Price: £6.80 (800 MS Points)
Format: Xbox 360 via XBLA
Publisher: Sega

In the current era of all-involving games that threaten to swallow your social life into a digital black hole, Sega Rally Online Arcade harks back to an era where length of gameplay was limited to the number of coins you had in your pocket, and skill alone determined how far you made it through the game.

Effectively being Sega and AM2′s follow-up to the monstrously successful Daytona USA, Sega Rally was perhaps a more European-friendly franchise, which saw you bomb at foolhardy speeds round the various courses whilst being shouted at by an anonymous co-driver. The original arcade attracted legions of fanatical fans, often keen to espouse the virtues of the near-mythical Lancia Stratos, which in truth handled much like a car in GTA IV after having had it’s tyres shot out; i.e. impossibly.

This new Xbox 360 version offers a ‘classic’ style experience, with added home comforts. All the modes you would want are here — single player challenge where you must rank 1st after three races, time attack complete with ghost cars, local two-player and of course the aforementioned online play.

As a longtime fan myself, I was delighted to see the classic Desert, Mountain and Forest courses make a reappearance in the online mode, quickly finding myself achieving close to my ancient record lap times, even if I couldn’t quite recreate the glorious powerslides of old. Their newer counterparts (Tropical, Canyon and Alpine) are clearly inspired by the original and are balanced nicely for those ‘Just let me roll through the checkpoint – nooooo!’ moments that made the arcade so addictive.

It’s true that games like Sega Rally didn’t last forever in single player – they were good for a quick blast, but multiplayer was where the action was. One of the big attractions of the original Sega Saturn version was the beating of lap times, shaving milliseconds here and there by altering your racing line, and the ability to add this competitive feature into single-player on the Xbox Live leaderboards means you can see just how much better some fella in Japan is than you. Four minutes plus in challenge mode, apparently. Crikey.

Graphically, this version easily surpasses the classic Model 2 arcade and it’s various sequels, having learnt lessons from the previous 360 incarnation (Sega Rally Revo) and as such is probably the best looking Sega Rally yet. The ’100% real mud’ that coats your car within the first half-lap of most courses is a nice touch and the high-definition rendering means all 13 unlockable cars look fantastic, whether they’re clean or dirty.

The sound is nothing to write home about, but the co-driver and accompanying generic rock music are present, correct, and as endearingly irritating as ever. ‘Longmedium left, maybe?’ Make up your mind, eh? I’d say it was irritating, but it just wouldn’t be Sega Rally without this frequently indecisive companionship.

Certainly the game is no ground-breaker, and won’t compete in the realism stakes with the likes the officially licenced WRC games, or the oddball madness of Dirt 3′s “zombie outbreak” party mode, but Sega Rally Online Arcade does do an excellent job; much like a popular brand of woodstain, of doing exactly what it says on the tin, and executing the package with style and class.

For the price of this, you’d probably get about fifteen minutes worth of play on the coin-ops, which makes this a veritable bargain by comparison.