The Colin McRae series has been going along for a while and although the third game was not brilliant there has been quite a bit of hype around this title. There is only one problem: The competition is tough. When Rallisports Challenge 2 came out the old Colin Mcrae 04 (which was bought out before RSC2) was seriously threatened, here is the lowdown.

The Game
Colin McRae is a hard game to jump straight into, although the quick race mode is an option you will probably find the handling not like other racing games. The pace is slightly slower yet actually controlling the car is much more difficult. Unless you are a expert at driving games you will feel that you do not have complete control of the car which can put you off the game from the first "Left turn 7 crest don't cut", I swerved off the road several times which caused me to become frustrated and turn off on more than one occasion.  If you can look past this and get over the difficult controls it does get enjoyable, I'll give you a run down of the championship mode.

You choose your name and country as well as your car type (2WD, 4WD, Expert) then choose a car, the selection is quite limited but they are all licensed car models. After that you then set you car up for the race, there are several things you can do to tune up your car. Luckily the games gives you enough information on the stages that you can make a sensible choice (if it's snowing choose snow tires not gravel tires), the other things like car height and gearbox offer a personal touch but can be overwhelming if you are not a car fanatic. Finally you are thrown in to the rally and have to complete 2 stages in the selected country. The co-driver is helpful and gives you detailed pace notes, but sometimes I do wonder if it is really necessary to tell you so much. After the two stages you then return to the service area and repair you car and prepare for another two stages and so on. This setup is a good idea but can become monotonous. The developers try and stop this by adding the very rare SS circuits (closed lapped tracks) and the more regular part testing which can be tough but allows you to unlock some fairly useful parts, although this is good they could still have a bit more variety.

The stages themselves all follow very stereotypical trends. If you're in Japan it's raining, if you're in England it's muddy and twisting, if your in Sweden it's snowing and so on. It would be better if the weather was a bit more random to add to the variety. The tracks are all fairly standard and it's difficult to differentiate stage1 from stage 4 as the game doesn't particularly get harder as you carry on. This is a shame as when it comes to multiplayer mode I tend to just pick randomly, that certainly shouldn't be the case.

Comparing the game to the slightly more arcade style of Rallisports Challenge 2 it does not fair to well. There are 4 different rally types on Rallisports and only one on Colin McRae. There are more cars and the stage designs on Rallisports are much more varied. Colin McRae also lacks this. But I don't think Colin McRae is all about that, they try and make it more realistic by having the sort of circuits they have in reality and the same handling but there is a vital difference. In reality you can feel just when the car is about to swerve, slide or roll. You can't on a game so you lose the crucial feeling of control. A shame really, as this could of help to save the game from the bargain bin it's bound to be thrown in.

Graphics & Sound
Colin McRae is an odd one for graphics and sound. The graphics are actually very PS2-ish and lack the brilliance of things like 'Dead or Alive' or 'Halo,' yet the way they are used works well and creates a feeling of large space. Everything is fine until you go off the road and hit the 2d tree barrier around the track or go over completely flat water which does not move. Those things just ruin the feel, a shame considering this is meant to be a realistic game. However, the graphics are still okay... but are okay graphics good enough? No, not really.

The sounds are better than the graphics as they add a lot for the entire feel of the game. It really sounds like you just slid off the gravel through the plants and allowed your engine to cut out. The menu music is good and suits the rally theme. The In-game music is not even there sadly enough. That means no listening to your favourite driving tune on the game disc or your hard drive. Ah well.

Once again, comparing this to Rallisports is difficult because Rallisports improves on all the problems. Choice of game disc music and harddrive tracks as well as astounding graphics. which really are big with no tree boundaries just breakable fences.

Although Rally games are standard run of the mill sort of games they can still be original. Colin McRae allows you to test parts (mentioned earlier) and if you do the test then you get to keep it. Although they are pretty simple they are still interesting. Pushing suspension to the limits on a bumpy course against a tough time limit is a lot of fun. Shame you only get two attempts! Frustrating if you fail but very rewarding if you complete it.

Although Colin McRae is a realistic and standard rally game, it still has mojo which comes in at the strangest of places. The menus in the game are mainly black and white they are very slick and stylish. Simple is key. There is also all the problems you can have during a race. Imagine, you turn a tough corner but go too wide causing you to crash. You pull away and see your tyre bounce across the road, now you panic and desperately attempt to control your car as you twist and turn on the muddy course; exhilirating. It's things like these which pulls this game up from complete disaster but I'm afraid a jug of good old mojo won't make this title more than average.

Beaten in almost aspect by the Rallisports Challenge 2, out with the old in with the new. Fun while it lasts and good for people who want a challenging and realistic rally game. Rent it. Experience it. Move on to bigger things.

Reviewed by Charlie Duke | August 27th 2003

  • Colin McRae Rally 04 is being created by Codemasters' award-winning game development team responsible for keeping the series as the number one choice in rally gaming.
  • An advanced visual engine will deliver stunning environments and more detailed stages through the fresh international rally courses. The replay cameras are being enhanced to provide dramatic highlights from the rallies in dramatic televisual detail.
  • Gameplay will feature Championship, Rally and Stages modes, each with single player or multiplayer options that offer co-operative and competitive team challenges. Championships include a full rally season, specialist 4-wheel drive and 2-wheel drive events, Custom Rallies and an ultimate Expert Championship, which will set highest standards for the most die-hard rally fans.

ColinMcRae Box

Colin McRae
Rally 04'

March 2004