Sega Rally Online Arcade was co-developed by Sega and Sumo Digital and published by Sega. It was released May 18, 2011 for 800MSP. A copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

The Sega Rally series has its roots in the arcades. Sega Rally Championship wowed arcade goers in 1995, and since that the time sequels have been released on home consoles and in arcades. Sega Rally Online Arcade (SROA) is the newest installment in the series, and while it doesn’t have the content of something like Sega Rally Revo it still packs a major punch for its 800MSP.

Here’s what we liked:

Bite-sized experienceSega Rally Online Arcade could not be a more descriptive title. It’s Sega’s rally game, but with online play and arcade style gameplay. That means no vehicle damage, short races, and arcade style physics. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to have a great romp in the mud without having to devote an hour or more to each gameplay session.

Solid online gameplay – Online races in SROA are hiccup free. The host can choose from a variety of options including the number of laps and whether AI will fill in the remainder of six playable slots. We had a few experiences of rage quitters while playing, but that’s to be expected in any game.

Great value for the price – Some might argue that five tracks and roughly a dozen cars just isn’t enough, but for a sixth the price of retail we can’t complain. The game packs quite a punch for fans of rally games and has the potential to bring any racing fan in with its addictive gameplay.

Strong visuals – While SROA won’t win any Best Visuals awards it still manages to bring solid graphics to the table. The vehicles look great; their tops glisten in the sun while mud cakes onto their lower halves. Environments are lush,  detailed, and varied. Tracks range from a tropical location to the snow-covered Alpine.

Racing wheel support – It’s always a bonus when games support the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel. It’s an even bigger bonus when an Xbox Live Arcade game goes the extra mile to include it. While most players won’t ever notice the benefit owners of the wheel get an opportunity to be further immersed in the experience.

Cool avatar award – It’s minor, but we don’t think we’ve seen another game that awards a racing suit for your avatar. It’s a cool touch that might be enough to bring in players who have a deep closet of clothes for their avatar.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Cryptic unlock system – Players want to know what’s necessary to unlock content in the game. In Sega Rally players get no clues of the sort. GameFAQs and other sites have created topics trying to figure out the unlock process, but until it’s all discovered players will continue to scratch their heads.

Incredibly short trial version – The game’s trial version features one mode, one car and one track that you can race around for one lap. It’s just not enough of the experience to entice players. If the trial had an additional selectable car and another two laps players could have enough to make the decision to purchase. As is the trial just turns players off.

Where’s the Stratos? – The Lancia Stratos is one of the most iconic rally cars ever made, and has been included as an unlockable in nearly, if not every, previous release in the Sega Rally series. It’s utterly disappointing to know the car is absent considering its status in the series and its fame as a rally car in general.

Floaty physics – To be clear, the physics in the game are 100% intentional — after all it’s not a simulation, it’s an arcade game. But they do take a little bit of getting used to and may be a turn off for players who were expecting real world physics. The good news is players will adapt quickly, and once adapted the controls feel natural and enjoyable.

Sega Rally Online Arcade may not have the amount of cars and tracks of a retail counterpart, but given its fair price it brings plenty to the table. It does a great job of making racing enthusiasts crave more. We’re certainly hoping for some DLC for the game down the road. Unfortunately the extremely limited trial version makes the decision even more difficult for those on the fence about buying the game. In the end SROA is well worth the 800MSP price tag, especially for fans of racing games.

Score: Buy It!

Second opinion by James Heiger:

Sega Rally Online Arcade is a fast, fun racing experience. Any fan of rally racing games will be able to jump right into the action. The bright, attractive graphics just scream Sega and that’s why we love them. SROA also has great nostalgia factor bringing us back to the days of the Saturn with the retro desert course. All of this adds up to being a great package. Some have decried SROA as lacking in content. The truth is that the game isn’t lacking in content at all. Rather, the main championship mode is, in truth, a bit of a letdown. It’s this slight that is leading some to claim the game is in some way lacking. Ultimately it is a shame that the championship game mode was not more robust and this will turn some away from this otherwise great racing game.

Score: Try it