OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
My last experience of playing OutRun was about five years ago after fishing out the old Sega Master System II for a bit of a nostalgic bash on Alex Kidd in Miracle World. After playing the latter, chuffed at the fact that I could still remember the fixed results of the stone, paper, scissor boss challenges, I loaded OutRun 3D and donned the special glasses that came packaged with the game. Without such an item of optical wonder, Outrun '3D' appeared a little blurry, like how the screen looks when you take a peek over your glasses in an IMAX cinema - and to be brutally honest, the game didn't look much different with them on. To believe that what you were seeing through the two lenses, one green and the other red, was 'proper' 3D required a fair degree of imagination and a lot more squinting. The passing of time is such that modern consoles now allow for 'proper 3D' minus ridiculous props, including, thankfully, the latest in the OutRun series - OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast.
The wonderful thing about Coast 2 Coast is that from the off you know where you stand with it. The storyline, if it can be called that is the same as it's always been, consisting only of the friction between boyfriend and girlfriend as they ride together in their sports car. Each girlfriend is keen to tell you that she wants to go 'far, far away' as you race your way through the game's varied stages. And when you crash spectacularly after a few minutes of perfect racing, the first thing she chooses to say to you is 'You're not going to give up now, are you?' Cheers love, I'm risking my life for you here on a wild goose chase to who knows where and you're not at all concerned about my safety or the trouble I'm going to be in with my insurance company.
Coast 2 Coast is essentially two separate games on one disc - OutRun 2 and the arcade game, OutRun SP, each with a couple of solid game modes. The most simple of these is a checkpoint-to-checkpoint romp through each of the game's 30 stages. Your main worry is to get as far as you can, making sure the clock doesn't tick down to zero, with the first couple of stages acting to wean you into the game with traffic in your way being pretty thin on the ground and the road layout pretty undemanding. However, as you progress it becomes clear that flooring your way through the changing landscapes at top speed isn't going to be enough to reach every goal. To overcome some of the tighter bends and more demanding terrain, you must learn to master the game's simple drifting technique (a la Burnout). Some careful brake/gas pedal/button tinkering will see you slip-sliding at a grin-inducing angle, dodging traffic and zooming around successive hairpins and S-bends. There are five stages per level, on each of which you have to finish ahead of your 'rival' whilst also earning an impressive enough grade (preferably AAA), in order to unlock the next stage.
On the other hand, Heart Attack mode relies solely on impressing your girlfriend as you race a rival. The multiplicity of challenges set to you are simple in design but always throw up a worthwhile challenge. The most basic of tasks require you to race from the back to the front of a pack of cars and to retain your position until the Goal line. Your computer controlled opponents, especially those jostling for a rostrum place, are particularly competitive in nature. As a consequence, as the game's difficulty increases you'll have to race remarkably well if you don't want to get beaten. One misjudged corner or an accidental shunt into a pedestrian vehicle is often the difference between winning and a position outside of a chance to get a decent grading. Other challenges set by your demanding and thrill-seeking girlfriend involve passing a certain number of cars, racing between sets of cars, hitting cars or drifting as much as possible - basically lots of stuff to do with cars. Such tasks often only last a matter of 30 seconds or so and your reward for completing them successfully is a flurry of affectionate hearts. The more hearts you earn, the better your eventual grade. It's all very one-dimensional stuff, but it's not at all as shallow as it sounds. In fact, every course whether the an A to B race or one chock full of challenges is pure arcade racing at it's best - your heart will beat hard, your palms will sweat and your brain will physically ache after every short, intense burst of play.
Playing through any stage also earns you Outrun Miles, points which reward your time. These points can then be used in the game's shop to buy more powerful cars (there are around 15 licensed Ferrari motors on offer), as well as a variety of classic Outrun music tracks given a modern twist, all a perfect accompaniment to you as you drive.
Coast 2 Coast isn't ever a game that's going to blow you away in terms of looks. Apart from the occasional bout of slowdown when things get really busy onscreen, everything looks and plays the part. The car models are faithful recreations of their real life counterparts, infinitely shiny and new. There's no realistic damage here, even when your Ferrari somersaults after smashing into a crash barrier, in classic arcade racer/Loony Tunes fashion you'll just shake yourself off and carry on like nothing's happened. The racing locations vary from the country to the city, from mountain sides to deserts and from beaches to canyons. They're each pleasing on the eye as you zoom past at top speed, with plenty of off-track animation and goings on. The transition between stages and weather conditions takes place along a stretch of highway, (presumably to allow the game to load). The best bit about these is the inclusion of distractions such as hot air balloons, flocks of birds or aeroplanes that float past as you ride. It's cheesier than a slice of Stinking Bishop, but it's familiar and heart warming and innocent and brilliant.
If there's any real issue to pick up Coast 2 Coast up on, it's the lack of a 2 player split screen version, however the game can be played online if that's any consolation to you. Nevertheless, its more of a single player experience than it is for multiples of people, and in that sense it works nearly perfectly. Car handling is simple, the frame rate is speedy, but more than anything Coast 2 Coast is fantastic fun to play - a quality that many a game bogged down with FMVs and unnecessary complications neglects. If your love for the OutRun series has ever been in question, Coast 2 Coast will reassure you that it's back and better than ever. Your Ferrarri, the road and an impatient girlfriend beckon, so what are you waiting for?