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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Digital Illusions

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q3 2004

 

 

- Plenty of ďreal worldĒ cars and tracks to race
- Really good car visuals including impressive damage and ďdirtyĒ effects
- Xbox Live and XSN tournaments
- Career mode provides plenty of practice for online play
- "Familiar" controls

 

 

- Arcade-style racing means this isnít a true rally racing sim like the Colin McRae series
- Camera when you fly off the road can get distracting when you try and get back on track
- You donít always feel youíre in full control of the car
- Pedestrian sound effects and music

 

 

Review: Rallisport Challenge (XB)

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Rallisport Challenge 2

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

rallisport challenge 2 review          rallisport challenge 2 review

 

Hot on the heels of Microsoftís flagship racing title sequel Project Gotham Racing 2 (PGR2), the newest member of the Xbox first-party racing club, RalliSport Challenge 2 (RSC2), proves that Microsoft knows how to make great racing games. You realize a developer has done a great job when you enjoy playing a game even though you wouldnít normally be interested in the gameís subject matter, and thatís where I fall: a rally racing game would be the least likely racer I would think of purchasing and playing, but RSC2 is such a great game, even a non-rally racing game fan such as myself totally delighted in the solid overall quality of RSC2. Thatís in no small part due to the addition of the Xbox Live and (just as importantly) XSN support, which spins around a complete 180 degrees the lonely nature that comprises the heart of true rally racing.

To many racing gamers, enjoying rally racing may be a little hard to comprehend, much like an American baseball fanatic trying to figure out the appeal of English cricket. After all, rally racing isnít a driver versus a field of other drivers all

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contained in a single track. No, rally racing is a driver (and sometimes a navigator along for the ride) racing not against other vehicles at the same time, but rather racing solo on a race course located on real roads (on and off-road) and competing instead against other driverís best times on each courses. Youíre not worried about checking your rear mirror to see whoís gaining on you.

Instead, youíll be checking your watch to

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see if you are completing the race course race in a faster time than your opponents. Thatís the core gameplay at work in RSC2. But unlike RSC2ís chief rally racer competition Colin McRae 4 from Codemasters, there are a few events where you will actually compete in traditional races against other drivers on a track. Still, most of RSC2 is the standard rally racing of time competition.

While actual rally racing is very popular in Europe, the American audience prefers track-style racing such as NASCAR or even Indy Racing League. Taking that even a step further, street racing titles are the video game genreís most popular style with Need for Speed Underground, the Test Drive series, and PGR2 being much more popular than rally racing. But that didnít discourage Microsoft from developing the first RSC last year and following that up quickly with a sequel. Now, coupled with PGR2 (and soon to be joined by Forza Motorsport, which could possibly overtake Sonyís powerful Gran Turismo 4), RSC2 gives Microsoft the undisputed crown of first-party console racing game superiority over both Sony and Nintendo.

The single-player RSC2 has a solid career mode that progresses from relatively easy to win every race to supremely challenging to your racing skills. As you get further and further into the single-player game, you will unlock more cars, car skins, and the tracks themselves to play online. What breaks the monotony of RSC2ís rally racing is the smorgasbord of types of rally racing you can play.

Not only do you get to traverse across deserts and dirt-filled off-road tracks and courses, but thereís a heaping helping offering of tracks with plenty of tarmac, closed courses with plenty of mud pits, and ice races, the toughest trials in the game that will have you slipping and sliding all over the road. Fortunately, RSC2 provides the occasional break from the monotony of time racing to give you either head-to-head or four-player races. There are also plenty of cars of varying styles and performance levels from manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Saab, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Suzuki (among others) to use. Some cars are much better handling for the more twisty-turning courses, while others may not handle as smoothly but are killer speed demons on straighter courses.

 

rallisport challenge 2 review          rallisport challenge 2 review


The biggest payoff from a well-developed single-player game besides unlocking vehicles and tracks for online gaming is that you will learn the intricacies of the cars and tracks themselves that you will definitely need to know if you want to challenge the top online RSC2 racers.

There are times when you donít always entirely feel you are in complete control of the car, almost s if youíre caroming down a hill with a cut brake line. You can adjust your carís settings before a race to be better suited for a particular track, but that really doesnít factor into the game much and almost seems wasteful to include it because the game can automatically set your car to the best conditioning for what youíll face in an upcoming race.

RSC2ís basic car controls will be intimately familiar to veteran PGR drivers, which is to say get prepared for a whole lot of power sliding. Like the PGR series, RSC2 definitely leans away from simulation racing evident in the Colin McRae series for a more arcade-style racing experience. With plenty of hairpins and sharp 90-degree turns, being a good power-sliding driver is absolutely crucial if you aspire for any kind of success in RSC2. There is a navigation system to help you, but it changes from race-to-race, which can be a bit disconcerting. At times youíll have a navigator in the car with you telling you when to turn (in a monotone voice that really defines bad gaming voice-over) with the assistance of a colored turn indicator. Other times, thereís a map that shows you the upcoming roadway layout, and others, well youíre on your own trying to figure out whatís around the next bend in the road.

It is Xbox Live support that takes the usual singularity of rally racing and throws it out the side door by providing a high-octane online racing community. Here, the laws of multiplayer racing again apply. No more solitary driving here. I encountered a few lag issues that I hadnít met while playing RSC2ís big brother, PGR2, but usually it was minimal lag and most online racing played out smooth. Additionally, thereís an online ranking system based on the points you garner in different types of races. You can also download or upload race times too in case the individualistic driving lifestyle really is more your thing.

Another online bonus with RSC2 is the Xbox Sports Network (XSN) tournament support. Just like all the other XSN sports titles, you can set up or join a race tournament, wait for the race date and time, and get down to some competitive rally racing.

A strong feature of RSC2 is its excellent visual presentation. This is a gorgeous game, with plenty of little details that give the game a sense of realism. The cars are painstakingly recreated bumper-to-bumper and actually show serious damage including losing the engine hood, doors, and busting out windows. And the courses all have a photorealistic quality. But RSC2 goes the extra mile with amazing lighting and weather effects that youíll encounter when you race at night or during snow and rainfall. Your vehicle will noticeably and gradually pick up dirt and grime if you are racing in muddy or dusty conditions. The game does have some perceptible aliasing issues at times and a completely confusing camera placement that occurs if you crash or fly inadvertently off the beaten path, but thatís still not enough to detract from the five-star graphics on the whole.

One not-so-great facet of RSC2 is the sound department. The sound effects of the carís engines revving up and down is okay, but doesnít provide the high-decibel wow it could. Iíve already mentioned the terrible voice-over work, and the gameís music is pedestrian at best. Suffice to say, RSC2 wonít be winning any sound awards anytime soon.

The newest RSC improves on its predecessorís already-impressive showing, with the real clincher of its racing game greatness being the Xbox Live support, especially adding the ability to utilize XSN tournaments. While many non-rally racing fans may not completely acclimate to the lonesomeness of rally racing that happens to be the majority of the RSC2 single-game experience, the community-building nature of RSC2ís online play is a more than adequate replacement for the social butterfly racer. While PGR2 offers a more challenging single-player game and more exciting multiplayer online play, RSC2 is a reasonable alternative to the fast-and-furious nature of todayís multitude of street-style racers.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(June 28, 2004)

 

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