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Developed and published by Sega in 1986
Route A: 0:00
Route B: 6:25
Route C: 12:35
Route D: 18:52
Route E: 25:03
Does this game even need an introduction?
When I complete a longplay video, I always try and write up a review about my experience with the game: the good, bad and anything in between. All of this seems somewhat pointless when it comes to the original arcade version of OutRun because you all know it's fantastic and is one of the greatest driving games ever made.
That last sentence is more relevant than you might think. When marketing the game, Yu Suzuki described OutRun not as a racing game, but as a driving game instead. Having played the game, you start to understand what he meant by this.
OutRun is a point-to-point race across the continent against the clock. The game takes you on a road-trip across five different stages in order to reach the end goal. You initially have seventy-five seconds to reach the checkpoint at the end of the stage, at which point your remaining time will be extended by a set amount, allowing you to continue playing; fail to make the next checkpoint before your time runs out and it's game over.
Setting the game on public roads rather than a race track means that there's plenty of traffic to avoid. Colliding with another car will result in you losing control of your car, as well as losing precious seconds from the already tight time limit. Worse still, hitting a roadside obstacle will cause you to crash, hurling your car into the air and catapulting your driver and passenger out in the process...these people have obviously never heard of seatbelts!
The game is famous for being non-linear in that it allows the player to choose which route to take to the finish line. The road forks at the end of the stage, allowing the player to choose which route to take to the finish line, which adds replay value to the game. Some stages are more challenging than others thanks to narrower roads, or more road-side obstacles, so players are likely to have their own preferred route to the finish line.
The game features absolutely phenomenal graphics for the time and displays them at a flawless 60 Hz refresh rate. This was made possible thanks to Sega's second generation Super Scalar technology and powerful hardware (2 x Motorola 6800 CPUs clocked at 12.5 MHz each). The only problem is that none of the home conversions really came anywhere close to recreating the arcade experience at home, although the Mega Drive version is probably the best of these. It wasn't until a version arrived for the Sega Saturn that you could play a 100% accurate version of the arcade game in the comfort of your own home.
For once, the music is equally as memorable as the graphics. The game features three separate music tracks that the player can select before starting the race, and they're all brilliant (my favourite being Magical Sound Shower). The audio is remarkably crisp and clear and features plenty of high quality, digital instrument samples. In fact, so great was the music that I remember the C64 home version coming bundled with a cassette tape that had the original arcade soundtrack on it!
The game was available as a traditional upright cabinet, as well as the deluxe sit-down versions that featured a moving cabin, force-feedback steering wheel and big colour screen. This would have been the centre-piece in any arcade and Sega was sparing no expense in proving their dominance in the gaming arena during the 1980's.
Of course, graphics and sound are nothing if the game isn't any fun to play. Fortunately, it's one of the best racing experiences out there and also one of the toughest. You'll need sharp reflexes and a good memory to dodge the traffic whilst staying on the track; it's all too easy to get distracted and end up a smouldering wreck at the side of the road. On occasion there can be traffic blocking all the lanes, so you really need to pick your moment as to when to overtake.
If I have have one issue with the game then it's the inconsistency in how the car handles when taking corners. Some corners can be taken at full speed, whilst others will see you skidding off the road despite the sharpness/curvature of the road being exactly the same. Dealing with this in a circuit racer is easier because it takes less time to memorise a specific track, whereas trying to remember all the twists and turns in a non-linear race whilst dodging traffic is much more difficult.
At the end of the day, this is a minor issue and OutRun continues to be a fantastic racing game that is still worth taking the time to play.
So, start the engine, turn up the stereo and enjoy one of the finest driving games ever made.