Review: Re-Volt (Dreamcast)

Re-volt was released in the Holiday season 1999, shortly after the Sega Dreamcast’s launch. Since I finally have my Dreamcast hooked up to the big screen, it’s time to start taking a look at my exhaustive Dreamcast library.

So how does Re-Volt stand up 11 years later? Re-Volt is a remote control car racing game. Despite it’s cute appearance, this is a pretty hardcore game. The game is huge, and the difficulty is immense. The game starts with 4 tracks available, the “easy tracks.” There are 4 main modes in which to romp around these courses.

  • Single Race - Finish first on all easy tracks to unlock more cars
  • Championship - Finish in the top 3 on each easy track, and finish in first place in the championship to unlock new cars, and the medium tracks
  • Time Trial - Beat the lap record on each easy track to unlock more cars. This also unlocks a reverse version of the track. Setting fast times on the reverse track unlocks the mirrored version. Setting fast times on the mirrored version unlocks the mirrored and reversed version. Whew.
  • Practice - Find the hidden star on each track to unlock more cars

In addition to the 4 easy tracks, there are 4 medium tracks, 3 hard tracks, and 3 extreme tracks. This game is very hard, and requires you unlock the top cars in each car class (beginner, amateur, advanced, semi-pro, and pro) to be successful. The hidden stars are often hiding in the air, requiring a quick car and precise driving to hit a ramp just right to grab it. The time trial mode is also brutal, requiring an extremely clean and tidy lap to succeed.

If that wasn’t enough game play, there is also a stunt arena with 20 hidden stars. The arena features a dozen ramps that you have to launch off, a giant half-pipe, and even a loop-dee-loop. Collecting all twenty stars unlocks “clockwork” mode. In this mode, you pilot a tiny wind up car, against 24 other wind up cars.

The cars themselves handle rather realistically, with awesome acceleration and extremely twitchy steering. There is definitely a learning curve here, as Re-Volt handles unlike anything I’ve ever played before. It’s a real turn off at first, but once you give it some time, you’ll start to appreciate the the maneuverability of these tiny machines.

Remote control car racing wouldn’t be as fun without some awesome tracks. Re-volt delivers. Ranging from a museum, outside neighbor-hoods, a giant ship, a grocery store, a botanical garden, skyscraper roof tops, a ghost town and a child's play room. They are highly imaginative. They don’t feel like tracks either, they feel like living breathing environments. This can lead to some confusion at first, but practice makes perfect.

If the game wasn’t deep enough, there is a track editor mode. You build giant levels out of tile like pieces. You can control the height, bank, and angle, and have a dozens of pieces to choose from. You can get lost for hours playing around with this in itself, and is a wonderful addition to the game.

The final game mode is a multi-player mode, with 4-player split screen (remember those days?). You can choose to do single racers against friends (including tracks you build in the track editor), or a battle mode. The battle mode is like a game of reverse tag. There are 4 arena style levels, and the object is to find a hidden star. Grab the star, and you are ‘it.’ If other players tag you, they are “it.” The first to be “it” for 2 minutes wins the round.

It wouldn't be a cartoon racer without weapons, and Re-Volt does a great job here as well. There are homing bottle rockets, oil spills, battery boosts, and even a giant magnetic ball you can release to trip up racers behind you.

Re-volt shows off some of the Sega Dreamcast’s graphical prowess as well, featuring some sharp textures and detailed models. The environments are also loaded with detail, whether it be tumbleweeds in the ghost town or bouncing basketballs in the neighbor hood levels. The frame rate does suffer occasionally, but usually hovers around the 30 fps mark. There is a cheat code (enter “flyboy” as your name) which unlocks a 60 fps mode, at the expense of draw distance.

Re-Volt also features an upbeat soundtrack. It’s a sort of euro-trance/dance mix that really sets the mood for the cars. My girlfriend instantly commented on how catchy the music is. The cars themselves sound true to form, with a high-pitch whine for the electric cars, and a high-pitch growl for the gasoline cars.

Re-Volt is truly a wonderful game. It’s one of those games that sucks hours and hours away without you even noticing. It’s brutal, but rewarding. Finishing the final championship and seeing the credits roll (without using cheat codes) is truly an accomplishment. While some may be put-off by it’s twitchy handling and unrelenting artificial intelligence, hard-core gamers are in for a very deep racing experience.

This was available for the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation as well, but stay far far away from those versions. The Dreamcast is a fairly accurate port of the PC game. The N64 and PSX ports are incredibly watered down and often panned by critics. The Sega Dreamcast version is where it’s at.

Overall, Re-Volt is a terrific racer for the Sega Dreamcast. It’s got detailed visuals, an energetic soundtrack, tons of game modes, and deep game-play. It proves that once and a while, when Acclaim put it’s mind to it, they could churn out a high-quality title that could hang with the best of them. Viva la Dreamcast.

Graphics 8/10 - Great cartoony art style, detailed environments and models
Sound 9/10 - Awesome soundtrack, great effects
Game play 9/10 - tons of game modes, awesome track editor, fun physics
Overall 9/10 - Highly underrated gem