I’ve always known that Sumo’s Xbox port was a labour of love. It just has that feel about it. This was confirmed a few months back, however, when I stumbled on this interview published by Rock, Paper, Shotgun. It’s well worth a read. Due to the way AM2 constructed the tracks, something as simple as creating a reverse track was a MASSIVE undertaking.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The good news for Sumo was that the arcade was running on arcade hardware that was based on the original Xbox hardware. The bad news, however, was that they had to squeeze the arcade’s 512mb of game into the original Xbox’s 64mb of ram, and somehow turn an experience that lasts for (literally) 5 minutes into a fully fledged full-price home title. The result was one of the best arcade ports seen on any system ever.
On a technical level, its nigh-on perfect. The only noticeable sacrifice is the removal of some of the animations that were present at each track’s crossroads (and even then they managed to sneak them back in for the sequel, Outrun 2006!) On top of that, they managed to include those difficult reverse tracks, build in some online play (which sounds quite difficult considering the way tracks have to be loaded/dropped from RAM) and, just to add a cherry on top, they shoved in an emulated version of the original Outrun and some bonus tracks borrowed from well-loved coin-ops ‘Scud Racer’ and ‘Daytona 2.’ Proof – if any were needed – that there is clearly a LOT of love in this port.
But the real beauty of the Xbox Outrun 2 lies in the structure of the single player game. Without constructing any extra tracks of their own, Sumo had effectively 15 minutes of game play to build a deep and meaningful single player game. As good as the original Outrun 2 arcade was, a poorly constructed single player could have smothered the entire experience via relentless repetition.
Fortunately, the single player works spectacularly well. Based loosely on the tasks featured in the arcade’s “heart attack” mode, the main single player features 101 mission-based stages spread across the games 15 tracks. Starting out with simple tasks such as drifting for a set amount of time, the missions feed off the general laid-back tone of the game and build into something a lot more complicated and ridiculous, such as having to remember the precise order that some bizarre floating fruit appears in as you race towards the end of the track.
On top of that, Xbox Outrun 2 was generous with its unlockables. Potentially, having to unlock everything from new music down to individual car colours could have been off-putting. But because the player can unlock so much so quickly, and because so much of the content is worth unlocking (who could resist the classic Outrun tunes as remixed by Richard Jacques?) it never feels like a chore at all. Best of all, a number of the missions actually feel like training drills that will make you better at the normal Outrun modes. It really is clever stuff, the perfect expansion on top of the perfect arcade game.