Review by StavrosJ

Reviewed: 08/06/03

Despite its flaws, a very good rally racing game

Rallisport Challenge has perfect graphics. Everything from the cars down to spectators are modeled better than most driving games. The cars look photorealistic and animate very well;the bob in their suspensions, can be visibly damaged in a lot of areas and even have the driver and codriver inside, who animate as well. One of the best details about the car is how the environment can affect it. If you drive on muddy roads, mud will gradually collect on the car depending what direction you steer. I\'m not saying that once you drive on mud, stains will automatically appear. The appearance of dirt, snow and so on is a gradual thing so the more you drive on certain surface, the more dirt will kick up and collect on the car. This is an excellent graphical detail the contributes to the game\'s visual realism. The environmental effects are very well done. Every tree and bush is modeled with lots of detail, and in the case of bushes, they bend over when you drive over them. There are particle effects such as sand and dirt that kick up when you drive over gravel or mud. Rallisport Challenge also has three dimensional, animated spectators which is a rarity for driving games. Other effects like sun glare and tire tracks help make the game more satisfying to play. Perfect graphics.

Rallisport Challenge has excellent sound. The aggressive sound of your car engine is a pleasure to hear. The game lacks any distinctive engine sound for different cars, but its not a really big problem because this isn\'t a pure rally racing sim to begin with. From the opening menu to actually playing the game, RC maintains a fast paced, slick feel to the game with some pretty cool sounds ands songs. Every noise like that of your car powersliding, or hitting a tree, or glass shattering is spot on. The only problem is that there is no way to include any of your own mp3 format songs, which is a bit of a shame. Aside from that Rallisport has everything a good driving game has in the sound department.

Rallisport Challenge has great gameplay. You start the game by creating a profile then choosing either Normal or Beginner difficulties. I chose Beginner, but I will justify this decision later on. The difference between these two difficulties is the availability of a restart option in career mode races, and computer AI that drives slightly slower. After creating a profile you have several options. The career mode is where you race to earn points to unlock tracks and cars. Single mode lets you drive all the tracks with 3 other AI cars individually, if you have unlocked the tracks that is. Time attack is like Single race except you drive on your own in an attempt to beat a set time. Finally there\'s the options and extras mode. The career mode, which covers the most gameplay aspects, is the main meat of the game. You start out with no points but you get four different championships to compete in. You choose what championship to go into, then choose a car. Rallisport challenge has a pretty big number of cars, roughly around 30. Each car has different attributes in the categories of speed, acceleration and handling, although many other factors affect their performance. Once you choose a car, you get to tweak some of the car\'s aspects like steering, suspension and so on, though these are restricted to things like soft, normal, or hard. Then you start the race. Rallisport Challenge\'s car handling is a bit of a mix between simulation and arcade. The developers pulled this off well because the cars don\'t handle too outrageously, or too restrictively, and whether or not you are familiar with rally racing, it is pretty easy to pick up. The game\'s visuals have been tweaked to make it seem like you\'re travelling faster than you are, to give a bigger adrenaline charge. This is both good and bad. On one hand it makes Rallisport Challenge a real rush to play through, and on the other hand it makes the player fall into the game\'s biggest flaw. This flaw is the physical world in RC. The game has some really brutal physics concerning how your car will react when it impacts something. Its almost as if there\'s no gravity! For instance, if you accidentally graze a rock while turning, its a definite certainty that your car will do an outrageous somersault in midair before landing back on the ground. Just about everything that is solid and doesn\'t move when hit will cause your car to do some pretty spectacular flips, whether its a small rock or a Michelin signboard. The fact that turning requires more use of the handbrake than other games, causing the car to slide more, doesn\'t help either. Often I would round a medium turn at 80 km/h, tap the handbrake a bit, and my car would slide off the rode into a ditch, and do AT LEAST six barrel rolls before being reset onto the track. These unforgiving physics, coupled by the fact that the AI drivers don\'t make mistakes, forced me to take the beginner mode in order to preserve my sanity. Things get better on some of the rallycross and ice maps though, as the wide roads make it easier to not go off road and flip your car. Anyway, depending on what position you finish, you gain an amount of points. Once you reach a certain quota, you advanced to the next level which unlocks more cars and more tracks. Overall, this formula for the career mode works as it is easy for beginners to understand and is effective in driving the player to finish more and more championships. Gameplay, despite the punishing game physics, is great.

Rallisport challenge gives you plenty to work with. You have 48 tracks set in different environments and 4 different gameplay modes. The multiplayer is only good if you play with your friends since there is no game browser to work with and you need the server ip to join, but the single player alone is worth buying the game. This is one rally racing game I\'ll be playing for a long time.

First I should warn you again about the unforgiving game physics. They can easily make you hate the game if you repeatedly lose a race because of them. For first timers to rally racing, or hard core rally racers, it should be rented. First timers will want to see if the way the car handles and reacts to the game world is too much for them or a good challenge, and hard core rally racers will want to see if the handling is up to their expectations. For the casual rally racer though, this is a most definite buy. And, just as it is with any game you burn, its illegal.

Rating: 8

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