OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast Hands-On

We drift through the twisting turns of OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast in our hands-on look at the game.

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OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
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Few would have called OutRun2, the 2004 sequel to the classic coin-op racing game, a sophisticated racing game. Instead, the long-awaited sequel featured a mix of familiar arcade controls and old-school sensibilities that made for an appealing update to the OutRun franchise. Now, Sega and developer Sumo Digital are prepared to release another game in the OutRun franchise, OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, and the old-school vibe is still very much intact. We had a chance to put this high-speed arcade racer through its paces just ahead of its US release.

Everything that's old is new again. The OutRun racing series is back, complete with the familiar tunes on your radio.
Everything that's old is new again. The OutRun racing series is back, complete with the familiar tunes on your radio.

The core of OutRun 2006 is the same as it ever was: You still tool around in one of a variety of different Ferrari models, usually with your girlfriend in tow, who you are always looking to impress with your fancy driving skills. The driving model is pure arcade, drift-intensive, and all about momentum--once you hit your top speed in the game, the last thing you want to do is slow yourself down by slamming into traffic, running off-road, or getting similarly sidetracked. It's easy to set your car in a drift simply by tapping the brakes and turning slightly into the corner; with a bit of practice you can get a skid running through incredibly long turns, and even steer your way through traffic while running sideways, which is just as satisfying as it sounds.

The main modes in OutRun 2006 are coast 2 coast, outrun, heart attack, and time attack. Coast 2 coast mode is the closest thing to a career mode found in the game and features two race types, flagman races--where you try to pass five other rival cars before reaching the finish line--and "heart attack" races, where the goal is to impress one of the lovely ladies who manages to find her way into the passenger seat of your ride. The first of these demanding passengers is Clarissa, and she'll be judging your progress through each stage of the OutRun 2 racing world as you go.

The first time you run with Clarissa, you are expected to run the entire Coast 2 Coast course, complete with multiple branching paths. As you make your way through the various different racing environments--which run the gamut from coastal cities to densely forested highways to ancient Aztec ruins--Clarissa will give you goals to complete on that particular leg of the journey. These goals can run from the mundane, such as passing as many cars or crashing into as much traffic as possible, to the more unusual, such as collecting coins on the road or "cutting the line" where you have to drive between a succession of paired cars connected by a yellow line.

Then there are the truly odd tasks Clarissa will ask you to complete, such as running down as many ghosts as you can on the road, dribbling a massive beach ball down the road using the nose of your car, or avoiding the magnetic pull of hovering UFOs as you race along the streets of a simulated Las Vegas in order to steer clear of alien abduction. All of these challenges will test your car control around corners and threading through traffic as you try to earn hearts from your girlfriend. The more hearts you earn, the more impressed she is with your driving, and the better you'll score...in the race, that is. Completing race events earns you Outrun miles that can be used in the showroom to unlock new Ferrari models, stages, background music, or car colors.

The single-player game in OutRun 2006 also includes numerous other modes, including Outrun mode, which is similar to the old arcade game--you simply run the branching paths of the Outrun courses with your girlfriend in tow, speeding your way from checkpoint to checkpoint. There's also a stand-alone heart attack mode similar to that described above, and a time attack challenge where you race against ghost cars in order to set the track record. Fans of the arcade version of OutRun2 SP will be happy to note the full version of the coin-op game is available in OutRun 2006, and you can even choose to run heart attack or time attack races on either OutRun2 or OutRun2 SP courses. Multiplayer races in OutRun 2006 include both online and LAN play, as well as both infrastructure and ad hoc races on the PSP version of the game. There is some communication between the PSP and PS2 versions of the game. For example, connecting the two via the USB link will unlock one new car in each version that would otherwise be unavailable.

Finally--a new way for your girlfriend to judge you. The challenges in OutRun 2006 will test your driving skills.
Finally--a new way for your girlfriend to judge you. The challenges in OutRun 2006 will test your driving skills.

Graphically, about the most important thing one can hope for in an arcade racer is a nice sense of speed, and OutRun 2006 fits the bill here--the game maintains its zippy pace on all but the tightest of corners, where some frame rate issues were evident in the preview build we played. The courses themselves are nicely varied, both in setting and time of day (the Milky Way stage is particularly impressive; it's a track highlighted by a night sky overflowing with thousands of bright stars) and the cars themselves, which include Ferrari models such as the F50, 360 Spyder, and the 328 GTS, are nicely modeled and will all be familiar to fans of the prancing pony. While the sound of the car engines seems appropriately growly, our favorite audio feature was the classic OutRun tunes such as Magical Sound Shower and Passing Breeze, which have been slightly retooled and updated, but thankfully not enough to render their familiar melodies unrecognizable.

Fast action, interesting challenges, and online play for up to six players make OutRun 2006 an appealing arcade choice for fans who like their racing games straightforward out of the box. The game is due for release in May, so be on the lookout for our full review.

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