Sega Rally Impressions

This next-generation update to Sega's classic arcade racer is shaping up nicely, and we were recently invited to take a first look at the game in action.

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Sega Rally, we're told, is the Japanese publisher's most successful arcade game ever. We sat in Sega's UK offices, and our excitement at seeing the PlayStation 3 version in action was temporarily put on hold. Sega Rally is more successful than Daytona? Virtua Cop? The House of the Dead? What about the millions of yen that have been pumped into Virtua Fighter machines in Japan? Apparently, those amount to small change; there's a Sega Rally machine somewhere in the UK that has single-handedly swallowed three-quarters of a million pounds.

Deformable terrain means that each consecutive lap is subtly different from the last.

This all means that there's a lot riding on any new version of Sega's most successful arcade franchise. Only a few years ago, you would have probably expected the company to keep development in-house at one of its internal studios in Japan. A lot has changed for Sega recently though, and the seemingly risk-embracing company has done surprising things of late. The same company that's currently developing an Olympics game featuring one-time archrival Mario has also put the future of the Sega Rally series in the hands of an unproven British outfit called Sega Racing Studio. Perhaps it's not that crazy though; Sega Europe is now a major part of the overall operation with little to prove thanks to its canny acquisitions of Sports Interactive and The Creative Assembly.

Sega Racing Studio may be new, but the team that's overseeing development for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC comprises some of Britain's leading talent. Ex-employees of Codemasters and Rare made the relatively small geographical relocation to Solihull in the British Midlands, and the technology for the game has been built from the ground up by a team of more than 50 staff members. Perhaps most notably, the head of the studio is Guy Wilday, who worked on the original Colin McRae Rally games over at Codemasters.

It's clear that the focus for the new Sega Rally has been on returning to the arcade roots of the series while bringing the technology firmly up to date. The game looks graphically impressive, with an engine that throws around beautiful scenery, track deformation, and incidental details with ease--even if the frame rate suffered in this pre-alpha build. The demo we saw ran on PlayStation 3 hardware at about 20 frames per second, but the team hopes to get that up to 60fps during optimisation. While that seems particularly ambitious given the level of detail, the original Sega Rally's sense of speed was arguably more important than its visuals. Still, it's good to see the team replicate the little touches that made the original so great, such as the helicopters that film you from above and the birds that emerge startled from the trees as you zoom by them.

While such flourishes as these certainly add to the atmosphere, it's the track deformation that's lining up to be Sega Rally's unique selling point. While it's not totally unique in the racing genre, thanks to fellow British title MotorStorm, it's the first time that anything of this level has been seen in a rally game. In fact, it's so impressive that it was the first thing that Sega decided to show us using the in-game engine. Tyres compact the top layers of sun-baked mud by passing over them at 80mph on the first lap, giving way to damp mud that can impair progress on the second lap. MotorStorm players will already be familiar with this concept, but Sega Rally has one more trick up its sleeve: It also throws water into the mix. The tropical track in the demo was particularly water-logged, and as we saw the Subaru Impreza pulling donuts in the mud, the water began spreading to fill up the crevices. With all of this taking place on a next-generation console, the water also begins to wash your car clean, leaving you to appreciate the two-toned paintwork once again.

The pacific race shown in our demonstration highlighted Sega Rally's attention to detail.

With all this hyperrealism in the graphics department, it's even more striking to see Sega Rally's retro approach to gameplay. With Codemasters offering a full-on rally simulation this year with DiRT: Colin McRae Off Road (DiRT in the US), Sega Racing Studio has wisely chosen to stay true to the arcade roots of the series. While the cars will physically deform, they won't be subjected to mechanical damage, which means that the vehicle you finish the race with will be physically as good as your first vehicle. The designers didn't want one big crash to force you to restart a race in single-player mode or make you feel like you could never catch up in multiplayer. Consequently, computer opponents have been programmed to be devious and aggressive, nudging you around corners and crashing into you from behind.

