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Platform: PS3, XBox 360, and PC
Let's get the tough stuff out of the way. Would the absence of any or all of the following in an off-road racing game instantly put you off, no matter how attractive or entertaining the game might otherwise be:
Realistic car damage; accurate vehicle handling; real-world rally competitions and stages; car setup and mid-championship maintenance; a proper in-car cockpit view; alternate routes; the ability to drift off-track for more than a few metres; the full range of licensed cars, drivers and passengers from the WRC.
If the answer is yes, forget Sega Rally - it's only going to annoy you. If you found Colin McRae: DiRT's dismissal of 'proper' rally racing in favour of a range of competitive off-road events disappointing, then Sega Rally is going to make you grind your teeth with rage. At least DiRT's events were grounded in reality. As the title suggests, this is the original rally racer returning to its roots, and those roots are arcade through and through. It's telling that the title it's closest to in spirit isn't DiRT or even Sony's Motorstorm, but Namco's Ridge Racers 6 and 7.
Like the last two Ridge Racers, it's a deliberate attempt to shake off the baggage that the racing genre has accumulated over the last ten years or so and return to the fundamentals of high-speed competition, aggressive, gutsy driving and lavish trackside spectacle that used to have us queuing up in the arcades. And just as Ridge Racer 6 showed that Namco had stopped trying to out-do Gran Turismo and rediscovered the joys of the old house style, so Sega Rally is based in a real understanding of the visual appeal of Sega's classic racers.
Based in the UK, Sega Racing Studios has managed to update Sega Rally without losing any of its old charms. It has bright, blue skies, lush green jungles, and safari stages with elephants in the background. It has dazzling waterfalls, crisp alpine scenery and show-off fly-bys by helicopters, gliders and aerobatic teams. It has glorious plunges through mud-soaked river beds, but also glorious climbs out of flower-strewn mountain valleys. If other off-road racers have spent the last few years trying to capture reality, Sega Rally makes a convincing argument that reality is over-rated, and that you can dish out a lot more eye-candy if you simply take elements from the real world then put them together as you see fit. That way you don't just get tracks that are full of lovely turns, tricky surfaces and challenging corners, you also get all the most spectacular bits of your chosen environments without any of the duff stuff in-between.
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