by Microsoft Game Studios
In March earlier this year, we saw the launch of the XBOX console and shortly after came one of the best rally titles to date for it, RalliSport Challenge. The game took a slightly different angle from games such as Colin McRae and opted to give gamers more variety in their rally driving than any other title to date. Altogether the game comprises four distinct rally types, all of which are excellent. Now the time has come for the game to arrive on the PC and as we shall see, it still is an excellent title.
Designed by Digital Illusions, who were responsible for the excellent Rally Masters on the PC and PSone, RalliSport Challenge smacks of class from the start line to the finish line. All in all there are 48 tracks and 29 cars, ranging from Audi to Volkswagen, to choose from. There are 4 types of rally to participate in. There is Rally - which is the usual stage race or point-to-point race in which each car takes it in turn and attempts to record the quickest time. Next there is Ice Racing - you compete against other cars, wheel-to-wheel, on a ice covered circuit. Thirdly there is the Hill Climb - this is another point-to-point race in which you are constantly heading uphill on treacherous terrain. Finally there is Rallycross - which is a lap based, wheel-to-wheel racing on mixed terrain. All races in multiplayer races are wheel-to-wheel.
The gameplay options when you begin are to start the game or take part in a quick race. Choosing the quick race puts you into a random car and a random race. Electing to start the game takes you to more options. You can choose a time trial, single race, of one the four above race types or get straight to the heart of RC, the career mode. In the career mode you will take part in a total of seventeen rallies, which encompass all the different varieties, on the road to taking yourself from a Pro to Unlimited.
When you begin career mode you will be asked to choose between beginner and normal mode. Beginner mode will make your opponents less challenging and allow you to restart individual stages where normal mode will provide tougher opponents and will make you restart the whole rally again instead of an individual stage. In career mode you earn points in each rally according to where you finish and the amount of damage you cause to the car, less damage equals more points. You will also receive a bonus for your overall position when all the stages of the rally have been completed. Initially, in the Pro class there are only four rallies for you to participate in and a handful of cars for you to drive. You will need to amass 12,000 points in order to progress to the expert class which will unlock more cars and rallies. There is also a Classic class, in which you drive 80's cars, and an Unlimited class which require 40,000 and 70,000 points respectively to unlock. The Hill Climb and Rallycross will not be available to you in single race mode until you unlock the expert mode.
Once you are in a rally for the first time you may be distracted by the magnificent graphics and terrain textures. The scenery just looks so realistic and the draw distance is very impressive although to have the game looking it's best you're going to need a monster of a PC. The ice races are where the textures can be seen at their finest. The ice and the shimmering light that reflects off it, look so real. The car models are also excellent and as good as any game that has gone before. You would think that with the PC being able to use far superior resolutions to the XBOX that everything would look better. In fact I have, what I would regard as a high specification PC, which is far beyond the minimum requirements for the game and still I can't get the game to run as smooth, or look as good as the XBOX version.
Of course one major advantage with owning the PC version is that you will probably have a good steering wheel to use with the game. In all fairness driving games are meant to be played with a steering wheel and RalliSport Challenge is no exception. One thing that did disappoint me though was the poor use of force feedback which I felt lacked definition when compared to the XBOX version.
Like every rally game under the sun, RC uses a co-driver to relay verbal messages. Most of these messages also have a visual icon to give the same message. Pages 10-11 of the manual will tell you what these icons mean although most, like the directional arrows, are self explanatory. Some messages don't have any icons but in most cases this doesn't matter as they are just messages like the road is going to change to tarmac. Overall the deaf gamer is kept well informed by the use of these visual clues.
RalliSport Challenge has transferred to the PC very well indeed but those who thought this version would be superior to the XBOX version will be disappointed as to be perfectly honest I felt the XBOX version looked and performed better than the PC version. That's not to say that PC version is bad. Far from it and it comes highly recommended to those driving fans amongst you, especially those who don't own the XBOX version and like the idea of using their PC steering wheel with the game.
Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10 A superb XBOX game becomes a very good PC one. You'll need a top notch PC to get the game running as smooth as it is on the XBOX though.
Deaf Gamers comment: Like most driving games RalliSport Challenge is fine for deaf gamers. Uses good visual clues to relay most of the co-driver's messages.