It may be close to 30 but OutRun still holds its own. We look back at one of the arcades big hits and implore you to seek it out before its gone forever.
It may come as a surprise that OutRun is nearly 30 years old and whilst that is the equivalent of millennia in gaming terms it still plays brilliantly today. Let me explain why.
Sega turned the arcade and gaming world on its head in 1986 when it released the fantastic looking OutRun in arcades all over the world. OutRun literally blew everything that was out at the time and before away and re-wrote the rule book on what makes a great racing game, well erm, great.
Not only were it graphics super slick and featured a huge amount of sprite scaling with a fantastic feeling of speed as you drove your Ferrari Testarossa convertible with your girl in the passenger cross country in a race to beat the clock to the finish line.
Everything about this game was done right, the car, handling (using the brake is recommended) music and the super slick presentation with palm trees galore will make anyone who plays feel like they are living in some tropical wonderland and if you were playing it in some rain drenched seaside arcade you could forget for the duration of the game that you've traded in some pebble strewn, wind-swept beach for some colourful, bright hi-octane action.
So what made it special? It all starts with the wave crashing attract mode start-up sounds that draw you in like a moth to light.
As soon as you put your money in the slot you got to do something that no other game had done before. You got to choose the music from three unforgettable and for gamers of a certain age timeless classic songs including Magical Sound Shower, Splash Wave and Passing Breeze. These songs showcased the custom boards sound chip and were a mix of calypso and euro-disco which along with the car were very 80’s. This immediate choice before you even put pedal to metal is not the only thing that let you decide how you wanted to play the game.
Controls are simple and effective with an accelerator and a brake pedal, steering wheel and gear shifter with a choice of Low and High to get you to your top speed of just over 180 MPH.
Once the starting flag drops to signal the start you’re on a mission to get to the next checkpoint before the timer runs out. You’re not on your own on the roads that start off wide and fairly easy. There are other cars and trucks on the road that are there to get in your way and generally sap at the speed of your car and knock precious seconds off your time. Another thing this game does well is crashes with your car flipping and tipping both you and your female passenger out, have more than two of these on a section and you can kiss goodbye to the next checkpoint.
OutRun epitomises freedom in quite a few ways and it’s not only the music you get to choose. As you get to the end of a level the road suddenly splits and you can either go left, for an easier time or right for a more challenging route. These choices lead to five different endings and a route of 14 courses (everyone starts on the first course) each course has its own unique scenery and pitfalls that await you and your 80’s supercar as you zip along in the superb sprite scaled version of the world that Sega made so much fun.
Now, finding this game in its original form is going to be challenging because of its age. However if you are lucky this summer whilst traipsing past a small seaside arcade and happen upon one, play it as you won’t regret it.
If you are looking for a home version the best one is on the Sega Saturn which is pretty much arcade perfect and is available on Sega Ages Volume one alongside AM2’s other seminal classics, space Harrier and Afterburner. Honourable mentions also go to the Sega Megadrive (which was based on Sega’s System 16 arcade board which ran OutRun) and NEC’s PC Engine which also wins on the best handheld version on the PC Engine LT and GT Handheld versions of the PC Engine.
There was a remix version released on the Playstation 2 where everything was redone with polygons but this detracted from the vibe of the original, possibly die to licensing issues with Ferrari which they incidentally got with the fantastic sequel OutRun 2 which is worthy of its own article too.
Here's the game in action.