Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Realism is overrated. So many games strive to be realistic and claiming so is an exhausted marketing cliché. Arcades have decayed into an out of fashion commodity, where once an experience unseen in home consoles and arcade-quality graphics were a common marketing mantra. Since 3D graphics we’ve been able experience racing, flying, sports and battlefields almost for real almost leaving side-scrolling beat-em-ups and platformers passé.
Where other racing games strived for realism, Outrun retains its arcade-game play 21 years after it was first released. Its simple premise reinvented the concept of a driving game, where racing other cars was ditched in favour of just, well, driving. You simply cruise through a course laid out like a pool triangle, by starting in one place and finishing in a possible five, choosing on intervals to take the easier left route or the more fiendish right route whilst beating the timer. 2004’s Outrun 2 added a Heart Attack mode, where it wasn’t just about beating the timer but racking up points by fulfilling your girlfriends requests by pulling off various tricks, from passing through convoys and knocking over cones to dodging meteors and hitting ghosts.
Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast builds on Outrun 2, and despite its similarities it adds the Coast 2 Coast mode, where you must complete a series of tasks for either the flagman or a girlfriend of choice. Both include plenty of addiction and require an average ‘A’ grade to unlock their next stage, (‘E’ being the lowest, and ‘AAA’ the highest). The flagman’s courses comprise of a series of races and occasionally doing more drifts than a rival in a linear set route. The girlfriend section is similar to the Heart Attack mode where you must pull stunts, but it’s more than just getting from start to finish. Different girlfriends request different stunts; such as how well you can deal with traffic and obstacles, hitting them or avoiding them; what tricks you can pull with your car or even solving puzzles, such as memorising a sequence presented to you on track and having to choose the right one later! An average ‘A’ grade must be earned by mastering every part of the course, including the Special Request sections to pass.
Where games advertise realism and turn out to be pure boredom, Outrun 2006 makes no secret of its anti-establishment stance to the majority of today’s racing games. This is about whizzing through courses and drifting the car as much as possible. Those cars in front of you aren’t just about dodging; even points can be earned by slipstreaming on their tail. You can’t even turn the car around even if you try, and if the car hits a wall it’s probably gonna do a 180 back flip. I have no idea why, it’s completely bonkers, although they frustratingly have an increased tendency to backflip the nearer you are to the finish.
Although Outrun 2006 can only be fun for so long, the Coast 2 Coast mode does help mitigate the inevitable lack of depth of an arcade game. Completing challenges for a girlfriend is quite challenging and an addictive experience. Indeed, you’ve been there, nailed that corner, nailed that…yeh right, but the world won’t spin again until you have got that ‘AAA’ grade needed to pass. Where arcade games can lack depth, the one-more-go element truly prevails. Outrun also makes nice use of a credit system, that rewards you even for just going for a casual cruise. These can be traded for better cars, retro versions and remixes of the background music and course variations.
Outrun 2006 is as casual or hardcore arcade as you want it, an experience you probably don’t get so often on the PC. The visuals are fairly low-tech, as graphical shortcuts made in the console-version such as washed out backdrops and textures emerge when playing in high-resolutions. However these are minor ailments to a breezy, colourful experience that overall look beautiful in high-res. The music is incredibly relaxing, especially the Passing Breeze track which is pure bliss. Fast, brainless, bonkers arcade driving doesn’t hit this platform everyday, and although the online mode is defunct, the XBLA version is the one to get for that, Outrun 2006 is a snap. For a fiver, it would simply be rude not to get this.