Network Q RAC Rally
Snoozh... As A Televisual Event, rally driving is boring. Watching a car compete against a clock is not in the least bit exciting, and there aren't nearly enough crashes. The bbc tries to trick us into thinking otherwise by ending all their rally reports with 'exciting highlights'.
"Blimey," you might say, if you happened to tune in to a rally at exactly this closing moment: a crash, another crash, a spin, a blown tyre, another crash, wow! And so it goes on... and on. And then the BBC2 link-man adds: "Tune in on Thursday for the third leg of the event, which is on an even more dangerous course!" And so you do tune in on Thursday. You even phone a friend just before it starts and say, "Are you watching the rallying? No? BBC2. Yes. Quick then. No, it's going to be good, really. Yes. Yes, really - I saw a bit of it on Monday and there were loads of crashes. No, I don't think so, but the bloke said the course they're racing on tonight is really, really dangerous! Someone might die! Okay, see you later!' Then the programme begins. It's by Tony Mason — 'know, the short fat chap from Top Gear. He's wearing the obligatory anorak. Everyone standing behind him in the crowd is wearing an anorak as well. You notice that several of them have stopwatches too, but all this early-warning information somehow fails to filter through to the 'alarm' part of your brain.
Tony then interviews some of the drivers, most of whom appear to be Finnish. You think this is excellent: doubtless they'll all be alcoholics, driven to the edge of insanity by growing up in a land where the sun slips beyond the horizon at 2.30 in the afternoon. Then the racing starts. You sit there for one 'and a half hours. No crashes, not even a cracked windscreen. The programme ends and the credits roll, along with the . compilation of accidents you saw the other evening. Exactly the same ones, obviously taken from some obscure 'rally crashes' section of the bbc video vault. You realise you've been 'had'.
Your phone rings. It's the chum you called earlier, who tells you there's a really exciting edition of The Waltons coming up on Sunday. Laughing derisively, he abruptly hangs up. Poo!
This next bit deserves ridicule I know, but years and years ago, my mum had a vile-looking lime green Toyota Starlet. The good thing about it, though, was that it was surprisingly nippy and responsive.
After a while I became pretty 'adept' at winging it into positions small 'shopping hatchbacks' aren't really supposed to be able to handle...
"Mum, do you mind if I borrow your car for 20 minutes or so? I just need to pop to Safeways."
"Okay, but put some petrol in." Half an hour later and I'd have picked up my 'co-driver' and we'd be airborne somewhere in the country lanes. "Yaaaargh..." "Don't worry, I know this stretch like the back of my hand!" "Look out!!!"
Screech, thump, boing, scrape... "Shit!" "Don't look so worried, it was only the exhaust pipe. I didn't hit him."
And so on. But while I reckon rallying is bloody boring to watch. I also know how brilliant it is in practice" (see footnote on previous page). In other words it's perfect fare for a computer game.
Sega Rally Is God?
In these days of low-priced superconsoles I reckon it's okay for me to make cross-format game comparisons. (Besides, if I were to compare Network Q. to any other rally games available only on the pc it'd be a one-horse race... and this preview would become a fawning session.)
So back to Sega Rally on the Saturn - which is brilliant, obviously. But I've played it to death now. and have become decidedly picky as a result. Only four tracks, only three cars, only one weather condition (sunny- pah!).
So over to Network QRAC. Here are some facts and figures... (1) Multiple weather conditions. Rain, snow, fog, day or night. These bring about the need for windscreen wipers and lights.
(2) 28 tracks. Or should I say 28 'stages', which are mapped from the official real-life rac stage maps. They're not pretend loops. Can I repeat the number by the way? (28! Yus!)
(3) Six cars, each with the option to change tyres, gear ratios, brake bias and suspension characteristics. The cars are the Subaru Impreza Turbo. Escort Cosworth, Renault Megane, Golf GTi i6v, Skoda Felicia 2WD and last (and least) the Proton 2.01 i6v.
(4) An arcade 'cry-baby' mode and a full-blown realistic ninja fuck-off increasing damage come-and-have-a-go-if-you-think-you're-hard-enough mode (including rolls and flips and stuff).
(5) Rather splendid sonics, sampled from the real cars.
(6) An eight-player network link-up which (so I've been told) will see you all starting simultaneously 'on a grid' and in which (again I've been told) all the cars will have rear-view mirrors.
(7) Modem support. And there's plenty more, but wait for the review.
Graphically, Network Q. doesn't have quite the level of trackside detail found on Sega Rally, but it's fairly close. Out of the weather effects, the only one implemented when I had a go was night-time. And it looks seriously groove-tastic. Your headlights light up the area in front of your car just as if they were, er, headlights or something. How can I put this? Um, it's like driving very fast at night with, erm, headlights on. (I think what he's trying to say is that it's quite realistic - Ed.) One thing that surprised me about Network Qwas the fact that every time you go to the car select screen, the Escort Cosworth is ready and available. Do what? I thought Europress were trying to make this game realistic. If you tried to select the Cosworth in the real world, five times out of ten you'd get the message, "Sorry, the Cossie has been nicked by joyriders. Please select a different vehicle." Oh well, they can't think of everything I suppose, and if I were you, I'd keep your eyes peeled for the review of Network Q regardless of this glaring omission — this game really does look like it's shaping up into a right corker.
Download Network Q RAC Rally
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP