As you progress in your career you will come to the notice of the “famous”, “not-dead-yet” “racers” mentioned earlier. The most immediate thing you'll notice is that you start hearing their voices when you race against them. You'll still run them off the road but at least you'll know what bastard just cut you the hell off, may he rot in hell. These friends can also do good things for you, like invite you to races, and give you money. The $45 this reviewer spent for his DualShock controller was worth every penny.
The game itself looks very good. The vehicles are detailed, the dirt is dirt-y, the mud splatters all over. Frame rates are high, even online. The feeling of speed and action while in-car is good. The variety of different venues are well-represented. The gamer doesn't fell like they are just racing around the same mud ball every race. There are jungles and deserts and stadiums and lots of other terrain to provide a varied racing experience. Even the sound is good, with satisfyingly bone-crunching crash noises.
The interface tries to keep the feeling of immersion going. Rather than being dropped at a results spreadsheet in between races, the player returns to his RV. All important in-game functionality is reachable from here by interacting with on-screen elements. There is a map to pick the next race, a garage to review your vehicles, and so on.
After you've mastered the single-player career mode (itself a good length), there is an on-line mode. The official web site keeps track of points and all that sort of stuff. There is no split-screen mode, but this could be a fun game to play against friends over the net or at a LAN party.
The learning curve is not steep. The hardest part was learning to drive in the dirt. There is a lot of sliding about and four wheel drifting. Some headroom exists for complexity in the pre-race adjustment settings, but the emphasis is definitely placed on being able to handle the vehicle. This may be a bit off-putting for fans of the original Colin McRae series. Actually, a lot of things about the current game probably will cheese off fans of the original series (the more arcade-y feel, the simplified setup options, the variety of racing disciplines) but they can go eat dirt. This is a fun game.
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This is a fun rally racing game that leans more toward arcade action than driving simulation. Newcomers will find it easy to get into and advanced players will enjoy multiplayer. The graphics and in-game presentation are well done.
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