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OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

As pure an arcade racing experience as it was back in the '80s - it's about time for some PC fun

Right, I've just paused OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast halfway around the final corner of the Casino Town track because I've come to a decision. The PC needs more arcade games. Simple, fun, pick-up-and-play games. Consoles can't mimic PCs, but by god, the PC market should revel in the fact that it can do console games and it can do them better than the consoles can. OutRun 2006 is a proof of concept.

I say proof of concept because it rarely occurs that you'd actually rather play a game like OutRun 2006 on your PC. It's fundamentally damned to be the incorrect medium for such a game unless you've got a decent pad and the necessary bits to connect your PC to a high-def TV or projector (and a nice big couch).

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Think about it though: if you've got that magical set-up as described, you'll be playing OutRun 2006 at 720p and a solid 60fps, far better than anything you'd get with the console version of the game - and that will impress people, making you more popular and better-looking. Toning down the crazed fantasies of multimedia social PC hubs in the living room though, console games can be done well on PC without needing to remortgage your house for an epic TV.

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However, despite being an excellent conversion, OutRun 2006 is not an overly spectacular game in itself, being the delayed PC version of the expanded version of the original OutRun2 on Xbox. It can be summarised in a few sentences - drive your Ferrari as fast as possible along a big, one way road winding left and right and rolling up and down, avoiding traffic, rarely taking your foot off the accelerator and basically trying to keep your speed as high as possible for as long as possible. Tight corners must be conquered by drifting, which gradually lowers your speed but allows you to take corners swiftly, tightly, efficiently and with a pervading sense of coolness. Once you reach the end of a stage, you must choose to race an easier stage or a harder stage by turning left or right. This happens four times, and creates the characteristic 15-stage pyramid layout fans of the series know so well.

The branching track design is a trait of the seamless and effortless kind of racing Sega have always advocated, and it's a trait that's apparent in every aspect of OutRun 2006. You could argue that the game hides behind its arcade fundamentals and purist ideals, and you could point out that it feels like you're actually controlling the camera and that the car just happens to be stuck to it, and you'd be right. It's as good an argument as scoffing at the way crashing into a wall at 300kmph results in your car flipping through the air and landing back on its wheels to continue on unscathed though - because that's just the kind of game this is.

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OutRun 2006's fantastic arcade style is above criticism because it does what the series has always done and it does it extremely well. You go fast and you skid around corners to impress your girlfriend, the challenge is doing it faster and faster.

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The game's shortcomings are there though: the fact that this is, at its heart, a console game. Plus the fact that the developers haven't written any code to deal with the eventuality that your car will hit something, instead allowing it to get stuck on the backs of trucks and vibrate rapidly, threatening the laws of physics until you break free of your vehicular prison. We also have to mention the nasty new versions of the original songs which seem to have been performed by some hysterical woman Sega found dancing outside a petrol station at 2am. These are just cracks on the surface though - at its core, OutRun 2006 is as pure an arcade racing experience as it was back in the '80s.

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