Genre: Racing Developer: Hertz Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
“The need for speed.” An insatiable thirst that few possess. What is it about driving real fast that those speed demons like so much? Is it finding out just how high they can make that speedometer go? How about the unforgettable feeling of having gallons of adrenaline flowing wildly through their veins? Perhaps they’re frustrated at something about their life and riding like the wind is the only thing they can do to feel like they’ve broken free from those chains that are holding them back?
Seeing that the game lacks a storyline and the fact that we never even see the driver that’s behind the wheel of the car in Outrun 2019, we’re left to guess at the questions proposed in the previous paragraph. But it doesn’t take a sharp eye to see that the featured racer has a severe case of the need for speed.
Five playable stages make up this fun, overlooked racing simulation. Once you choose which one you want to start on, you’re taken to a visually impressive tunnel that is absent of any form of life apart from yourself. It doesn’t take long to catch up to some of the competition, if you can call it that. Basically all you do is race against the clock, trying to make it to the next checkpoint, and eventually the end of the stage, before time runs out. Many of the “enemy” cars look detailed and mean enough with skulls clearly imprinted on their rear windows, but their sole mission in life seems to be to get in your way and slow you down. You’re not racing at all for position.
These aren’t just boring checkpoints that generously throw more time on the clock like you see in such famous racing titles as Pole Position. Each stage has a few forks in the road. Interestingly enough, each fork leads to a totally different environment. For instance, in stage three, take a left at the first fork and you’ll wind up having to make your way through icy roads with realistic-looking mountains standing tall in the background. Take a right instead and you’ll come up on hazy backgrounds with leafless trees that look to be victims of a forest fire as you cruise through acres of farm lands with neatly planted rows of crops on either side of you. I like that about Outrun 2019.
That’s not all that I like about Outrun 2019. Since this is set in the year 2019 , your car is equipped with something that makes it futuristic (for the time). At all times there is a blue flame spinning around slowly on the back of your racecar. Once the gauge at the bottom of the screen lights up completely, it begins to turn white. This is when you’ll be formally introduced to the turbo mode that gives your car an extra boost of speed, allowing you to travel up to a maximum of 682 MPH. And it’s also when the only cool sound will be heard. You’ll be flying by opponents and environments so fast that it seems like they’re standing still. I want to remain in this awesome turbo mode forever (or for at least fifteen seconds) as it gives me a great sense of speed, but enemy cars are too numerous in most parts of this world and winding turns seemingly come my way every few feet. I have no choice but to slow down. Grrrrrr.
The classic turbo boost and the gorgeous graphics are, without a doubt, the best things about Outrun 2019. From there, things take a turn in the wrong direction. For one, I’ll admit that the car looks pretty slick, but no vehicle is immune to being damaged. Except this one! Anytime you run slap into another car, you’ll hear a very low “thump” and it’ll simply spin once in 360º and keep going. Even more confusing is how the car will flip upside down and crash after hitting a short palm tree that looks about as strong as a weak bush would be, but yet you can plow right through a few streetlights or billboard signs in a row and not even come close to wrecking. Try this: When you see a ramp approaching, aim to hit it. You’ll become airborne and glide through the air with an eagle’s grace for a few seconds. But unlike an eagle, you can glide right through several full-grown trees unscarred and still manage to land perfectly on the ground and maintain the same velocity. How’s that for realism!!?
There are some fairly memorable touches that you’ll notice while playing Outrun 2019, such as driving over 500 MPH through a twisting set of ancient poles or speeding along underneath an overpass and then suddenly hitting a ramp and landing right on the overpass, making it your new road. But those nice changes from the ordinary are few and far between. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’ll simply be racing on the basic 3-lane roads that are full of sharp curves, straight stretches, and other cars. At least everything is a cinch to pull off with the simplistic and responsible controls. Your biggest danger is falling off bridges, since it takes a few seconds to be placed back onto the highway and to build your speed back up. Nothing’s really that dangerous though; your car isn’t even prone to obtaining the slightest scratch. But time can end your game.
Outrun 2019 is actually a very entertaining game to play – for about twenty to thirty minutes. That’s how long it takes to beat the whole thing since no one stage, even with all the fierce turns and different routes to choose from, will take any longer than eight minutes to complete. Only one of the music tracks is what I would call decent. I love playing fast games that have upbeat music that adds to the atmosphere of driving at blinding speeds with no regard for safety. The music you’ll hear in this one is upbeat, but none of it will burrow into your soul and leave a lasting impression that you’ll remember for more than a few minutes after turning the game off. Outrun 2019′ s underwhelming tunes just seem to drone on endlessly without being even slightly catchy, which almost compels me to turn down the volume.
Surprisingly, the deadbeat sounds, yucky music, and even the questionable mechanics take a backseat to the game’s real problem. There just should’ve been more. More tracks, more variety, and most of all, more gameplay options! This is a racing game, so why is there not even two-player capability?!
But through all the highs and lows, Outrun 2019 never ceases to be a lot of fun if you can overlook how shallow it is. I catch myself coming back to it far more than I expected to, because it’s really fun to play and I enjoy exploring all the forks in the road, just to see the different environments and background graphics. If you play games by yourself frequently and you just happen to be looking for a mildly engaging racing title to add to your collection, go ahead and hunt down Outrun 2019. Just don’t expect it to entertain you for hours on end or for it to be jam-packed with interesting options or originality.
SCORE: 5 out of 10