Damage will also take place to the environmental details, and if you crash into a wooden hut or a wall of tyres, they will remain on the track for the next lap. While we only got to see a tropical environment in our particular demonstration, the developers also promise more traditional European racing surfaces, such as tarmac and snow. The camera system offers two on-car views on the bumper and bonnet, as well as two outside views, but we suspect rally fans would also like to see a detailed in-car view. At least they should appreciate the realism that Sega has tried to achieve in car design, with a tarmac-specification Subaru lighter than a safari-spec one, which will also have an effect on the level of land deformation.

Above anything else, the original Sega Rally was memorable for its head-to-head multiplayer mode, so any updated version must get this aspect right. While we didn't get to see it in action at our demonstration, the game promises online multiplayer for all platforms, subject to certain conditions on the PlayStation 3. It's worth noting that multiplayer features were recently built into Sega's Virtua Tennis 3 on the Xbox 360 but not the PlayStation 3, and Racing Studio points out that it will "do what Sony allows" on its platform. Guy Wilday has already gone on record saying tilt-control won't be built into the PlayStation 3 version. However, Sega representatives said they were still looking into the possibility, even if they said it "didn't add anything to the experience in MotorStorm."

Sega Rally is looking very impressive at this stage, and thanks to its arcade leanings, it looks like it can happily coexist with Codemasters' DiRT. Our one concern is how the team will maintain the series' notorious speed with a graphics engine this detailed, but it has six months of development time left to figure it out. We've still only seen relatively little of the selection of cars and tracks in Sega Rally at this point, so there's plenty left that we're itching to explore. You can rest assured we'll be on Sega's tail like one of its artificial intelligence drivers up until the game's release, which is set for winter '07 on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

Discussion

36 comments
dlengel
dlengel

Is the team going to add better support for controlers and controler adjustments or configuration? I have tried the demo and you have not available settings to change controler or controler devices such as a steering wheel or devices like the Logitech G25 with pedals. The only controler I see on the demo is a gamepad.

ToyotaF1
ToyotaF1

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

KronikKilla
KronikKilla

LMAO at Combat. Yea, binny here bought a $600 sidekick. Awesome. And I'd rather pay the fees, because from what I here, PLAYING A GAME on PS3 Online is nearly impossible most of the time, because its always down. Huh... guess they can't charge for that can they.

combat1818
combat1818

binboy69 if i owned a PS3 the last thing i would wanna be doing with it is typing posts to put on here----well at least its good for something

combat1818
combat1818

hmmm not so sure about PS3 bin more powerfull than 360--the GPUs inside each machine say differntly-but you could join both consoles together and they still wouldnt be as powerfull as a dedicated GAMING PC

protek_0813
protek_0813

there always somebody talking trash about ps3. anyways.......... this is going to a good game can't wait.

ravspdr
ravspdr

can't wait...motor storm is good but loading time is horrible

tommyxx516
tommyxx516

Sony fanbois tend to be the loudest, annoying people on gaming sites. The only advantage the PS3 has over the 360 is Blu-Ray and most of us aren't willing to fork out $30-40 bucks on a movie. Other than that, the 360 will offer the same HD gaming experience as the PS3 (higher bandwidth, better graphics chip) for almost half the price. Just look at the games. I have money to get a PS3, I just haven't because I haven't had a reason to justify spending $600. As for the game, its sort of hard for any racing games to standout.

bihboy69
bihboy69

"god i bet the pc and 360 versions r gonna rock and hopefully sega will do another crap job for sony(they dont like sony very much for forcing them out of the console market) anyway we will probably find out that the ps3 aint powerfull enough to play this game" firstly, the ps3 is more powerful than the 360. get your facts straight secondly, this game doesnt look that good anyway (im waiting for the official fia WRC game) thirdly, get a life imwatchinu, you roam around this site, trying to convince other people to buy 360/PC instead of a PS3 when ALL of your information is clearly FALSE tell me when you can type a message on here with your precious 360, (without paying "necessary" online fees LMAO) id really like to see the day when you eat your own words. PS3 IS THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO OTHER GAMING CONSOLE CAN EVEN COMPARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Silentbob343
Silentbob343

