I couldn’t decide between the original arcade version, Sega Rally 2 and the recent home update, so I’ve included a generic Sega Rally entry here. Yes it’s a cop-out, but it’s my countdown!
All three are perfect Sega racers – slam the accelerator, flip out the back end and drift lazily around every corner. It’s an extremely Sega way of doing things, and always evokes a timeless and sublime joy. Sega Rally 2007 mixes things up by introducing an extremely advanced track deformation system that moulds under your tyres as you drive, leaving troughs and mud pools in key places. It’s a brilliant idea and to me represents the biggest advancement in the rally genre since it began. I’m sure it’ll make its way into Codemasters’ next rally effort and everyone will go ape over it.
Sega Rally 2 on Dreamcast is the only weak link here, its beautiful arcade origins marred by a rushed conversion and inconsistent framerate, but it’s a good stab at a meaningful single player career mode, and the ability to upload your best times online as well as carry them in your VM was a generation ahead of its time. In the arcade it was a complete revelation for me, its handbrake so tempting and satisfyingly solid when you used it to pivot and peel away from a hairpin.
I played Race Driver: Grid recently and was appalled when my attempt to powerslide around the first corner resulted in an embarrassing crash, but I was more appalled when people complained the game was “too arcadey”. No wonder Sega Rally 2007 didn’t sell, although the other day at work a couple did buy a copy for each other, which for me is every bit as good as the exchanging of rings.
Sega Racing Studio’s passing was a sad day for any Sega Rally fan – their version of the franchise was every bit as good as the original and perfectly captured the Sega Rally feel, and I can’t help but feel that theirs may have been the last entry in the series we ever see. If that’s the case, you couldn’t hope for three more enjoyable rally games that scream Sega with every powerslide and hairpin.