Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
US Gold's home computer versions of this coin-op hit are still some way away, but you can get into the driving seat right now if you've got a Sega Master System.
In Out Run you take the wheel of an open-topped Ferrari in a race against the clock, weaving through the traffic along sweeping multi-lane highways. It's a risky business: hit other vehicles and you'll lose speed or go into a spin, but crash into one of the many roadside obstacles and your car will tumble end over end.
Sega £24.95 cartridge REVIEWED
C64 and other versions US Gold DEC 87
From a viewpoint behind your car you have to steer left and right, change gear, accelerate and brake. To keep things simple your car only has two gears: low for speeds up to 170 kph or so, and high from there up to a maximum of just under 300 kph. To complicate matters you have to select gears by moving the joystick up or down. Logical enough you might think, but with the standard Sega controllers it's very easy to accidentally change gear while cornering.
There's a controller button each for accelerator and brake, though you won't find too much call for the latter For the most part. Out Run driving's a matter of keeping the accelerator hard down and screeching round the curves in top gear - when you aren't dodging the traffic, that is.
Since it's a road race, you're as likely to come across Volkswagen Beetles as Porsches. The difference is largely cosmetic, since all the other cars behave in pretty much the same way - sticking to their lanes tor the most part, at a steady 180 or so.
On the game's occasional stretches of five-lane highway overtaking is fairly simple, but on the more common three-lane stuff things can get very tricky indeed. Sharp corners and S-bends are signposted in advance, and they need to be - at top speed you can skid two or three lanes quite easily - but a good road position isn't enough if there's other traffic in your way.
There's 20,000 points in it for you every time you overtake other cars but that's not the real importance of getting past them. Out Run's a series of stages through different kinds of terrain, and there's a time check at the end of each one. The choice of route is yours - the game has five separate finishing lines, and junctions at the end of each stage offer many different routes to them - but whether you go for the long hard trans-desert slog or prefer the rolling, tree-lined twists and turns of Cloudy Mountain, you'll need every second you can get. Unused time carries over to the next stage, so you can't let up even on the easy stages.
Building up time means keeping your foot hard down, but it also means avoiding collisions. There are no lives to lose - you can hit other vehicles or plough off the road as often as you like - but the time you waste getting back up to speed can stop you reaching the next checkpoint.
When Out Run's graphics are good, they are very good indeed. Your car is bright and well-drawn, and the sweeping curves of the road can be very impressive at high speed. But the console has problems coping with larger roadside features smoothly and Space Harrier style sprite problems aren't uncommon. The display can get confusing too: when the road rises it gets tricky just telling which direction the road is curving in!
Overall this Out Run's no substitute for the coin-op, but it is very playable stuff. The variety of routes and tremendous feeling of speed easily outweigh the graphic rough edges.
Different routes make for lasting interest