Friday, 17 January 2014

Review - Final Freeway 2R (Android)

Magical Sound Shower

Sega's Outrun is an arcade classic, and a major player in the evolution of the arcade racer. Yu Suzuki's  high speed coin-op featured sprite scaling, to give a real sense of speed, and coupled it with the iconic convertible red Ferrari and the glorious seaside roads to drive on. It also featured branching paths, which allowed the player to choose which route to take at the end of each stage simply by heading left or right, with each stage providing a different and colourful environment to race through.

In 2010, developers Newtype K.K. released Final Freeway, a wonderful homage to the pioneering Sega classic. It mimiked the look of  Outrun by featuring a faux-Ferrari, as well as similar backdrops. It was a pretty solid title, and especially impressive for a mobile game, but it lacked a few small factors that would really hit the Outrun nostalgia button. For one, there were no branching paths, instead you simply raced through 6 tracks in order. Secondly, there was no crash animation. Not a big deal I hear you cry. But for true Outrun fans, it just isn't the same without the visual spectacle of your Ferrari flipping through the air, spilling the driver and his female passenger out in the process.

Well, the developers clearly listened to fans and in 2012 they released this sequel, with all the missing pieces included, and what an improvement it is. The visuals are even better than before, with more detailed sprites and a greater draw distance. What's more, there's now a whopping 13 stages to race on, 6 per run through, with the branching paths allowing for multiple different play-throughs. You can also choose from three different drivers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, as you take on your nemesis in a rush to reach the finish line first. Like the graphics, the sense of speed is impressive, and I barely experienced any slowdown on my Galaxy S4 Mini. It certainly looks the part, with vibrant and welcoming locales to hurtle through at law-breaking speeds and, thanks to the incredible smooth way the road flows in front of you, it is far easier on the eye than Outrun, or any of the other sprite scaling racers, ever were. 

The music of Outrun is just as memorable as the visual style. Who could forget the classic Caribbean flavours of Splash Wave and Magic Sound Shower? The music on offer in Final Freeway 2R cannot hope to match those classic tunes, but the dance tracks on offer are perfectly decent, and have a tropical tinge to them which suits the sun soaked locales pretty well. Controls, often the bane of any touchscreen device, are actually pretty good. You can use either on-screen buttons, or tilting of the device to steer the vehicle, neither of which can compare with using a gamepad, but they work fairly well and don't ruin the game like many other smartphone games. Once you get the hang of it, it soon clicks and you realise that this is one of the best old school arcade racing games since Lotus II on the Amiga. 

Outrun has been cloned by an indie developer before, in the beautiful, yet hideous to play, title Ocean Drive Challenge, which came out on the Xbox Live indie channel a couple of years ago. I was very disappointed with that game, but Final Freeway 2R vanquishes all memories of that and rewards us with, not only a sterling arcade racer, but a lovingly crafted and wonderfully executed love letter to one of the most fondly remembered racing games of all time.

Title : Final Freeway 2R
Developer : Newtype K.K.
Year : 2012
System : Android
Also On : iOS
Price : £0.79