Rallisport Challenge (Xbox) Review
Background InfoBy: James Smith 5/1/02
Hopefully the Xbox will assume the role of the ultimate racing fan's console of choice. The Dreamcast was a dream console for racing fans with a variety of incredible racing games and a controller ideally suited for racing. There's no doubt Microsoft skimmed the design archives of Sega to come up with the Xbox controller, which itself is great for driving games. And the driving is just kicking up on the Xbox. Rallisport Challenge is just the latest in what promises to be a bright racing future for the Xbox. Loosely based on the World Rally Championship series, this rally game is a blend of arcade and simulation that should appeal to a wide market.
Presentation/Graphics : 92
The first thing that struck me in Rallisport Challenge was the graphics of the environments. Holy smokes! The trees which line the courses are amazing. I swear they were flowing back and forth in the breeze. Some of the road surfaces are equally impressive. Racing on snow and ice is very realistically graphically. The glare coming off the ice is lifelike in that you can see imperfections in the ice. It's not a flat, clean surface but has bits of snow covered patches and the like. The cars are a bit less impressive. The cars seem to utilize more flat textured polygons and just don't deliver the wow factor. They are passable, but just not as impressive as the first time I saw GT3 on the PS2. The best part is the game flows along at a consistent and smooth pace.
There are a couple of minor issues with the graphics. First, the screen trips out if you're close to wiping out. I prefer to drive in either of the two first-person views (bumper camera or on the hood). If you get close to rolling the car the screen flips to a third-person view. Many times my car isn't unstable enough to go full tilt, so the rapid transition is a bit of nuisance. Second, the dirt that gets kicked up is minimal. But then again, I'm playing in the first-person so this isn't an issue. While you could say that this affects the quality of the game when racing other cars, true rally racing is a bit of a loner sport. The staggered starts of true rally racing means you rarely come across a competitor as it is.
Presentation/Audio : 80
Like every racing game before it, I turned off the music in RC the moment I put the pedal to the floor. But if you want to listen to music, there's a diverse soundtrack. In addition, the game will allow you to pull up your own tunes. If you turn off the music you'll hear the buzzing of the cars which don't really inspire much confidence that they were sampled from real rally cars. But on the courses I tend to be as focused as Tommi Makinen. My unblinking eyes are plastered to the windshield as I listen for the calls from my co-pilot. Those calls are decent but not truly the type you'll hear watching the WRC broadcasts. Upcoming turns are pointed out along with various degrees of severity (tight, medium left opens, slight left tightens, etc). One thing your copilot does do is point out hazards in the turns, such as rocks lining the inside or outside of a curve, fences, or cliffs.
Gameplay : 85
If you are looking for a simulation of the European rally season, you'll have to look elsewhere. RC is a mix of arcade and sim, and it's reflected in the options. First, car setups are relatively simple. You can adjust things like suspension and steering, but they are not detailed. You won't be changing ride height to the millimeter or spring settings but rather changing steering from loose to tight and such. While car settings are few and far between, the number of cars and tracks in the game is respectable. There are over 3 dozen courses and around 20 cars.
There are plenty of game modes available, though most time will be spent in the career mode, which covers multiple sessions consisting of either several stages from the same course or stages from a variety of courses. Damage is a factor in the career mode in that damage minimizes your point reward at the end of a race. But the damage model is benign. You won't be breaking any suspensions in the game or suffer from a broken engine due to inadequate repair time in the service area following a stage. The game utilizes a ladder approach to unlocking additional features. As you progress in your career, you open up additional tracks and cars that can be used in the non-career modes. These modes include the single race, time attack, and multiplayer split screen race. Races vary from being alone on the course to 4-car rally crosses or hill climbs.
Replay Value : 90
Despite some flaws and lacking features (most notably a realistic damage model, a bigger field, and a truer rally experience), this game keeps my attention. The driving is fast and furious, and the hill climbs in particular are a rush. I'm a driving game fanatic, so this game naturally appeals to me. Sim fans will no doubt complain about the game's forgiving physics, but the majority of gamers will find a game that is entertaining.
Overall : 86
If you're a fan of games like Sega Rally 2, EA's NASCAR series, or any other racer that has roots in both arcade and simulation elements, you should find that Rallisport Challenge is an appealing title. The graphics are some of the best yet on the Xbox and complement the driving.
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