We'll have more on Sega Rally in the run-up to release date, so stay tuned for further information.

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Discussion

55 comments
MythWaker
MythWaker

I read the review on IGN and it got a 8.5 or sommin, played the demo and this game is sooooooooo bad its not even worth getting out of bed for. DIRT is 1 million times better then this. It just feels so old hat when playing it, the kinda been there done that !

ShadowOfKratos
ShadowOfKratos

Hell... as long as they DON'T make the game based on the 360 console, it's gonna rock! You know y? Becouse I love Oblivion! I mean, I've yet to see a next gen. multi-platform game made based on both consoles... instead of just 360 and then try and convert to PS3. This is y most multi-platform games out there look better on the 360. How about making it based on the PS3 for once, to get most out of it??? Coz if you ask me this game has potential.

mrwaliwali
mrwaliwali

to raptorvenom and daddyfatsac, you're both right. but i can see where daddyfatsac is going though he may have been ' emotional' about his comment. u see, gamespot does acknowledge that both were running on different modes, so what they say about the performance of the game that they tried is not wrong. true to the point in fact. but it's plain obvious that this Guy Cocker fellow is purposely writing his article in a misleading way just to invoke some fanboy war. tsh, very disappointing. it's like gamespot just picked up a freelance tabloid writer whose looking for extra cash. very unprofessional journalism.

RaptorVenom
RaptorVenom

To Daddy below, you say it's unfair ecause they are comparing tthe two based on two different modes, online & off, for one, they stated that & based their opinions on what they had before them, further, to hear the the Sony fans talk, PS3 doesn't suffer from any lag & so on, which by that way of thinking makes the comparison balanced, if that were the case. You just can't handle the 360 getting any kind of good word over PS3, kinda funny actually. The article recognizes & states that the two systems were running two different modes. It's not even a finished game, give it a rest & then complain when the real review comes out.

nevershort
nevershort

This game looks like it'll have potential... Its not copying Motorstorm, Motorstorm opened the door to some of the ideas but thats it. Great games always evolve out of solid ideas. I really don't understand why gamespot instigates these fanboy flame wars... I think maybe it gets thier rocks off. LOL

olberto
olberto

I would be more exited about a new game in the Daytona series but I guess this could be good too...

DaddyFatsac
DaddyFatsac

I've been a member since June 8, 2003 and this has to be one of the worst fan-boyish articles I have ever read. Everything was going along just fine until the last paragraph. For those that don't know online game play is NEVER as smooth and as fluent as a game playing offline. With the current state of console wars, Sega should had demoed the game closer to the release version. That way they could have had 3 online and 3 offline per system. Another reader wrote the writer was only doing his job. I would suggest this writer not write previews/reviews until he can determine what performance issues can arise playing online vs offline.

greenpyro33
greenpyro33

Whenever I buy racing games, they get boring. I guess if its real good, I'll rent it

Taegre
Taegre

Can't wait to see more of it. Racing sims are fun, but arcade racers are legends, and Sega Rally is one of the godfathers of it.

ktseymour
ktseymour

Deformation and "Mud Slinging" are nothing new ,it's been done many times in the past, by many people and games. Just check out the Sony/Wii/360/PC/ my D**K is bigger than your's posts about. If I remember right the arcade game had all these features many years ago, just the systems at the time couldn't handle( the truth) the effects.

nekketmadnug
nekketmadnug

My God, people just love to copy Motorstorm. First there was DiRT, which tried its hand at having dusty terrain and crap, and failed miserably (but seriously, with a name like DiRT, you'd expect to see really good dirt effects, but the effects are the same as in every other racing game), and now there's this crappy excuse for a racing game that uses Motorstorm's idea of track deformation, and mud splattering on cars.

feathers632
feathers632

I get your point, qiwihead and I don't disagree. In the old days, most driving games had only external view so I guess it's a view that has persisted. Although I personally prefer more in-depth driving sims these days, I accept that not every one has to follow suit. I also agree with Nibinaear about his observations on this particular driving game. I should also mention that I've been playing a racing game from 2005 recently and it's really awesome: Cross Racing Championship. Anyone played it?

Nibinaear
Nibinaear

Can't say I'm really impresed by this at the moment, judging by the videos. I'd say this is only 20% better than a last-gen game. It's far too fast looking and arcadey for my liking, look at the way the car turns those corners, there doesn't seem to be any effort required. I also noticed a bit of a jump in framerate sometimes, and they're still doing that one size fits all "easy left", "hard right" co-driver.

qiwihead
qiwihead

Take a chill pill, feathers632, and stop judging how people play their games. If devs didn't think it was perfectly reasonable to play racing games in an external view, they wouldn't off it as an option. Based on anecdotal evidence from talking to many online opponents in various racing games, and also based on the fact that most racing games have multiple external view options but only one or two inside views, most people play with an external view. Playing from that view does not diminish gameplay, it's not like the old Pole Position arcade game where you really were just moving back and forth trying to avoid objects. Driving in external view you still have to drive the dang car--the physics are still the same regardless of your view. And besides, they spend so much time modeling these cars, why wouldn't you want to ogle them while you're racing?

feathers632
feathers632

Wow! Another arcade racer with totally unrealistic driving! Can't wait for this one to arrive! Also... I don't get why kiddies play these games with external view? Is that how they drive a real car? Watch the vids of sega rally and you see it's less about driving and more about moving a 3d object from left to right so it doesn't collide with the scenery. Wow! What a game!

