Comparing Speed Devils Online

Several weeks ago we had a quick look at Racing Simulation: Monaco Grand Prix and it's later online-enabled re-release, Monaco Online. As we know, Sega's online component wasn't really working as intended when the Dreamcast initially launched and it was only later in the system's unfathomably short (natural) lifespan that truly online games started to come to the fore. A lot of games with 'online gaming' splashed all over the box simply allowed players to upload scores to online leaderboards or download other players' ghost data. It was only fairly late on that bonafide online gaming became possible, with titles such as Quake 3 Arena and Phantasy Star Online. Not surprisingly, developers who had released games earlier cottoned on, and re-released their offerings with the added functionality. However, these re-issued games were launched with varying levels of quality. If you look back at the article on Moncao Online, you'll see that it was simply an identical product to the original, but with the added bonus of online play...which is fair enough.

The difference with Ubisoft's re-release of Speed Devils is that you actually get none of the content that the original game had. The menu screens have been swapped for very basic static ones, and the main championship has been totally stripped out - all you are presented with are the options to either race online or offline. Obviously, online isn't an option anymore so what you're left with is the opportunity to either do a time trial or race against 5 other drones in a meaningless jaunt around one of the (admittedly great) circuits. Due to there being no single-player campaign at all, and therefore no way of unlocking bonus vehicles or locations, all of the tracks and cars are immediately available to you from the get go.

Out on the course, the brilliant headlight effects from the first game are gone, and the HUD has been redesigned and can now be toggled on and off (why?). I would imagine the lighting effects were removed due to the engine being tweaked to handle 6 online racers at once and having to also calculate the light cone would have placed extra strain on both the console and the online infrastructure...but stripping it from the offline mode is just plain weird. Also, and rather strangely, the game seems to run with a much grainier screen resolution...if that makes any sense. Anyhow, here's a selection of comparison shots to illustrate the different HUD and missing headlight illumination (Speed Devils on the left, Speed Devils Online on the right):
These visual differences aside, Speed Devils is still quite a fun game, and I can image that the online game was probably quite entertaining while it was still running. Alas, I never played it personally. If you did, let us know in the comments. Out of interest I did select the 'race online' option, but was met only with this rather sad message...
I have a feeling I'll be waiting a while.


DCGX said...

Wow I had no idea. I figured it was a full re-release with online play. Do you know if the Online version was originally released at a budget price perhaps?

Tom Charnock said...

That's a good point. If it was a budget game then that softens the blow slightly, but if you bought it thinking you were getting the original but with added online racing, you'd have been disappointed. I did actually buy this several years ago and remember taking it back to the shop because of the lack of single player modes.