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

haesuse
haesuse

while i hate the "ran-into-ground" sequels, i am sure that its gonna look awesome, drive awesome, with some of the new physics and dynamic changes that they can add to tracks, cars, etc, and a hopefull online mode i think we got yet another classic coming!

buttons2010
buttons2010

How about a port of the Saturn game onto Xbox live to wet our appetites? Sega has such a huge back-catalogue I'm surprised they havn't realeased any live games yet.

imwatchinu
imwatchinu

god i bet the pc and 360 versions r gonna rock and hopefully sega will do another crap job for sony(they dont like sony very much for forcing them out of the console market) anyway we will probably find out that the ps3 aint powerfull enough to play this game

wildsnipe
wildsnipe

Game looks on par with Motor Storm with more game modes, but this will not redeem Sega for the horrible AC4 screw up and gay Sonic franchises they forced on consoles.

BikerPunk
BikerPunk

Im totally looking at DiRT, thne this comes out. Terrain that can get worn away, puts a whole new thought into racing games. That tight turn may not be so great 3 laps in.... I will definatly be looking into this game, and keeping an eye on it as it progresses.

royboy6
royboy6

I think it should rock but I'm still waiting for Dirt. it has Championship Off-Road racing in it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

cocomacoco
cocomacoco

i just can't wait for my favorite Rally game, not that there are too many.

Drudaddy
Drudaddy

just a motion blur mess, colin dirt is gonna be way better

shadystxxx
shadystxxx

Looking good, i hope this has force feedback with the 360 racing wheel. I never normally like console racing wheels as they just felt too light and un-realistic but i used to love the arcade machines with force feedback. So i bought the 360 wireless racing wheel and it's awesome i had not played pgr3 for months but its a complete different expeirence with the wheel. I bought it for the upcoming forza 2 but after playing pgr3 all week im hoping sega rally and cloing mcrea dirt will have force feedback also. The forcefeedback will be awesome in a rally game although the 360 wheel has some force to it and all the rough surfaces in rally games could make for a bumpy ride, im looking forward to some great racers this year, forza 2,pgr 4,sega rally and dirt if all these have force feedback its going to be a fun year.

Faromarz
Faromarz

i think it will not be better than DiRT

Gribb85
Gribb85

Fingers crossed it will be a return to form for Sega, nice to support British devloped games as well. Good luck guys, bring the Rally home.

e1337prodigy
e1337prodigy

"there's a Sega Rally machine somewhere in the UK that has single-handedly swallowed three-quarters of a million pounds." That doesn't surprise me since it's £1 a go at least.

andypipkin85
andypipkin85

The 360 version of this is gonna be awesome! I am looking forward to it even more now i know a guy from the original CMR series is working on it, and the fact that the game is being developed by British developers! I cant wait to see this in action on the 360! I could care less about the PS3 version.

Paul_TheGreat
Paul_TheGreat

This is how good a PS3 game can be if devs stop porting everything from Xbox 360 to PS3.

calvins488
calvins488

Zoso_UK realises that Wiis weren't the answer to his gaming fix.

Zoso_UK
Zoso_UK

Looks awesome. Shame I only have a Wii (well it's not only a Wii but it means I miss out on my racing game fix.)

wonderboy_46
wonderboy_46

If this is half as good as the arcade original it will be awesome. Putting it in the hands of people who worked on the first Colin McRae is a great idea. Up to this point that game is still the best rally game ever. I'm really looking forward to this now.

Brainkiller05
Brainkiller05

Looks visually impressive, looking forward to playing it myself.

diablo1000000
diablo1000000

Sounds great. And I'm sure that by the time this launches, it'll be totally PSNetwork compatible. It 'has' to be! Looking forward to this... I'll be finished with Motorstorm by then and need my fix of next-gen mud!

ebolanow
ebolanow

OMG , I can't wait . Nice to see you here , lewuz .

mingeetauk
mingeetauk

heres hoping what looks like a good game can be a great game if they get the online aspect right. Lets prey they dont pull a virtua tennis on ps3 users, and leave out the online aspect, If they do - its a no brainer = no purchase

lewuz
lewuz

waiting it eagerly!