Rallisport Challenge06 Apr 2003 0
Mmmmm?Kubelwagon. The very thought of the Kubelwagon bearing down on my enemies in Battlefield 1942 evokes a twisted, inner demon in me that desires - nay, demands - carnage. High speed, knuckle-white turns, and last-minute avoidance of sheer death stirs the adrenaline deep inside me.
So what's the difference between that snapshot of a popular PC title and a racing game? The hairpin turns are just as tight, although a Sherman usually doesn't lurk around the next corner. And the closest to other human beings you'll get are the slobbering, ravenous fans that line the track.
RalliSport Challenge is, while not completely a simulation, a fun driving game. The graphics are astounding, the sound is awesome, and while the action is arcade-like, it made me wonder what could possibly be fun about a racing game to a hardcore simulation/strategy wargamer. I wondered the same thing about a recent review I did on a game called Operation Blockade - and came away with a fresh view on a different genre of gaming.
Rev it Up
This title allows a player to involve themselves in a bit of racing, European-style - the Rally is a unique and interesting version of racing, mixing challenging tracks with variable weather conditions and (sometimes) endurance tests for both man and machine. RalliSport gives the player the keys to several unique tracks?at first. About half the game, both in selectable cars and raceable tracks, is locked up tight until the player scores enough points in the other modes to access it. The goals aren't impossible to achieve, and are nearly second nature at the easy difficulty levels - even for a first timer.
The whole object, then, is to unlock these inaccessible tracks and the monster vehicles that wait down the road, so to speak. Along the way, the player is treated to a gorgeously rendered 3D landscape that whizzes by, reflected in the near perfect reflection of the smooth glass windows as the engine growls like a ravenous German Shepard. The game is not a simulation - this much is evident by the obvious lack of a proper cockpit view - giving one an arcade title, albeit a solid one, with some minor underpinnings of strategy (by allowing the selection of any car and further allowing these cars to be modified). This leaves the game appealing to more of the arcade set than the strategy set, even though some minor campaigning elements are included.
Life on the Circuit
The game has several options, including Single Race, Career (building up points and attempting to unlock the more sophisticated tracks and cars), Time Attack (playing against the clock), and Multiplayer. Single Race is further subdivided into different race types: Rally (point-to-point), Hill Climb, Ice Racing, and Rallycross. Each offers different tracks to compete on; the level of difficulty varies.
The Hill Climb portion shares a common bond with the advanced tracks and cars, in that the player cannot access it until a certain number of points are gained in the Career Mode. Within Career Mode, there are initially four trophies to compete for: the Safari Trophy, Ice Racing Open, Mediterranean Rally, and the Pro Rally Cup. The level of difficulty increases from Safari to Pro Rally, with more twists and turns and less straight track in the latter. This is annoying at first but the learning curve isn't so great that it's impossible to get the feel for it; actually, it is quite easy to learn to take the more difficult curves, but it'll take constant refining of a player's driving skills.
The points a player earns comes not only from winning a trophy (or placing, period, but you get more points the higher you finish), but also from getting a high top speed, a great lap time, or not damaging the car.
The only aggravating part of this process is not being able to take part immediately in the Hill Climb events; I don't like not having access to all the possibilities early on - I understand needing to accumulate points to open up more tracks (it offers a goal and drives the player, so to speak, to better performances), but I'd like to know if I'm going to like it before I bust my hump trying to get into it in the first place. I should point out that this is a most minor point, however, as once the Hill Climb is unlocked, it offers a whole new set of challenges that are appreciated.