It was only a matter of time before I would review this little classic courtesy of Yu Suzuki, the man behind the likes of After Burner, Space Harrier, Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA and, of course, the Shenmue series.
God I love this guy.
He was also behind Hang-On which was released a year prior to Out Run and, although both games were unique in their own way, the latter is basically an enhanced version of the former. With cars instead of bikes, of course.
According to Suzuki, Out Run isn’t a racing game, it’s a driving game. An interesting distinction to make but a valid one. I was lucky enough to discover the game in a French arcade as a kid and play it there constantly long after its initial release. I mean, let’s be honest: I was kinda young in 1985.
In fact: I was sperm.
Putting bodily fluids aside for a minute, long story short: I discovered the game on its best format and fell in love with it instantly exactly because it wasn’t just another racing game but was something else entirely.
Hang-On really felt like a racing game (despite your competitors not really being all that important) and, thanks partly to its fantastically stressful score, was a genuinely intense experience. There was an urgency to what you were doing. With Out Run, things are much more chilled-out. Yes you’re driving your Ferrari Testarossa at break-neck speed down really busy roads, risking certain death at every turn, but you’ve got some breezy tunes to listen to:
And some nice locations to look at:
Out Run has always had a sort of holiday feel to it. That said, being the sinister, miserable, Scrooge-like retro gamer that I am, I have a much darker take on the whole thing.
Remember the movie Death Race 2000? About these people racing each other to the death and running over passers-by in order to gain points? Well, I picture the world of Out Run a bit like that: a post-apocalyptic universe where people are forced to drive dangerously from one side of the globe to the other with only one goal: survival.
Then again, it could all just be one dude and one gal going off on a really unsafe vehicular adventure just for the hell of it. Making this more of a Wild At Heart/True Romance type of deal.
Unlike me, Yu Suzuki keeps things simple and upbeat: the goal of the game is, indeed, to reach various checkpoints which extend your time and get to the end of the levels without going off-road and running out of time. Like Hang-On but with more people on the road. And a more interactive set-up.
The map is designed like so:
Giving you the freedom to choose which paths to take first thanks to the occasional crossroad:
A tip: start by going left, it’s much easier. I don’t think you need to deal with some of the rougher environments if you go left first. By “rougher environments” I mean stuff like sand:
The game doesn’t go all-out and present you with really harsh settings like rain, snow, mud or fog like some other games but it’s probably a good thing that it doesn’t as that would probably ruin the whole holiday feel the game is clearly going for.
Where Hang-On’s ending was nothing short of “meh,” reaching the goals in Out Run is always a pleasure as they offer different, pretty funny outcomes.
In one of them, the driver is lifted up by fans:
Then accidentally dropped as everyone gets distracted by a random bikini-wearing gal.
Don’t feel too bad for him.
Trust me, that driver deserves it.
In another, even more cartoonish ending, the driver finds an Aladdin-style magic lamp out of which a group of I Dream Of Jeannie-esque ladies mysteriously appear and pose with him right next to our poor old co-pilot who is left to witness such a shameful event.
Our co-pilot is once again tossed aside in another ending in which the driver receives the winning trophy and takes all the glory.
She gets him back in yet another ending, though, where the driver is snubbed completely and the trophy is handed to the co-pilot instead.
Thanks to its much more rewarding endings, I would say Out Run delivers a more complete gaming experience than Hang-On in that sense.
The controls are as straight-forward as ever, the graphics are really colourful and are just altogether very pleasant to look at. Despite how weird some things may look if you pause the game for a second:
Man, those fans look really messed-up.
The game may not be quite as intense as Hang-On but it demands just as much focus and is sometimes even more challenging. Those roads can get really, really busy and this isn’t Crazy Taxi: you can’t exactly get away with crashing into anything!
Out Run is another one of those games that sets out to do one simple thing and does it brilliantly. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a real challenge, it’s got a sense of humour and a few more options than Hang-On so if you’ve never come across it, make sure you check it out!
A true classic.
Of course, there are sequels and various other ports for the game but I’ll leave those alone.