What I Learned From: OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
At a basic level, there are few more deeply felt and enjoyable game mechanics than OutRun’s driving and drifting. Though the original arcade experience could be punishing and gameplay sessions are usually very quick until you have gained enough experience and skill. Which is why, in addition to the fantastic new 3DS version of the original arcade game, OutRun 2006: Coast To Coast’s extensive port of OutRun2 SP is so brilliant, building an extended experience and a variety of remixes on the incredibly strong central experience. Considering that, Outrun 2006 presents a very interesting waypoint on the debate between depth versus breadth, as despite all its various game modes the game is entirely about drifting along 30, 60, and 90 degree turns while avoding other cars on the road. It is pure depth and so tightly constructed that it remains a compelling experience to return to year after year.
That focus on such a simple and focused mechanic can make the game easy to criticise as well, and many players will simply not enjoy driving or get the magic of drifting. The aesthetic of the game does make it broadly appealing, however, and the simple arcade feel can be very approachable as well. OutRun, like many games, features at its heart a common fantasy of beautiful vistas and driving incredible cars with skill and panache. The game’s sexual politics remain one of its most problematic elements (why not an option to switch driver and passenger?) but even that can seem like a good-natured throwback to simpler times and the over-the-top comments can be a source of eye-rolling fun. “How far are you going to take me,” your easy to anger Hot Blonde girlfriend teases as you drift pass a rival, executing a perfect drift. The fantasy is real. “I want to go far away,” indeed.
I should mention that my enthusiasm for the game is thanks to unofficial resolution updates. The game is sadly discontinued now thanks to the passing of the Ferrari license (so crucial yet so difficult to maintain) but fan enthusiasm for the game has not diminished thankfully. Playing it now, ten years later, the game looks incredible. I think it didn’t look this good for years after its release, or even on release with those lowered expectations we used to have. But now with everything so crisp, the colors and artistry of the track arrangements really stand out. It would be fantastic to have an official update with higher resolution textures but as it is the game still looks great. That laser focus on aesthetic and micro-precision of the layout and experience paid untold dividends and allowed the game a second lease on life that most don’t get. Good lessons to take to be sure and I would love to make something so pure and deep one day.
- For better words exploring this great game, check out the several features Rock, Paper, Shotgun have run over the years. They were instrumental in me seeking out the game and I’m highly grateful. Duncan Harris interviewing 2006’s developers on the porting and expansion process is incredibly illuminating, Cara Ellison’s exploring of the aesthetic and sexuality is deeply hilarious still, and Kieron Gillen’s old-school enthusiasms are a delight.
- While I think there is some good work done in this version to extend the core gameplay into new modes, the main menu is incredibly confusing as to what everything does and where players should focus their time. It's not just the wacky mode names either, but modes can seem very similar to each other until you look hard at what the actual differences are. I suppose UX is where this game belies its budget roots most.