Last month I spent some time with OutRun for the Sega Master System, a disappointing port of a classic (and dated) arcade smash that was one of the forerunners of the arcade racing genre. At the time I was disappointed by a number of nagging issues with the design, including a frustrating difficulty setting, few other racers, and the time-based racing design. These things were enough to make me not recommend the game, and ultimate left a bad taste in my mouth for the OutRun series.
Thankfully I found a bottle of mouth wash, because after playing Battle OutRun I can safely say that this is exactly what the Master System Out Run should have been. For starters, this plays nothing like the old OutRun, this is really more of a rip off of the classic racer, Chase HQ. In this game you race through eight different locations swerving through traffic to find the one enemy car. Once you've found the car you can collect some money and move on to the next locale.
This new game play is really quite invigorating. Battle OutRun is actually quite speedy, a lot faster than what you have come to expect from 8-bit racers. Unlike the old OutRun that had you seeing no more than two or three other cars in an entire race, here you'll be constantly bombarded by slower vehicles. Dodging these cars, as well as oil slicks and other road impairments, is half the excitement of Battle OutRun, certainly giving this version a far more satisfying arcade experience.
To add some depth Sega has added a number of new additions beyond the chase game play. For starters, you can now use jumps to fly over the cars in front of you. But the big change is the mid-game upgrade, which allows you to buy new parts for your car to make the chase easier. You upgrade your vehicle by entering a large truck, similar to how its down in Midway's arcade classic, Spy Hunter. These new additions go a long way to improve an already good playing racing game.
Battle OutRun does have a few caveats, though. For starters, the game isn't especially difficult. Since you can access any level from the start you really won't be unlocking anything, which doesn't give you a lot of incentive to keep playing. Even with constant traffic and oil slicks, the eight courses are all kind of boring - and all take place in the United States. And then there's the music, which is among the most annoying sounds you will ever hear your Master System make. It sounds like a cross between Fran Drescher and a cat dying.
But if you can overlook some of Battle OutRun's defects you'll find that this is one of the best playing faux-3D racers on the Master System. The graphics are good, it's easy to get into, and it's especially exciting to chase down the enemy car and ram them off the road. It's not the perfect OutRun game, but this Battle version is far and away the best version on Sega's 8-bitter. Easily the best Chase HQ game not called Chase HQ.