Sega Rally may be of Japanese origin, but the latest game in the series is hitting the US and Europe months ahead of the East. That didn't stop Sega demonstrating an advanced build of the game at the Tokyo Game Show, though, complete with a couple of tracks that we hadn't seen before. We booked in some time to play the PS3 version at the publisher's stand, and we were pleased to see how much the game has progressed since we visited the Sega Racing Studio some months ago.
The latest build presented a total of five tracks to race on and six different cars, but those numbers will jump up to 16 tracks and 34 cars in the finished version. The safari, alpine, canyon, arctic, and tropical settings were varied enough for us to sample the majority of the different environments, which is especially important given the team's ambitious plans for various track deformation effects.
One of the bigger goals for the British-based Sega Racing Studio has been to create a game with truly dynamic conditions, and it looks like the team has managed to pull it off. The different surfaces include snow, mud, and water, all of which change lap after lap. Hard, sun-baked mud gives way to softer mud as cars drive over it, leaving uneven tracks to deal with on the second lap.
When we last saw the game, this deformation technology took its toll on the frame rate. Now, though, Racing Studio has ironed out the bugs to get the game running at a solid 30 frames per second. There's a slight downside in that the maximum supported resolution will be 720p on both the Xbox 360 and PS3, but the Sega representative informed us that the amount of trackside detail made 1080p an impossible technical feat to achieve.
We were pleased to see some nice new presentational touches in this build of the game, particularly in the menu system which presents its options in the form of a holiday-esque series of polaroid snapshots. The game's arcade origins mean that you don't have to mess around too much with car customisation, although you do need to look at the road conditions and choose between road and off-road tires. The team is also in the process of tweaking the car handling, because some feedback from the Japanese testers was that it felt a little too twitchy. We also learned that the opponent artificial intelligence is weighted toward two-star drivers in each race, so while you might be able to leave the majority of racers behind, two will always remain on your tail.
Sega Rally is shaping up nicely for the PlayStation 3, which is no bad thing given the short amount of time before release in Europe. There's still plenty that we haven't seen, including the online multiplayer, but if we do get to see any more of the game before release we'll be sure to let you know what we think.