Colin McRae Rally (PC) Review
Presentation/Graphics : 75
Presentation/Audio : 85
Interface/Options : 70
Other than this problem, the game was easy to set up. All selections are on a single, self-explanatory screen.
Gameplay : 65
Gameplay takes one of four forms:
Time Trial: A single rally stage against the clock. This option is available for either one or two players or over a network.
Rally: A single event from the season consisting of six or seven separate stages. Again, this is available for one or two players or network play.
Championship: The entire season of eight events, each consisting of six or seven stages for a single player only.
A problem is that there are only a limited number of venues available to race when a player starts out. In rally mode, the only setting available is New Zealand. In Time Trial mode, there is one stage each from several rallies. On the back of the manual for the game is a number to call for cheat codes, which I guess would include codes to make all the tracks available, but I believe the option to practice all the tracks is something which should be there as a part of the regular game.
The player chooses from either novice or intermediate difficulty advanced only becomes available with experience and seven cars. At the novice level are the front wheel drive Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Felicia and Seat Ibiza. At the intermediate level are the four-wheel drive Subaru Impreza, Ford Escort, Mitsubishi Lancer and Toyota Corolla. To me, it seemed that the Golf and Lancer were the best cars in their respective classes. The latter is peculiar since McRae was driving a Subaru last season and that car is splashed all over the box graphics. Incidentally, a new version of this game is scheduled for release in the very near future that was probably hastened by McRae's switch to Ford this season.
Mechanical settings for the cars can be adjusted from stage to stage and repairs made. Adjustments include tires, suspension, brakes, steering and gear ratio. Damage can occur to electrical, handling, brakes, engine and gearbox. But the cars seem immune to impact damage. I smashed into trees at ridiculous speeds and went on with no apparent effect. In one particularly notorious case, I ramped up an embankment in Greece and managed to strike a tree a glancing blow that set the car spinning like a top through the air. When I returned to earth, I slid sideways for quite some distance without slowing down at all and just continued as if nothing had happened.
As in Rally Championship, there are voice and visual indicators of upcoming turns, the difference being that in this game, no distance is given to the turn, which is valuable information to know. The game designers love hiding turns right after crests in the road which made them invisible until the very last moment.
On-screen displays include stage position, split time comparison, stage progress, gear selection, tach, speed and current and split times. Unlike Rally Championship, these displays could not be turned off, which gave a very arcade feel to the driving experience. There are five views from which to choose: behind car (near and far), fender, hood and headcam. I started out using the behind car near view but it was hard to get a feel for the road from that angle and I ended up using the fender view. This is really a bumper cam since it seems to be on the car's centerline rather than a fender.
Another major difference between these two games is that the stages in Colin McRae Rally are much shorter. The longest stage is about 5 kilometers in length and three or four minutes to complete. That compares to some stages that took almost 20 minutes in Rally Championship. I'm really of two minds as to which is better. The longer stages are a real challenge as it's easy to fade out after a while, miss instructions and go flying off into space as you overshoot a turn, but when every stage is so short, I was left feeling short-changed. If your attention span is short, you definitely want McRae.
Replay Value : 70
Additionally, I was very quickly winning stages at the novice level, sometimes by 10 seconds or so, which is a huge margin. In the time I had to review the game, I didn't participate in championship mode at the intermediate or advanced levels, but I'm sure that as I learned the roads, winning would become the norm, and there's no way to crank up the level of competition. On the other hand, in Rally Championship, which I've continued to play since writing my review, I've still not come up to the level of the competition and so it remains a both a challenge to drive and a thing of beauty to watch.
Overall : 70
If you want a game that's easy and fun, choose McRae it fulfills that role well. But for the serious gamer, I'd suggest Rally Championship.