If some elements of the press are to be believed, Outrun 2 is the second coming. These most likely are the people that played the original way back when, or those that wish they'd played the original just so they could be cool as well. I'm here to tell you that Outrun 2 isn't the second coming and yes, I did play the original, in the arcades, quite a lot.
You don't need to know anything about Outrun to enjoy Outrun 2 as they really couldn't be any further apart. They have Ferraris: that's the similarity. And the music makes a reappearance, sounding incredibly dated but wonderfully nostalgic at the same time. Of course, that'll be lost on most gamers who buy this Xbox version, and as a result only caters for the hardcore old-skool crowd.
Oh, there is one obvious thing I must discuss, the nature of the racing - point to point, rather than laps on a track. Just like in the original Outrun, at the end of each point you'll reach a fork wherein you can choose your route to the finish, left for easy, right for hard. It works just as well as in Outrun and if you just fancy a quick blast at the game you can easily get to the finish on easy all the way through. Hard will prove a lot more difficult and when you master that you'll be ready to take on all challengers.
Anyway, enough of that. Let's talk about Outrun 2 here. I'm not a graphics oriented person at all and you'll probably notice in my reviews that I usually mention graphics in passing, but Outrun 2 on the Xbox looks almost identical to the Arcade version. That doesn't sound too spectacular until you actually see the arcade version and when I say that these are the best graphics on any racer ever, I mean it. Unlike so many other arcade style racers with great graphics, F-Zero GX from Sega for example, you won't find yourself distracted by onscreen track clutter either. If you do lose yourself in the graphics the onscreen signalling system will quickly bring you back down to earth and keep you on track, literally. Outrun 2 has the brilliant equilibrium of fantastic graphics and a clear racing area. Well done Sega.
So, the graphics have a direct knock on to how the game plays then? In a word: yes. And speaking of how Outrun 2 handles, it handles well. As well as Ridge Racer or Daytona or any other arcade racer. Power-sliding is actively encouraged at every opportunity and when you get this nailed you'll be singing, actively sliding around every harsh and not so harsh bend. A quick stab of break and then careful control of the front end will see you through. It does seem a little tricky at first because of how sensitive the procedure is, but in the end this will just aid you in taking those bends that little bit tighter to get to the end that little bit faster.
Of course, you'll still have to watch out for the traffic on the roads, which comes dangerously close to ruining your enjoyment of the game. Everyone on the road drives like a Sunday driver. A Sunday driver hammering at about 100mph that is. How is this the case? Well they're perfectly happy to take their people carrier to engine destroying speeds, but when you try and pass them, on a four lane road, they'll throw on the breaks and swerve like they've become possessed. And when you're power-sliding, it's almost inevitable that someone will drop their speed so that you'll smash straight into them. This is incredibly frustrating and you'll often be asking why anyone would drive that way? It's pure madness. Sega encourage you to drive like a psycho, only to punish you to for doing so at every turn.
Outrun 2 is very short. There are multiple modes including quite a large challenge mode, but the main game is very short and that's what you'll want to play the most. It's a game designed for the arcade at 50 pence a go: It's about quick short bursts of adrenaline and that's how you must treat Outrun 2. The point to point nature of the game isn't suited to time trialling either and as a result the strongest area of most racers might as not be present. Challenge mode can be quite enjoyable and there are a lot of ranked challenges to complete, meaning that if you fancy clocking this mode you'll need A++ on every challenge, which will take an age. And of course the mode unlocks fancy new cars and music as well providing an incentive to what is in effect a very mundane mode, repetitively completing the same challenges on different points of the course.
However, longevity can be greatly enhanced - to a degree - if you subscribe to Xbox Live. The graphics are reduced slightly but the game still runs along at a brilliant pace and there is enjoyment to be had. Unfortunately, Outrun 2 is the worst Live experience I've been put through. There is infinite lag. Cars will powerslide through you every odd race, you'll simply crash at random, and you'll be robbed of winning as someone appears in front of you. I play on a good connection and the requirements for Live in the UK are quite high; there really is no excuse for such a painful experience. There have also been 'death matches'. Absolutely unforgivably, this is when the connection or the host, or something just dies. The sky goes purple, everything fades into a bright light and the scenery melts and eventually your car won't move. You're just left there revving as everyone starts to cry over the headset. Not a pleasant experience. Outrun 2 should be brilliant online, unfortunately it is simply a game of hit and miss as to whether you'll play a deathmatch or a lagmatch. I'd say that only 1 in 3 games are free of major lag and racing games are unplayable with lag.
Outrun 2 is a good game, it's just very short and let down by poor AI, and what should have been its saving grace, in online play, is actually more of a test of patience. While it lasts the experience is great and if you must own the game, this conversion is very good.