Sega Rally Online Arcade is as straightforward as its name suggests: an off-road racing game, pure and simple. This is a genre that Sega is very familiar with, and a series that has seen several iterations since its first title, Sega Rally Challenge, was released in 1995. This latest model offers five terrain types, two-player versus local multiplayer, up to six-player versus online multiplayer, and is also compatible with the Xbox Racing Wheel.
Sega Rally has all of the essentials down pat. It is bright, colourful, surprisingly detailed, and generally very pleasant to look at, even at a distance. Lighting is subtle and effective – even while racing I noticed light breaking through trees or over the arc of a bridge – and the environmental effects, particularly the snow and mud that accumulate on your car, add to the excellent presentation.
The driving is simple and very satisfying. If you're looking to get the non-gamer(s) in your life to play with you, Sega Rally might be just be the perfect solution. All it takes is one short race with the game's pick-up-and-play controls for even the most unskilled driver to be cruising around the track like a pro.
Sega Rally offers a healthy amount of content. To be sure, players get the standard online multiplayer racing, but the game also has four different single-player modes, unlockable vehicles and tracks, and best of all, six different two-player local racing modes.
However, while Sega Rally Online Arcade covers all of the fundamentals, it doesn't offer a unique racing experience. Hardcore racers will be turned off by the game's simplistic controls. Indeed, driving in Sega Rally doesn't really require any skill. All I did to win races was put my foot down on the accelerator as hard as I could and steer my car. Braking was rarely required, and there isn’t much strategy involved.
And while I enjoy nostalgia as much as the next guy, the game feels a bit too familiar. If you've played any Sega Rally game before, particularly Sega Rally Revo, you will know exactly what to expect with Sega Rally Online Arcade – it has so many of the exact same elements (cars, tracks, etc.) from other games in the series. The opportunity to upgrade your car, vehicle damage, shortcuts, and even a race course map on the HUD would have helped the game to stand out from its predecessors.
The single-player content in Sega Rally is varied, but brief. Most gamers will finish the single-player component in around 2 to 4 hours, but if you have a friend to play with, local or otherwise, or enjoy racing against strangers, Sega Rally's multiplayer matches will keep you busy for significantly longer than that.
Ultimately, Sega Rally Online Arcade doesn't do anything new for the genre and pales in comparison to some of the more substantial racing games that are currently available. However, there is fun to be had with Sega Rally Online Arcade if you know what you're getting yourself into: it's a family friendly title, and a good starter game if you're looking to indoctrinate one of your kids. And if you're a racing aficionado with a nostalgic bent, it's not a bad way to spend some time.