Once again in the hands of the supremely capable Sumo Digital, OutRun Online Arcade is essentially a home port of the OutRun 2 SP arcade machine. Whereas previous home console and PSP title OutRun Coast 2 Coast featured a whole heap of additional content and all the courses from OutRun 2 and SP, this is very much what you might expect to get for 800 MS Points. The core arcade mode is here alongside a capable six-player online offering, but that's more or less your lot. While we were initially disappointed by the missing modes we loved from C2C, it didn't take long to get sucked back in by the game's sublime arcade handling model.
The big gameplay addition to SP over the original OutRun 2 arcade machine is slipstreaming. By tailing opponents or other traffic you gain extra speed, propelling your car past your rivals. Other than this things are more or less as you they were in the original. Cars are still able to powerslide around corners as if attached to the circuit Scaelectrix-style, the physics are bordering on laughable as collisions have all the believability of a 16-bit racer and the sense of speed is incredible.
In terms of game modes you get the classic OutRun mode, Heart Attack mode and Time Attack. OutRun is simply a race through the branching course (15 sections in total, although you'll only ever see five of them in any one run), competing against the clock in order to reach a checkpoint and add enough seconds to the bank in order to get to the next - all while scoring points by driving with style, slipstreaming and avoiding other cars. It's old-school arcade racing and something many gamers won't be used to. You can be an inch away from the finish line, but if the clock runs out of time it's Game Over. Heart Attack sees your girlfriend demanding you perform certain tasks (such as overtaking cars, sliding and avoiding collisions), whereas Time Attack is simply you on the track against ghost cars. Thankfully the entire car roster is unlocked from the get go, with a few faster tuned vehicles on offer in the Time Attack and multiplayer game modes. Finally there are continuous variations of OutRun and Time Attack, which put the 15 courses in one extended sequence.
OutRun 2 has always looked great, with its glorious use of colour and wondrous blue skies, and for the most part this has been carried over from the arcade to the home very well. It certainly doesn't look up to par with modern racers (remember, Sumo got the game running admirably on the PSP a few years back), but the 720p visuals are sharp, giving the game a real arcade appearance that was missing in the Xbox and PS2 versions. What isn't so great is the slowdown that we experienced during periods of heavy traffic and other seemingly random moments. This was particularly noticeable when playing Heart Attack mode and being asked to overtake as many cars as possible. The shift down in frame rate from silky smooth to bordering unplayable is surprising and extremely disappointing. It's not game breaking by any means, but should have been ironed out given the power of current consoles.
OutRun's soundtrack is widely regarded as one of the best ever and the tunes here live up to the past games. Sadly, while the standard set (Magical Sound Shower, Splash Wave, Shiny World and all the rest) is great, you don't get any of the tracks from the 80s, nor the Euro remixes that were in C2C. It's a shame these weren't included, but there's still a collection of tunes that you'll be humming and whistling for months.
Multiplayer is also something of a missed opportunity. During a morning session lasting a few hours we suffered from far too many lag-infested games and there's no option for ranked games - something of an odd omission given that it's a feature in every Xbox LIVE title we can think of. When it works the six-player races are great fun, and there are numerous set-up options for the host to tweak, such as collisions (on or off), catch-up (on or off) and car class (normal or tuned). There are also online leaderboards for each of the game modes (split into each of the five goals and for tuned and normal cars). It's a decent package, but feels a little basic for a game with 'Online' in its title.
OutRun Online Arcade is unbelievably fun once you settle in to the drift-focussed arcade racing, and at 800 MS Points/£7.99 it feels like good value for money, but it's not the perfect version of the game we hoped it would be. Visually the frame rate issues are a big disappointment and the online functionality seems basic.