SEGA Rally makes it's return with this arcade port.
First off, this game is a direct port of SR3, however SEGA have thrown in some new goodies to keep it fresh. More cars, Online play, Online leaderboards. This is in no way a bad thing. In all honesty I've played SR3 once, Arcades are dying and this game came out very recently (2007) so there wasn't much chance to test it out. By bringing out this title it allows everyone to experience what they've missed and then some. Either a good gesture by SEGA or someone looking to make a quick buck.
The game is played out over 4 stages in your core championship mode. You start in 22nd place and try to get to 1st before the end of the 3rd stage, doing this unlocks the hidden 4th stage. As well as versing other drivers, a ticking timer at the top is there to keep you on your toes. You can drive badly and climb the ranks but the timer is not as forgiving. This tried-and-tested formula is fantastic, it adds to the addiction of the game because after a good few tries, it becomes about getting a better overall time, rather than beating the CPU, A rallycross game disguised as a Timed Rally game. Genius. The only problem with the championship mode this time around is that it is WAY too forgiving, in old SEGA Rallys you would have to bust a gut just to finish, here it's not quite the same. Ramping the difficulty to 'Arcade' helps but not by much. Let me tell you, SR3 was not this easy. So, it is all about leaderboards then and unforgettably this is another downfall for Championship mode. Many of the top times are hacked (the first 6 or so) this really does put a damper on the title. Here's hoping SEGA remedy this problem.
Aside from the core 'Championship' mode, there are other modes to enjoy. 'Quick Race', 'Time Trial' and one that I really like 'Classic'. This mode is a throwback to the desert course of 1995 just made in an HD model. In terms of car choice you are limited to the Lancia Delta HF Integrale or the Toyota Celica GT-Four, once again this is more of a pleasure than a hindrance. The feeling of Nostalgia you get is fantastic when you combine this course, one of those 2 cars and a remix of 'Conditioned Reflex'. Even if you were new to the game you'd get the sense this course stands out from the others in game.
In terms of the gameplay itself; It's classic SEGA Rally. It's all about finding the right groove going into corners in order to minimize breaking as much as possible. SEGA Rally's all about speed so it's not exactly 'Richard Burns Rally' but it works great and you get that feeling of accomplishment when you nail a tough corner, this adds to the competitive nature of the game because as well as this, SR is horribly nasty when you touch a wall during a corner, it takes away about 20 MPH off your speed which let's your opponents catch up. If you want to be great at this game...you're going to have to be perfect. The physics engine is very weird at first for this game, traditional back end drifting is replaced with full-on sideways craziness. It feels strange at first but becomes second nature very fast.
The Online works fine with a few bugs here and there but all in all adds to the replay value greatly. Voice chat is fantastic.
The music is also well done. All the songs minus the Desert '95 song(which was in SR2006) were present in Revo, so if you played that installment you know what you're in for. Upbeat and loud, rocking the track to the epic Canyon song or enjoying the masterful 'Alpine' Song. It's all good.
The presentation in the menus is, in a word, Awful. Ripped right from Revo, it isn't the most appealing to look at with the postcard motif being pretty off-putting. A shame, really.
Overall, I'd recommend SROA to everybody. It's lure-in Pick-up-and-play style is complimented with an 'easy to pick up but hard to play' measure.