At first I was really iffy on this game. I like racing games, and rally racing is a frightening new frontier that I didn't easily cross into. In fact when I started this game out I hated it. But after giving it some good quality play time I must say this game turned out to be much better than I had expected. Thankfully there is no hardcore simulation style racing here but arcade style is the way to go. But in that choice some things were left out of the game that could have made it much more enjoyable.
When starting the game you are given a few race modes. There is the Race of Champions which is as simplistic as this game gets. You basically run the stretch of rally course known as Gran Canaria in randomly selected cars against racers who are in whichever class you have entered in a best of 8 bracket system. This mode is the one that will eat away at your patience, for once you think you have the course down a car will be given to you that makes each race a fight to the finish with A class being ludicrously hard, and to top it off you're racing in the rain and mud. Have fun. Following the Race of Champions comes what I found to be the much more enjoyable ROC Challenge mode which in simple terms is like a world tour mode. You start out ROC Challenge in the qualifiers where you need to prove that you have what it takes to be a rally driver. After the qualifying set you get to go through each of the stages of the ROC Challenge which are broken up into various different types of races; Single Circuit Races, duels which will unlock cars, frustrating driving challenges, uphill climbs and more. And if there is one piece of advice I must give, take your time in the driving challenges, you have more time than you think.
One of the cool things about the ROC Challenge is the interesting repair system. When you are in a circuit race you must do a number of races and in the course of those races of course your car is going to take a hefty amount of damage. After each race you are taken to a repair screen and given 20 credits which will last through the circuit races. Now if you really banged up the car you need to take into account how much damage you're likely to incur the next round, so there is a bit of strategy to fixing up the car but keep in mind that the body is the least important part so skip on that unless you're down to your frame. Of course the races themselves are not without flaws with some being simply unfair. The Follow the Leader Challenge is a good example. In this race everyone gets a health bar that depletes so long as they are not in first place. Now I wouldn't have a problem with this if perhaps the point where your health starts depleting were somewhere like halfway through the track rather than at the start of it. By the time you are even in contention for first place your health bar has already lost about a quarter of its contents and the race has only just begun, and the further back you are the faster it will deplete. A qualification system would have been a good idea here to at least soften the blow if you needed it.
Speaking of least important parts... Where is the music? Aside from the demo movie, replays, and the front end menus there is no music while racing, and if there is would someone please tell me how to turn it on. I can only take the revving of engines for so long. Especially when it is a recycled sound clip. And the on board driver can sometimes get grating. Especially when he says, "You wrecked the (beep)ing car." And yes he actually says that.
Now let’s talk about the hardware. The cars here are the obvious star of the show. And the graphics do an excellent job in showing them off. Initially you start with C class cars which are bottom of the barrel yet still a lot of fun to drive. They include the following; the Ford Escort Mk 1, the Opel Kadett, the Toyota Rav 4, the Formule France (great for handling), and the ROC Buggy (all around fun to drive). Once you enter the B class you have a few cars to start and some to unlock through dueling. Those cars include; the Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Peugeot 206 & 306, Toyota Celica GT4 and Corolla, Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo, Lancia Delta Integrale, and the Seat Cordoba. And at the peak we have the A Class cars; the Audi Quattro S1, Opel Manta, Saab 93 Turbo 4x4, Lancia 037, Peugeot 205 T16, and the Lancia Stratos. Now after all those cars all I can say is where is the Subaru WRX Impreza?! Oh well I guess you have to take what you can get. Customizing your car is practically none existent. All you are allowed to do is slightly tweak your car towards acceleration or top speed, and then in the middle is the intermediate setting. And your tires are always automatically chosen for you for the best track performance. It’s too bad you don’t have more options to customizing your car, but when it comes to arcade style racing there isn’t much room for simulation aspects.
Of course one of the most important aspects of the game; the tracks have been given close attention and care. And it shows here. Courses are well designed and will put most racing fans through their paces. Each course has variants and mirrors but even then each course feels different and fun. Most courses are in the nice sunny weather you’d expect to see, but there are tracks where you race in rainstorms, fog, and blizzards. And you will notice a handling difference when racing through snow, mud, sand, or tarmac.
After spending some time with this game I must say it’s a much better game than I thought it would be. It’s very important to keep your cool when playing this game because I can assure you that there will be points where you’ll want to throw the controller at the screen. The game is nice and challenging like that. So anyone looking for a challenging racing game should definitely look this one up. And if you’ve played Rallisport Challenge and are looking for more drifting action then give Rally Fusion a try.
Underappreciated is the word you can associate with rally racers. For here is a racing game that may look shallow from the outside but one you dive in you get a pleasent racing experience.