I've always been a fan of rally games and over the years I've seen some very good ones, plus some very bad ones. The Colin McRae games have always been good and the V-Rally series is also rather fun. Although both are very good games, they have one distinct difference: Colin McRae is more of a realistic simulator and V-Rally is much more of an arcade game.
Today I take a look at another rally game, RalliSport Challenge for the PC, which falls squarely into the Arcade genre. Whilst I will specifically talk about the PC version of Rallisport in this review, the commentaries that I make can also be applied directly to the Xbox version, as there is very little difference between the two versions.
Graphically RalliSport Challenge is a real
head-turner. The tracks and cars are excellently modeled and really look great
spinning past at 200+ km/h. While the game claims to have a damage model on the
cars, the best that you will see is a broken window in your car and perhaps a
few dents. The more damage to your car, the less points you get on completion of
a race. The high graphical detail of RalliSport does of course have its
drawbacks. The obvious one being that you'll need a high end system and a good
video card to handle it well. I play it at 1024x768 at maximum detail, and I
feel that my GeForce 4 Ti4600 is merely adequate to keep the frame rates at an
acceptable level. I would be quite interested in seeing the framerates from a
Radeon 9700, so feel free to send them to me via email.
The particle effects are very nice in the game, with dust billowing out behind your car on sand and dirt tracks, while stones are thrown out when cornering on a gravel track. The shadow mechanisms in RalliSport are particularly amazing. They require a video card with Shader support, ie GF3/GF4/ATI to be fully supported, and you can see from the screenshots that the shadow model is dymanic and rather impressive. You can actually see the shadows cast by the spokes in your cars wheels and its spoiler.
The tracks are well made, and I did notice that you can drive a reasonable distance off the track before the game will reset your car back onto the track. A lot of rally games I have played in the past do not allow you to drive off the "path" and will simply force you back onto the track after a few feet. RalliSport allows you to cut corners and straighten S-curves without any penalties. (Apart from crashing into rocks, trees, and hills when you do cut corners) While some will complain about this feature I like it, after all it's an arcade game not a simulation. The tracks differ quite a bit from course to course, some a very open and fast, while some are incredibly winding and narrow. There are even races where you must compete in a race against three other cars on an ice covered track. As a test of the physics system in the game, I decided to try and race an ice race with tarmac tyres on the car. I was rather pleased to find that the car would basically not move at all as the tyres offered virtually no grip at all on the icy surface. There are many different challenges in the game, each definitely needing different driving styles. There are the standard long Rally courses, as well as RallySprint courses which are small 1.0 - 3.0 km long looped courses and the always fun and dangerous Hill Climbs.
The driving model is good, but purely aimed for the Arcade side. Getting sideways around corners is actually a helpful mechanism in the game and is encouraged. The cars handle well, but do some incredibly funny crashes if you do hit a wall, bank, or corner wrong. I found the crashes to be a lot of fun to watch, as they can be particularly spectacular. The different tyres available for the car do good jobs, and do make a big difference to the handling of the car on different surfaces. The brake bias (forwards or backwards) changes the cars tendency to under or oversteer. The suspension has three levels of stiffness which also affects the cars handling. Choosing hard suspension on a rough track is not such a good idea, as it gives little control and makes it also easier to loose control. Hard suspension on a tight and winding tarmac track is recommended.
RalliSport Challenge has support for network play, and while I have not played it multi-player on the PC, if its half as much fun as the Xbox multiplayer version then its on the winning formula.
Rallisport had no trouble with my Steering wheel and pedal set (admittedly it's a Microsoft one!), and used it by default which was nice to see. There was no tuning required to get it going at all. As far as keyboard use goes, I was surprised at how well you could control the car with the keyboard, but I would recommend a steering wheel set for any driving game.
At the start of the game you have only a few cars to choose from and a small selection of tracks. As you progress through those tracks you will get points based on how well you do, 1st place naturally gets more points than 4th place. At the 12,000 point mark you will unlock a few more cars and tracks and again at 40,000 and 70,000 points. There are some classic cars available, although I have not managed to unlock them yet.
RalliSport Challenge is an incredibly fun game that I enjoyed and still enjoy. Its one of those games that you can just throw in and play for ½ an hour, complete a couple of races and play it again when time suits. With today's penchant for hugely complex games that require hours of your time every day to play, its great to have a game that you can just play when you feel the urge. RalliSport Challenge gets a big thumbs up from me.
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