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Brexit’s Got Me Racing Back to ‘OutRun 2’

The UK’s gone and got itself in a right mess. I’m down in the dumps. But one old Sega racer always brings me back around, five minutes at a time.

Hi, reader. Usually, it's Chris Schilling providing the Pick-Me-Up column smiles. (Read all previous entries here.) But with Britain in a total fucking shambles right now, by which I mean right this very minute, and me sitting here appropriately utterly glum, I thought I'd switch on my old 360 and slot in an original Xbox game that always, without fail, has me smiling like an idiot within two minutes. Because that's the whole point of this column: to talk about games that make the player happy, almost immediately.


And my interactive happiness catnip is, and may always be, Out Run 2. Or OutRun 2, as seems to be the official Sega stylizing. Or even OutRun2, as it insists on calling itself at every in-game mention. You know the game I mean: furiously fast and ravishingly red (and black, and yellow) Ferraris, tearing around the place, in the sequel to one of the most famous racers of all time.

The attract screen alone is almost enough to set me off—from the title onwards, there's just that arcade-cab Sega sparkle to everything. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on what it is, but to me it's Pure Pixelated Happy. I never played the game in the arcade, and can't claim to be especially proficient on this debut home console version (note: not a direct port, as it added a lot), which was magnificently handled by British studio Sumo Digital. I've not completed all of its challenges, and thus don't have the option to selection from all of its cars and music tracks. But sitting down in one of these cars, be it a 365 Daytona or the more iconically contoured F40 (I used to have a picture of an F40 on my wall, as a kid, because of course I did, it was the 1980s), I'm just at home, you know?

And when I'm at home, I'm comfortable, and better equipped to slip effortlessly into the perfect drift, skirting the curve of the tarmac, passing the slowpoke Sunday drivers of Palm Beach as I go. Select a lower-powered set of wheels and you need not lift off the accelerator until you hit the hillside of the second stage, Alpine, veering right (right is always harder, left usually easier, generally speaking when it comes to this game's directional splits). That perfect drift, it's hard to truly convey how it feels, even with the elementary feedback of a 360 pad. It's just, insert face throwing a kiss emoji.


Above: YouTube user MrThunderwingplays the original Xbox version of OutRun 2 on the Xbox 360.

There's Heart Attack Mode here, too, where challenges are laid atop what's an already perfect arcade experience, your passenger demanding that you pass a certain number of cars, or stick to just one, color-coded section of the road. But it's a distraction, a fun enough one though it is, from the main game's simpler, more elegant thrills. So I tend to stick to that: "OutRun Mode," and then whatever track takes my fancy. "Magical Sound Shower?" Don't mind if I do, actually.

There's such variety in the stages that every minute is a new experience, even when your momentum's not changed. Palm Beach can, if you want it to, give way to Deep Lake—and as you hit that transitional checkpoint, and the sun darts from right to left across a perfectly Sega Blue sky (watch the video above, and you'll see what I mean), a suspension bridge stretches out before you like the best invitation. Here is speed. Here is fun. So have at it. The clouds are cast a golden pink as the road bends a long left, your car's rear end scattering grass and dust before straightening up to make the next checkpoint.

The finishing lines are all glorious in their own ways. Metropolis is Paris, the Eiffel Tower to your left early on, with the checkered flag dropped before the Champs-Élysées as fireworks pop and fizz in the night air. Tulip Garden represents the Netherlands, an explosion of floral color overlooked by lazy windmills. Cape Way, the toughest-to-reach end point, is a winding wriggle of tight bends and cobbled streets, the sea glistening to your right and left as you tear up a hill, the whole thing climaxing in front of Athens' famous Parthenon.


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Funnily enough, I never really took in the European flavors of this game before today. Insert your own comment about not knowing what you've got until it's gone, right around here. The game's Ghost Forest stage is based on the woodlands of Romania. The Imperial Avenue ending is Rome, what with the ruined Roman pillars everywhere and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Colosseum cameo. Cloudy Highlands? Come on, now—that angry, overcast sky could only be born of Scottish influence. Elsewhere there are stages that take their cues from both the Egyptian Pyramids and the ancient Jordanian city of Petra.

Even if I spin and crash out, not making it across either checkpoint or finish line before the timer's struck zero, I'm still smiling while my passenger's smacking ten shades out of me for my ineptitude. There's just no other game in my collection that does this for me, that serves as such a reliable mood-lifter, five minutes at a time—outside of, perhaps, the most amazing Rocket League match, of which there's never a guarantee.

It's not the easiest game to play off of its original hardware, what with brand licensing issues preventing Sega from further ports and upgrades once the expanded Coast 2 Coast version came out, but if you can get hold of OutRun 2, second hand or whatever, do. There's a reason it's referred to as "the beautiful journey" on the back of the box, as my big dumb grin right now is Testarossa to. (Oof, sorry, had to.)

Read the regular The Pick-Me-Up columns here.

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