The original Sega Rally game was a massive success in both the arcades and in the home and Sega were banking on the game doing the same for the Dreamcast. Back in 1998, despite their best efforts to support, which was a particularly miserly launch line-up, Sega Rally 2 slipped and the console's launch in Japan citing problems implementing the network code for on-line play. When the game was finally released it was a huge plus for Sega and was massive in Japan, an arcade racer playable online against anyone else in the country, from the comfort of your home. It is just a damn shame that the Western version did away with that feature as this is the kind of title the Dreamcast really needed to launch with for online play, and not bloody Chu-chu Rocket (Europe!).
The first thing you notice when loading up Sega Rally 2 is how smooth everything looks even in 2013. Textures look great, and there are some lovely features such like the way your headlights illuminate the road and how it responds to the light in real-time. Another nice touch I liked was when the spectators, who are waiting at the end of the line, take pictures when you cross the finishing line. These little touches proved that the Dreamcast could handle the complicated graphics of Model 3 arcade ports. However, there are some issues and while the original Japanese plays the game at 60fps (the Western release was limited to 30fps) there are some frame rate problems during hairpins or overtaking which is disappointing.
The feel of the game matches the smooth visuals. The sense of speed is superb and its extremely satisfying when you finally get the hang of turning corners. It helps that the Dreamcast's analogue controllers lend themselves perfectly to the game; you can just give your car a little gas, or floor it, which felt, and still does very intuitive and responsive.
The mainstay of the game consists of 4 quick races against opponent cars, and more importantly, against the clock. This being rallying all of the action involves racing against the clock to get past each checkpoint as fast as possible and to accumulate as much game time as you can. Your game time carries over to each track, so if you took a while on the second course you might not have enough time to reach the 4th course's checkpoint. Courses vary from mud, gravel, tarmac and its important to get know you car well and adjust your driving style on each course.
Sega also added a Championship mode which is kind of a career mode thing in which you need to manage your car and adjust various parts according to the conditions of the tracks. Personally, I do not know enough about cars to really make the most of this section but it certainly adds some meat to the game for those who can fly through the arcade game. There is also a split-screen two-player mode which is fun although it is a bit strange that games end abruptly as the things are called to a halt as soon as the first car crosses the line. In most situations it is not really a problem but for those close races it would be nice to at least get a replay to see how close things were.
Sound effects in Sega Rally 2 are adequate. The only real sound effects you'll really hear are the roaring engine and screeching brakes. I always lower the sound effect volume in the options menu so I can hear the co-driver and the soundtrack better. In fact, the co-driver becomes an indispensable part of your game. He (or she) announces every single turn you make, informing you of how far away the turn is and, then the length of the turn and the sharpness and after a few races you find yourself relying on the co-driver's every word.
While everything in Sega Rally 2 is fun and well, adequate there is just something about the game that lacks the spark of the original, something that makes me feel this game could have been bigger and better had Sega given the game more time, and the bad framerate and the lack of online play in the West really was a major minus for the Dreamcast's prospects. Still, Sega Rally 2 was undeniably a technical achievement and even if you aren't a fan of racing games, the cheap price means you should give it a try.