I picked up Sega Rally Revo for the X360 yesterday. It wasn't my initial intention, but after staring blankly at the wall of games in the store and ultimately refusing to buy GTA IV, I decided to go the budget route and try this arcadey off-road racing game instead.
The game's predecessor, Sega Rally, has a bit of a cult following of sorts and the new game promises all of the non-simulation goodness of the original, but with online multiplayer, improved graphics, and an earth-deformation engine that allows the cars to tear up the track with each passing lap.
As someone who has only ever played the more simulation-style of rally games, I came into this experience expecting to get my butt kicked and, sure enough, I did. The learning curve isn't so much of a curve in this game as it is a wall. At least that's how it seems at first. The game eschews all real-world semblances of real rally racing by plopping you and 5 other racers onto a circuit course at some far-flung thematic destination with names like "Safari 1" or "Canyon 2". So you pick your real-world car, your paint job, and jump into the race and if you're like me, you come in last. DFL. And you can't even see the car in 5th place.
But you try again. And again. And before you know it, you're actually in a heated battle for third. And you continue to keep on racing and little by little you begin to stamp down the wall-like difficulty curve and make it something much more scalable. The game is hard, it requires total memorization of the circuits and an ability to avoid the speed-sapping mud bogs and puddles, but the game is fair. If you drive the race line, avoid collisions, and stay out of the trenches, then you'll win. If not, you'll lose.
Like all good arcadey racing games, the structure is both simple, intuitive, and begs you to keep on playing. There are four or five tiers of races. Each tier has three rally championships, each consisting of three races. How you perform in the three races within each of the three rallies determines when you can unlock the next tier.
For example, in order to unlock the second tier, Professional, you need to accrue 60 rally points. Points are awarded based on the position you finish a race in: 10 for 1st place, 8 for 2nd place, 6 for 3rd place, and so on and so on. Each three-race rally therefore has a maximum of 30 points available. The tier has 90 total points. So, in order to unlock the Professional tier you have to keep on racing the championships in Amateur until you've accrued 60 or more points. Cars are unlocked the same way. Only your best point total stands, so trying for that elusive perfect score (three first place finishes) begs you to keep on playing even when you can move on. You also unlock additional liveries (paint jobs) with additional driving. Needless to say there are Achievements awarded for collecting all of the cars and liveries in the game.
I've only spent about two hours or so with the game so far, but really enjoy it. It's challenging, for sure, but it's also quite fun. Sega's ubiquitous plasticky graphics and lighting remind you you're playing an arcade-style game at all times, and there's no doubt the shadows can be a bit harsh sometimes, but it's the perfect pick-up-and-play game and the ability to watch the courses get torn up with each passing car only adds to the fun. If you like racing cars in the mud, but don't enjoy racing the clock in games like Colin McRae Rally, then give this a try.