It’s the unimaginably distant future. The year: 2019. The streets have been overrun by insufferable people who adhere to the speed limit. The death of recreational driving has pushed the Ferrari to the brink of extinction. It’s up to you to bring speed back to the people and remind them of the joy that reckless driving can bring. It’s up to you to…
THE STREETS OF 2019
Outrun was a seminal game on the arcade platform. It was a game about driving. Just driving. Not racing, not fighting, just driving. There were other cars on the road, but they were mere obstacles. The only entity you competed against was the timer.
Given its impact, it’s no surprise that it was proceeded by numerous sequels across many different platforms, but how many of them have you actually heard of? OutRunners, OutRun Europa, Turbo OutRun? Many of them are decent, mostly just taking the same gameplay to new places and with new features. It moved into actual 3D in 2003 with OutRun 2, which I’ve never played, so I won’t comment on.
Perhaps the most exotic transplant of the license was with OutRun 2019 on the Genesis. Moving all that driving to the then future year of 2019, the feel of the game is given a somewhat cyberpunk aesthetic. The European countryside has been largely replaced by futuristic skylines with some countryside thrown in for good measure. As a fan of cityscapes, this may be the OutRun for me.
If you’re not familiar with OutRun, it was a straightforward sprint across a series of road segments. After each segment, the track splits off, with you choosing your direction on the fly. You then pass a checkpoint which refills your time meter. You’re constantly racing against the clock, trying to get to the next checkpoint as quickly as possible with the hopes of building a big enough time buffer to make up for any mistakes you might make.
OutRun 2019 is largely the same formula, but rather than one big sprint, the game is divided into 4 levels (certain marketing material says 5 levels, but I found no evidence of a fifth anywhere). Those 4 levels divide into different routes, the total exceeding the number of routes in the first OutRun. The tracks are less spread out, as well, meaning that it’s technically a longer route to the end if you play the game from start to finish. For whatever that’s worth.
Like the original title, OutRun 2019 uses raster graphics to depict the open road from a third-person perspective. I love this particular graphical trickery; it’s basically computer magic to me. I understand the theory behind it, but the execution blows my mind. By that standard, Outrun 2019 is some high-level wizardry. It includes new tricks that allow elevated roads to split off and twist around each other, transparent bridges, and jumps from ground level streets onto elevated overpasses. It’s easily the most advanced application of the technology that I’ve personally seen at the time of writing. It left me thoroughly impressed.
As for how it changes gameplay; not all that much. As much as I love raster racers, they’re very limited in what they can present. Turns can only be so sharp, you can only see so far into the distance, the engine can only render you going so fast, and the scenery is only so dense. There’s no real sense of location or direction present, you just steer your car on the road and avoid obstacles. You can throw in as many cliffs or overpasses as you want, but at the end of the day, the game isn’t all that more compelling than any other raster racer.
DOES IT OUTRUN OUTRUN?
Still, the extras don’t hurt. A rocket car is a pretty cool ride, the environments are slick, and it contains all the same fun that can be found in Outrun. Holding top speed for a while even kicks the jet engine into high gear, giving you a neat boost. The tracks have more room for creativity than the ones in other Outrun titles, and that’s pretty well utilized.
On the other hand, it’s a lot easier than the original Outrun. I’ve managed to bring my Ferrari across the finish line maybe twice in the classic throughout my many attempts, but I flew by the world of 2019 without exerting myself. That’s kind of disappointing. Even if you have to struggle your way through, the multiple tracks mean that you’re never forced back to the start like you are in its progenitor, you just have to retry that stretch of three or four routes until you get it right. I finished it in about 45-minutes. You can judge what that means for yourself.
So is it worth playing Outrun 2019 over, say, vanilla Outrun? No. Yes. No?
It has its merits. The graphical trickery that’s on display is pretty nifty, and the future-ish setting has its charms. It’s over in less than an hour, so it’s a bite-sized treat, if nothing else. I personally enjoyed it, and it’s likely going to get pulled off my shelf again in the future. At the same time, I can’t recommend seeking it out, but if it’s available, it’s worth a peek. Just don’t expect its rocket cars to get you a lot of mileage.
This review was conducted on a second model Genesis (revision VA3) using an original cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author.