KingKoop
KingKoop

It sure looks like a DiRT beater.

Lostfile
Lostfile

Sounds good. Can't wait to see that snow and dirt in action.

emanthechamp
emanthechamp

the surroundings and the dirt look great, but i don't like the look of the cars much.

rudols
rudols

Guys that say Xbox is superior. Did you not read the article. The PS3 is running network code for multiplayer which clearly will have impact on FPS until it is optimized. The 360 was not running network code. With the 360 not running network code it should be faster due to less of a hit on processing time.

mohammed888
mohammed888

drangel_jam: OMG, life is good. 1st FM2, then DiRT, and next Sega Rally!? To think that PGR4 could be dropping by the end of the year makes 2007 the racing year of all time. And don't forget Flatout is comming out this year and itll be exclusive to the 360. 360= ultimete racing fan fantasy. By the way PGR4 will blow all the other racing games outa the water.

deep-freeze
deep-freeze

I heard this was developed on the ps3, so not sure why it would be any better on the 360, it should be about the same. If the 360 version supports MS's wheel I'll buy that version, as the wheel is just too much fun. If the wheel doesn't work so well (hopefully we get demos for both systems) i'll prolly just pick up the ps3 version. And we mustn't forget about EA's new pro street racer, making this the year for racing games.

Navick
Navick

good point Chainblast / aaron5829. Keep in mind though these games are still in development. Its no secret that the ps3 is a little more difficult to develop for.

DJMist
DJMist

"The result is that the game never slowed down to a sluggish pace, but it did seem to be smoother on Microsoft's console overall."

boulits
boulits

Oh my god this year is the greatest for us racing fans more vids would be great keep up the good work GS ;)

Stlz33t
Stlz33t

"OMG, life is good. 1st FM2, then DiRT, and next Sega Rally!? To think that PGR4 could be dropping by the end of the year makes 2007 the racing year of all time." I agree but the only thing is I dont have $250 to spend on racing games :(. If I could I would get them all but now I have to choose...this could take awhile.

TO_Zeus
TO_Zeus

Wow! Why is it that as soon as gamespot puts the 360 above the ps3 even thou there just telling it like it is, all the ps3 fan boys start getting pissed! Would you rather they lie just to make use happy!!! I think those who have a problem with gamespot just telling like it is, should just leave and find a new game site! U know u come on here to find out info about an up coming game and u read some thing you dont like and you complain!!! LIKE I SAID DONT LIKE IT LEAVE AND DONT COME BACK CAUSE YOU WONT BE MISSED!!! AND SAME WITH PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN WHEN GAMESPOT PUTS THE PS3 ABOVE 360!!!

wolfboy20
wolfboy20

looks awosme!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cpl_Hicks
Cpl_Hicks

I don't see that Gamespot favours the 360, just reporting on what they see. I love sega games and the fact it's called Sega Rally with no subtitle is promising, but lets not forget the recent Sonic the Hedgehog! I am hoping it's great though, as the first is one of my favourite games of all time.

Chainblast
Chainblast

"The Xbox 360 version seemed slightly more stable by comparison, with more convincing crashes and a more stable frame rate." Translation: We are comparing the online mode on the PS3 to the single player mode on Xbox 360.

Ravi_1900
Ravi_1900

Really good looking graphics if they can do same with the gameplay this would be good one.

-L-U-I-S-
-L-U-I-S-

Hmm I'm pretty sure the framerate problems will be fixed by the time it comes out. From what I've heard/seen, this game would probs shape up good

aaron5829
aaron5829

single player performance against online performance ?? It will be obvious aint it ? ;) it's just common sense..

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

OMG, life is good. 1st FM2, then DiRT, and next Sega Rally!? To think that PGR4 could be dropping by the end of the year makes 2007 the racing year of all time.

EmperorSupreme
EmperorSupreme

@PS3compass I don't think that's what they said. They said the PS3 version they tested was for multiplayer, the X360 version was for single player. Multiplayer espescially like they were doing it sending the signal around the world first is going to be a little bit choppier.

daveg1
daveg1

well i hope its going to improve from the video ive just seen casue it looked very basic...

Darth_Tigris
Darth_Tigris

So if the PS3 version was running at a smoother framerate, would you not want that to be emphasized? To me it would just be GS doing their job as journalist. Anyway, I'm getting Forza 2 soon and now I have good reason to wait on DIRT, because I want to compare these two. DIRT's online is one of the most disappointing things of this generation. It makes absolutely no sense.

Sooshy
Sooshy

I'm officially hyped.

rikhan_z
rikhan_z

This game looks alot more better then Dirt, I played Sega Rally 2, but looks promising.

final_lap
final_lap

Oh so this means Sega Rally will actually be better than DIRT. I'm so grateful!

notquitesure
notquitesure

totally agree with wiidominance... i have a PS3 and im getting utterly annoyed with 360 360 360 360 its putting me off reading your reviews although OnTheSpot will never be missed.. as regards for the game.. its sounding a bit good, proper online!! sounds like the imaginary rocks in VR2 that used to annoy the crap outa my bro. although ill still be getting Dirt when its out on the PS3 as well cant have too many rally games :)