Review: Sega Rally Revo

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Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega Racing Studio
Release Date: 10/9/07
Genre: Racing
Players: 1-6

As you may have noticed over the past few months, I’ve been looking forward to Sega Rally Revo with a passion. Racing games usually don’t get me bursting with anticipation, but something about Revo has had my eye from word one of its development. Thankfully, the game did not let me down one bit. After a few weeks spent barreling through lush jungles, dusty plains and frigid snow fields, I’m here to help spread the word about how incredible this game is.

Sega Rally Revo is an audiovisual tour de force, let’s just get that out of the way first. For most racers, the cars are the stars, but even though the 30 some odd cars available in Revo look amazing (although there’s absolutely no damage modeling), it’s the tracks that are the stars here. Five main environments host the game’s 20-plus tracks, including Safari, Alpine, Canyon, Arctic and Tropical locales (plus a bonus Lakeside track unlocked later in the game), each showcasing a diverse range of graphical and aural effects and background ambiance that’ll absolutely blow you away, such as waterfalls cascading in the distance, animals grazing alongside the track or jets soaring overhead.

The revolutionary GeoDeformation track deformation technology that’s running under Revo’s hood takes center stage, causing terrain to realistically chew up and deteriorate in real time underneath the churning wheels of each vehicle on the track. From mud caking up on cars (and washing off after splashing through puddles of water) to sprays of dirt, gravel, snow and water kicking up as racers speed by, I don’t think I’ve ever seen particle effects look as photo-realistic as what the Sega Racing Studio team has been able to pull off in Revo. Incredible audio effects compliment the deforming tracks too, with each terrain type generating the appropriate sound – if you close your eyes, you can still tell what surface you’re driving on just by listening. That may sound like a simple element to praise, but it’s the attention to small details like this that make Revo such a joy to the senses. The liberal application of vibrant colors to every piece of geometry sure gives the game an unbelievably unique and eye-catching sense of style too.

Although the effects look amazing, the track deformation is more than just a graphical showpiece, it’s also a major component to the gameplay. As cars drive by, the terrain erodes under their tires to different effect based on the surface type, and as such it’s important to adjust your racing style with each lap based on how the course changes. When racing in a snow environment, for example, it becomes important to stick to paths that have been cleared so your tires get better grip with the solid ground underneath, as drifting offline onto parts of the road still covered in snow will leave you trudging along. Keep an eye out for ever-changing water hazards too, as puddles grow in size as fresh tire tracks shred through them. Making things all the more interesting, each track has a realistic flow of changing surface types, with each surface presenting its own set of grip and maneuverability properties. Therefore you must be aware of the terrain at all times and adjust your racing style accordingly. Because of this, controller rumble proves vital to the experience since it helps you get a tactile feel of the driving surface. Thusly, I’d give a slight edge to the 360 version until the DualShock 3 comes along (other than the force feedback and Achievements, the PS3 version is the same, just so you know).

Compounding the quality of the track designs, Revo’s core racing model is sublime. Coming into the game after playing more realistic racers like Forza 2 and DiRT does require a short acclimation process, as the car handling and physics are far more loose and arcade-like in style, but once you adapt you’ll be churning up dirt and drifting around tight hairpin turns with a huge smile on your face. Races have a breakneck pacing and a close-quarters type of intensity to them, instilling this heart-pounding sense of speed and paranoia into your psyche that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. My only gripe with the gameplay is the AI design. Most of the time the opposing drivers put up a tough, fair fight, but during the later races the difficulty ratchets up substantially and the AI racers follow the racing line through the track perfectly. And since you are always starting at the rear of the pack, if you so much as sputter off of the starting line it becomes damn near impossible to catch up with the leader no matter what you do — it’s supremely frustrating!

As far as mode selection is concerned, Revo has plenty to offer. Basic modes like Quick Race and Time Attack are on hand, but the single-player Championship and Multiplayer modes are where you’ll spend the majority of your off-roading hours. The Championship mode is a fairly straightforward series of races broken into three leagues based on car classification, including Premier, Modified and Masters. Within each league there are various racing events to complete, with points awarded per race based on your finishing position. As you wrack up points, new cars, tracks and more difficult events unlock until you reach the final championship in the Masters league. All in all, it takes a good seven hours or so just to clear, but that’s not including time spent earning 100% completion in every series and using all the different cars to unlock their bonus paint liveries.

Once you’ve finished up with the Championship, the multiplayer mode will keep you coming back for more. Both versions support two-player split-screen for head-to-head racing offline and online play for up to six players. The online feature set is quite basic, containing the standard suite of player and ranked match types, quick, custom and host matchmaking options and leaderboards, but the simple thrill of online competition is so strong here that a whole bunch of bells and whistles wasn’t needed. The close-quarters style of racing carries over to the online world beautifully, making for one off-road battle after another. Online play is smooth and lag-free too, at least from my time with the game.

Sega Rally Revo has blown me away with its phenomenal track deformation technology, impeccable visuals and fast, frenetic and challenging gameplay. It’s unfortunate that the difficulty becomes so unforgiving and aggravating for its own good at times, but thankfully not enough so to discourage you from trying again and again to succeed, at which point you’ll come away with a greater sense of satisfaction when you finally do. If you can put up with some overly perfect opponent AI and occasional bouts of hair-pulling, controller-smashing difficulty, you won’t find a more exhilarating, technically-impressive racing game on the PS3 or Xbox 360 than Sega Rally Revo. Between this and Codemasters’ DiRT, the competition for racing game of the year is going to be a down-to-the-wire finish, that’s for sure…

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!