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Sega Rally Revo

Dirt. You wouldn't think much about it in real life, but it has apparently been on the mind of video game developers lately, as "Sega Rally Revo" (I'd say it's from Sega, but I think that's obvious, given the title) is another game that offers dirt that reacts when you drive over it, leaving tracks and splashing about, eventually ending up all over your car. "GeoDeformation" deforms the roads and they do stay that way when you're taking your second or third lap around the track. You will feel it when you drive over the ruts left in the track (the use of the rumble is terrific) and driving through these ruts left in the road will also effect handling, too. Overall, this feature doesn't make an enormous difference in gameplay, but it's a nice touch.

I don't think anyone will argue that "Sega Rally Revo" isn't pretty: not only is the deforming process pulled off very well, but the cars themselves look sleek, glossy and detailed (although some players will be disappointed that, with all the bumping into other cars and occasional crashes and deforming dirt, the cars themselves do not see any damage.) Some of the backgrounds feel a little generic or repetitive, but the package as a whole is a visual treat, and runs at a smooth framerate. Audio quality is also terrific, with the roar of the engines and the bumping and grinding of cars against...invisible barriers. Whether or not you're bumping into fences or bushes, the invisible fence is there throughout to keep you from going off-road.

While this title impresses in some aspects of presentation quality, "Sega Rally Revo" raises some flags when it comes to gameplay. The first issue I had with the game (aside from the invisible fences) was the AI of the opposing players, who - oddly - cannot be bumped out of the way with any success. Slam into them and they just keep going. If they bump into you, however, you're in trouble. The computer players are just about perfect, which means that, if you slip up, you're going to have a nearly impossible amount of catching up to do.

The fact that one simple mistake will often result in completely losing the race does become annoying, as does the fact that - no matter what happens - you always start in the back of the pack. In a game where the control is overly sensitive - there's more fishtails while racing here than there you'll find in a Wisconsin fishing tournament - you will find yourself spinning out and, in races against the computer players, you may as well restart if that occurs.

To be successful, you have to consistently powerslide around the turns, which I thought became rather tedious after a while, especially with the flawless computer AI players. Playing against friends offline or online is a far more entertaining option, simply because it's a far more fair playing field. The control is still too floaty (at least for my taste), but at least you'll be playing against someone who is also encountering the same thing.

There are a fair amount of licensed vehicles to choose from, although choice of vehicle doesn't matter too greatly, as the amount of customization is extremely limited (one of the very few choices is off-road or road tires) and the cars generally seemed to control the same or very similarly. The tracks - 15 tracks (circuits) spread across five environments (including desert, snow and jungle) - are designed reasonably well, although the choice to have a co-driver with a particularly irritating voice who gives you directions as you approach turns and other situations takes the tension away from gameplay somewhat (this feature can be turned off in the audio menu.) There are some mildly basic-looking animals wandering around (such as elephants) in the backgrounds, but those looking to drive into the various wildlife will be thwarted by the invisible fence around the tracks.

The game's modes include "Quick Race" (jump into a stage and get racing), "Championship" (where you can unlock new cars and paint jobs), "Time Attack" and "Multiplayer". The "Time Attack" mode is an enjoyable option, as while the concept isn't anything too grand (see if you can get the fastest time around a track), the additional options are pretty nifty to have: if you are on XBOX Live, you can compare your times to others around the world. You can also download a "ghost car" of a top race time to try and compete against and, if you do well enough, you can upload your own ghost car.

Speaking of XBOX Live, the title also allows Live play, but it's pretty standard stuff, with: "Quick Match" (jump right in), "Custom Match" (browse a list of available matches) and "Create Match" (set-up your own match to your specifications.) Up to 6 players (1 per console) can join in matches.

Overall, "Sega Rally Revo" does offer the cool addition of GeoDeformation and moderately enjoyable multiplayer options. However, the game suffers from dismaying AI (which takes away from the fun of the single player), little depth and what I consider to be overly floaty control. With a lot of racers to choose from, this one just doesn't have enough to stay ahead of the pack and is recommended as a rental.