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Boss Rally (PC) Review

Background Info

Game publishers certainly seem to have embraced the racing market lately, with new titles appearing at a torrid pace. SouthPeak Interactive tosses their hat into the ring with Boss Rally (BR), a racer promising to provide fast-paced and exciting racing on each of its 6 tracks. The racing arena is crowded, and the audience among the most critical and hard to please, so it takes a special kind of game to make an impression--just ask EA, who have been the recipients of both praise and scorn recently. Here's how SouthPeak rates with this entry.

Presentation/Graphics : 72
If it's stunning graphics you're looking for, BR isn't going to provide them. There isn't anything wrong with the visuals, just nothing to really set it apart from the crowd. On the plus side of the equation, everything looks pleasant, with very little draw-in and good frame rates and some nicely done reflections. The cars are colorful and nicely rendered (although with no real-life counterparts, accuracy is hard to judge). There are some interesting trackside animations, too, such as windmills turning and waterfalls pouring over cliffs, but nothing overly exciting. On the minus ledger, the scenery becomes repetitive after a few laps--the textures seem to repeat often (I know you aren't supposed to worry about that, just watch the road, but a little sightseeing never hurt anyone), and the colors seem a little drab compared to the cars. The texture on the dirt roads wasn't a pretty sight, either.

BR ran at a fast, smooth rate using 1024x768 resolution. This is a good thing, as there are no options apart from screen resolution, and the option to turn off specular lighting, shadows, and skidmarks. Someone using a slower system (if there are still any out there) will almost certainly wish for more tweaks to the graphic settings, but sadly will be out of luck.

In a nutshell, BR is about average visually. No glaring flaws, but nothing to make it stand out, either.

Presentation/Audio : 35
This is probably the weakest part of BR. The soundtrack is typical, even with all the choices available, and becomes irritating in a short period of time. The cars have unique sounds, but none of them will make your hair stand on end.

The thing that makes this really vexing is the fact that BR installs a utility called 'Interactive Around Sound' on your system without telling you it's doing it. It caused no conflicts or problems, but I could see no benefit whatsoever when it came to making the audio experience in BR anything but forgettable. Go figure.

Interface/Options : 60
Pretty straightforward stuff here, despite the odd circular appearance. Navigation is simple, with 4 racing modes available from the opening screen, along with the options. The biggest gripe I have about the interface is the controller configuration screen--it requires a lot of extra clicking to accomplish anything. There is one major oddity I noticed--most of the graphics options are located under the game setup heading, with only resolution listed under graphics options. Not my definition of intuitive.

Once again, no unforgivable sins here, but no great accomplishments either.

Gameplay : 65
We've once again arrived at the place where a title is either going to succeed or fail--especially an arcade racer like BR. Simulations can score points with accuracy and details, but without those things it all comes down to one question: Is it fun?

Briefly, yes it is--if taken in the right spirit. It certainly doesn't break into any new, unexplored territory, but there is a good time to be had with BR if you care to look for it. There are some problems and some positives, both of which I'll detail here.

At first, I thought the control was terrible. But after altering my driving style I found BR to be a pretty controllable racer--the brakes are a little too strong, and there seems to be a larger-than-usual dead spot in the steering, but it's better than many other games. The secret is to drive it like a sprint car--set up for the turn well in advance, pitch the car sideways, and slide through the turn. The road surface doesn't seem to affect this approach at all, with it working well on tarmac or dirt. The cars (16 in all) do handle, brake, and accelerate differently, but adopting this driving style helps with all of them.

The race types available in BR are the usual fare, with time attack, quick race (with only one opponent), championship (with 19 opponents--more on that in a minute), and multiplayer choices. Not all the cars and tracks are available immediately, in true arcade racer fashion, and must be unlocked by doing well. During any session other than a championship, the weather can be selected from sun, snow, rain, fog, and night. This is a nice option, but doesn't seem to affect anything other than visibility. The car setup options are simple as well, with only tire type (normal, slippy, and grippy!), shock stiffness, steering ratio, and auto or manual transmission as the available adjustments. BR is obviously not aimed at gearheads.

Some problems crop up when playing BR over an extended period, the biggest being a lack of variety in the race courses. The scenery and settings change, but all the tracks are too similar, with no changes in how you approach the race needed. The way the field of opponents is handled during championship races didn't cause me to celebrate, either--even with a field of 20 cars, they are so spaced out at the start you rarely see more than one at a time. In my opinion, racing in a pack of several cars would up the fun factor considerably. Add in the AI, which isn't too racy, and it feels like you're running in time attack mode most of the time.

The Force Feedback effects are another area that kind of falls flat here. There are the usual effects from making contact with another car (when you see one) or an obstacle, but nothing that really helps with driving the car. Everyone needs to take a lesson from Viper Racing or Sports Car GT on how to implement FF.

Multiplayer is offered via IPX, TCP/IP, or a modem. Sadly, my second PC was down and I didn't attempt any multiplayer racing.

Once again, BR isn't a terrible game. It just doesn't do a lot to set itself apart from the (quite large and boisterous) crowd. It can be fun at times, but not often enough to make it a must-have for anyone.

Difficulty : 75
SouthPeak committed a cardinal sin for an arcade racer--no difficulty adjustment. Initially, the AI seem to be blindingly fast. With practice, it becomes evident that they aren't, but it makes for some frustrating times until you get the hang of driving these cars. The biggest thing I noticed, once I could catch the computer cars, was the lack of challenge you get from them. When you catch an AI car, it just seems to slow down and move over, making passing pretty easy. If you slip while in front, they will overtake you, but I'd like to see a little more tenacity from the other drivers.

Overall : 61
So how does BR weigh in against the competition? In its favor, it has pleasant, fast graphics, a lot of different (if fictional) cars, and a unique driving model. The drawbacks are tracks that get repetitive, bland sounds, and questionable AI. All these things add up to a very average racer--one that will probably please the casual fan. If you want depth and realism in a rally title, go with Colin McRae or the upcoming Rally Championship. If you just want to get in and race, BR may not be the worst you could do.

By: Scott Moore 6/24/99

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