International Rally Championship
Europress and the RAC have parted company. Their previous (licensed) union had apparently restricted the representation of the RAC Rally. This time out, the lack of a licence apparently allows Europress more freedom to produce zany courses and throw in the spectacular crashes and hideous wipeouts that everyone knows is the only reason people go to watch the sport anyway. Let's face it, you never see highlights on TV of people parking really tidily, do you? It's always multiple somersaults into the crowd with wheels flying off in every direction. So maybe Europress have a point.
As a result of this freedom, there are a lot more in-game options, with arcade and time-trial modes, as well as various versions of full Championships. You can also make up your own rallies, customising everything within them. In addition, up to eight people can now race against each other over a network. But hey, we're all testosterone-packed males around here - let's talk about cars.
Graphically, it's much improved - especially if you have a 3Dfx card - backgrounds are cute, and cars throw up dust, snow, torn-up bodies of small animals and all the other shit you get on the average side-road in the countryside. You can even do one of those reverse-lock spins in which you disappear behind a cloud of sand in desert stages. If you want. You don't have to.
The different locations means there's more variety in the track surfaces, as well as a lot more going on topographically: there are serious cambers and huge jumps. Time trial sections now have the obligatory ghost car to race against. As in the previous version, a lot of this can be switched off to speed the game up.
The facility to create your own courses is good, especially as other people can race courses you come up with by typing in an alphanumeric code. It also seems easier to drive. "Independent suspension" means the cars' handling has been improved - even using a keyboard, it's really easy to set up a controlled powerslide. For the most part, however, the much-vaunted crashes seem less spectacular than the original. In the first game you only had to clip a tuft of kerbside grass to go rolling sideways down the road, before ending up on your roof, feeling like a dickhead. Annoying delays then occurred while you were righted. In this, although you tend to do 360 degree spins when you touch another car as if you have a bloody great trackball in the middle of the car's underside, you carry on as if nothing happened. When I finally managed a forward somersault, I scarcely slowed down, bouncing a couple of times and racing away without so much as an embarrassed cough. A bit of a let-down really. Nevertheless, the sense of speed when you're driving is one of the best around. Mind you, if you were a fan of the in-car view from the last game, you're stuffed: all you get this time is a bonnet or chase view.
Less good stuff
One of the things I liked about the previous version was that you got some feeling of being in a real rally (I said 'some'), with the start times over different days and proper stages and so on. I'd prefer it if they'd have concentrated a bit more on the atmosphere - instead, with the courses being scattered all over the world in the way they are, it diminishes this somewhat and so doesn't seem a lot different to many other rally games on other formats. In addition, they've actually started putting stages in where you do laps. I hate that.
There's still stuff they could have improved from the last version which they haven't. There's no point, for example, choosing anything other than Class A cars for the time trials because it doesn't differentiate between classes in the high-score tables and there's no way you'll match their times in a Skoda Felicia.
One problem from the previous version isn't there any more - but only because they've cheated. There was an 'invisible barrier' you bounced off on some stages, which looked ridiculous. They've solved this problem - not by letting you run wide, but by putting barriers into everything. Be warned, fences and barriers are everywhere.
One problem which persists is the mysteriously crap opponents' cars in the arcade stages: you hurtle round a bend at 148mph, straight into the back of a car doing 29 mph. Presumably the other competitors allow their elderly relatives to pop out for some shopping in their turbocharged rally monsters and by coincidence the grandparents choose to use the rally stage as a convenient shortcut to the local Spar.
Overall, it's slightly disappointing. Although it's faster and looks and drives better, it seems slightly diminished by its new 'colour-by-numbers' rally status. I'd have preferred it if they'd spent more time on adding a true feel of rallying to the simulation mode. Other cars never seem to get damaged the way yours does. By the end of a long stage your headlights are on the way out, your suspension's knackered and two gears out of six are shot to hell; your times suffer as a result. But no-one else seemed to sustain damage, judging by their times. Likewise with the weather conditions - your time on a stage when it's snowing is much slower than in the dry, but theirs never seem to suffer. And no matter how carefully you drive, you always get damaged - often at the same point. You can't help feeling it's programmed to happen regardless. Despite all this moaning, I'll still play it for the sense of speed, and the feel of the cars when you get a corner right. It's I was just hoping for more.
Download International Rally Championship
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP