Last Thursday I went to Sega’s London Headquarters to play a preview of the new Sega Rally game which is soon to come out on most consoles (PS3, XBox 360, PC, PSP and mobile).
Anyone who has been to an arcade in the last 12 years must have seen a pair of SEGA Rally cabinets sitting there… even today they’re a surprisingly common sight. Apparently Sega Rally is Sega’s highest earning arcade machine in Europe – so there are clearly a lot of fans out there to be pleased.
We started off with a small presentation on the series telling us the history of the games, before moving onto the game machines themselves. Something I hadn’t realised before was that there was a version of Sega Rally released in Japan last year. Sega did consider bringing it to western shores but it was decided the game was too much like a simulation and should be rewritten to fit the more arcadey style of the original. So Sega set up a racing studio in England to do just that – and this is what we got to play.
There were some very cool Logitech force feedback steering wheel kits with proper bucket seats. Very swish – unfortunately we didn’t get to try the game with the controllers so can’t comment on how it works with them.
Something they are clearly very proud of is the terrain deformation. In the past games like Motorstorm have cited this as a big part of the game, however they haven’t had persistent deformation that actually affects the gameplay (apparently – I’ve not played Motorstorm so can’t compare). In Sega Rally the cars wheels all have independent suspension, reacting differently to every lump and bump in the road. The wheels churn up the mud creating grooves in the track, and on subsequent laps these can be used to go faster – the compacted earth is harder so has more grip, and the grooves act like train tracks helping to guide your car. A very nice addition and one that means your fastest laps will generally be the last lap of the race.
Along with the deformation there is a very nice mud/ particles system. Driving through the wet mud/ snow/ sand kicks particles into the air which stick to your vehicle. It’s all done in a very realistic manner so the more mud you go through the dirtier you become… drive through a big puddle and some of it will be washed off. Very nice.
I don’t remember how many cars there were but there are a whole stack of licensed vehicles (I chose the Skoda 🙂 ) – along with a couple of cars designed by the dev team (which we didn’t get to see). The are also 6 environments to race through with a number of tracks in each. We got to see 3 of the environments. My bet is that they will be including the original cars and tracks – but we were given no confirmation on this (no denial either!).
The game has the classic Sega look, lots of blue skies and happiness – and yes, the screenshots are real time – I even raced on the tracks shown. Their idea is that the game lets you race through the perfect settings, places you can only dream about racing in, and the beautiful visuals show this off nicely. Again in a classic Sega touch the tracks are packed with incidental details, helicopters filming the action, speedboats, and gliders going and a whole stack of other bits and bobs.
All in all Sega Rally is looking wonderful – and plays pretty darn well too (even if I did get soundly whupped). There’s clearly a vast amount of attention to detail, right down to tread on the tires and visible disk breaking systems, and they are very aware of the fanbase and how fickle they can be. I predict that, come Septembers release, the game will be working very well indeed – and I am looking forward to reviewing the full version.
I should also thank Chris and Mike from Sega for inviting me to view the game – I really enjoyed the morning spent with them. Thanks a lot.