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Colin McRae Rally 3

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Codemasters
Platform: PC CD-ROM
Price £34.99
Released: Out Now

It's been a long and agonising wait for PC rally fans. Colin McRae Rally 3 first appeared on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 last autumn and ever since PC gamers have been waiting in anticipation. In fact it was announced that Colin McRae Rally 4 would be arriving on the consoles this year which made the wait for number 3 increasingly unbearable. However the wait is now over and Colin McRae Rally 3 is finally available on PC. It says a lot for the quality of the series that before number 3 arrived, Colin McRae Rally 2.0 was considered to be the best rally simulation even though there have been a load of rally games since it's release a few years ago. Anyway let's get on with it and look at Colin McRae Rally 3.

If you haven't played either the PlayStation 2 or Xbox version of Colin McRae Rally 3 you'll be surprised by the streamlined nature of the game. The arcade races have been removed and if you want to take part in a rally your only option is to take part in the Championship mode. This would seem to indicate that the developers wanted to make the series more of a simulation, however it's a shame that the arcade mode was removed because it was an excellent feature. Multiplayer races are restricted to split screen or alternate turns as well so there is no chance of online races which is a little disappointing.

Championship mode puts you in the shoes of Colin himself, no, literally it does because you can't choose to set yourself up as an individual. For those who have played previous CM Rally titles you'll notice some key differences here too. First of all the whole proceedings have been given a more professional edge. It won't be game over if you fail to make the top places after a few rallies. You don't get the chance to decide what repairs are made to your vehicles when you come to service stages in a rally. Some gamers may be upset by this but I suppose in real life Colin is a driver not the works mechanic. You still get to set the car up as you like though but be warned if you decide to tinker, the effects of wrongly setting the car up, something I have been known to do, are more pronounced than in virtually any other rally game I've played. Each rally you participate in has six stages and a super special stage in which you go head to head with another driver. This super special stage offers a great way to finish off a rally and it is good to be able to race wheel-to-wheel as opposed to point-to-point for a change.

The handling of the cars seem more realistic this time around. It's really impressive the way the quality of the handling decreases with the damage taken. You know what's been damaged because of how the handling feels. The car feels different on every terrain which again is both realistic and impressive. One comment I will make though is that if you're going to be using a set of wheels and pedals then initially you'll find the steering a bit strange. The game lets you configure the deadzone settings for the wheel and it took me quite a while before I was happy with the settings. The default settings feel unresponsive and the chances are the you will have to make adjustments until you find the right balance. Those of you with force feedback wheels will be disappointed to learn that the force feedback is rather lacking, even on the highest setting. I tried two devices and both performed similarly.

You would expect the PC version of Colin McRae Rally 3 to look better than it's console brethren and thanks to increased resolutions it certainly does. You're going to need a very strong CPU and graphics card to run the game at higher resolutions though. Our system (Athlon XP2000+/GeForce4 Ti4200/512MB RAM) choked a little at 1024x768 but was generally fine at lower resolutions. Of course you can lower the details and this will improve your framerate should you feel it's running a little sluggish. You can even enable full scene anti-aliasing if your PC is upto the task, mine sadly wasn't. The car models look absolutely fantastic and are easily the best seen in any Rally simulation. The weather effects are also particularly impressive and the blizzards in Sweden will make you shiver and want to put antifreeze on the windscreen, it looks that good. It was disappointing to see the cardboard cut-out crowds in action once again. I can only guess that fully animated spectators would have ground most PCs to a full stop but nevertheless it would be good to have the option of having animated spectators.

Of course you can probably guess that the co-drivers comments are not subtitled. The visual pace notes are colour coded though to highlight the severity of the turns which is very useful. A white background indicates a fairly safe turn whilst a red background indicates a right pig of a turn. The visual pace notes are good but they don't convey details such as bumps and other details in addition to the nature of the turns. All other information is shown visually though. The manual, whilst short explains all you need to know to get started with the game.

Colin McRae Rally 3 is easily the best rally simulation on the PC. However you can't help but wish that the arcade mode had remained and that you could choose to drive a different car in the championship mode. Still there has to be room for improvements for number 4 in the series and after all what's here is very good indeed.

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10
The Colin McRae Rally series makes a triumphant return but it's a shame that it didn't carry on the arcade mode from the second game.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No problems for deaf gamers but the visual pace notes need more detail.

© Deaf Gamers.com 2000