Game Over Online ~ Colin McRae Rally 2

GameOver Game Reviews - Colin McRae Rally 2 (c) Codemasters, Reviewed by - BORG #472918433

Game & Publisher Colin McRae Rally 2 (c) Codemasters
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-300, 64MB Ram, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 75%
Date Published Tuesday, December 12th, 2000 at 01:55 PM

Divider Left By: BORG #472918433 Divider Right

I always wanted to be a pro rally racer. Imagine driving your car at insane-like speeds through a racetrack, which in Canada would basically consist of logging roads. Alas, this life is not for me as it can be quite costly pursuing this venue of life especially if you don't have a rally racing team in your city. So I must play the games and take them all too seriously.

A quick primer on rally racing games might be in order. "Q-Rally" is the first rally game that I found encompassing. The intro movies are live action and feature some of the most amazing clips I had ever seen at the time, as I didn't watch much pro rally racing on the television; thus, these videos were quite shocking, as well as intriguing. Next came "International Rally Championships" by the same company. This is a wonderful game whose flaws are quite numerous (the head lights didn't work in tunnels, the movies were horribly dull, the menus were a pain to navigate, a complete lack of a dashboard view, etc...). However, its soundtrack is so brilliant that I play it on my portable CD player to this day. I should mention that both of these games allow the player to browse through a good deal of detail about pro rally racing either in history lessons, descriptions of current and past cars, and good explanation of the divisions of cars which exist in the WRC (World Rally Championships). Then all of a sudden the gaming market exploded with pro rally racing games: V-Rally 1 and 2, Colin McRae Rally, Rally Championship 2000, and many more. These are all very fine games (and I'm sure I have failed to mention a lot of the big ones here, but hey - I can't go buying every pro rally racing game that was ever published!). However, one question arises: "in a market saturated with pro rally racing games, what makes Colin McRae Rally 2 stand out above and beyond the rest?". In other words: "what does it offer?".

First off, you will notice that McRae is no longer on the same team as in the first Colin McRae Rally game; he switched to the Ford racing team. So he will be sporting a cute little white Ford. However, unlike McRae's WRC standing of late, he kicks ass in this game. Do note that this is a sequel so that means all the graphics are much better and can max out your hardware. The graphics in this game are quite stunning at times. The car damage effect is truly neat. All your windows can break to reveal the driver and co-driver inside (you can even see the glass fall to the ground!). Your engine hood can and will flap in the wind if you steer your car into a tree or, failing that, a post of some sort. Your muffler can be turned into a charred black stub. Your rear bumper can be left on the side of the road. Your side mirrors will swing in the air as you scrap your car in a tunnel. Your lights can shatter, break, and leave you in the dark. Your incompetent driving can even lead to dents in the body of the car like on the roof of the car! So it is quite visually extensive, though some of the damage can get dull quickly after seeing them so many times. With this all said, one can also expect the normal graphics from a game of this type. There are wheel thicknesses, antennas which bend and blow in the winds, three dimensional trees, two dimensional backdrops of trees, a nice sun to stare at, some rather nice backgrounds, smoke from your overly abused car, spectators by the road side, and (my favourite) tyre tracks in the snow which can get quite memorable. Missing are: mud and snow being kicked up in the air and a rear view mirror for multiplayer games.

The music and sound are good. They aren't anything especially good or bad to talk about. High point: the music is very smooth and nice and doesn't require accessing the CD-ROM, which under Microsoft Windows will usually pause the processor for no apparent reason. Low point: the engine sounds are useless along with the tyre sounds as they don't give you a real feel for what is happening; in racing one gets a good feel for what is happening with the tyres and the engine by just their respective sounds.

The game play is, well... fun! This like the original will feature such intensive tracks that no one and I mean no one can play this game on manual transmission; you have to use an automatic transmission. When driving on the tracks you will hear your co-driver (aka: co-pilot) tell you instructions for the upcoming turns. Well, if he was my real co-pilot I would have him shot. This guy is almost useless. His instructions are horribly slow at times ("right 3 ... onto mud" - butby the time he says mud you have already figured it out and are swearing by the ditch) or un-timed with the track ("left 6 right 6 left 3 square right 3 left 2" - now remember all that and run the next few turns in silence) or confusing ("maybe jump" - what the hell is a "maybe jump"?) or mysterious ("caution" - of what? A rock? A ditch? A fence? A hitchhiking alien named Zaphod who happens to be by the roadside? Caution of WHAT?) or is nondescript ("left 3" <smash> you meant "square left 3") or is just plain wrong ("long left 3" <smash> you meant "hairpin left"). So the guy will piss you off and cost you time. The other side effect of him speaking too fast is that he will tell you there is a square right and a square left, but he won't tell you it's a T intersection - and by the time you are AT the intersection, he will say "square left", which is obviously wrong, and will usually result in you slamming into a dead end. Moving along to the tracks, or stages. They are quite fun as they as well built and feature a good array of decorative objects here and there. Now and then, the level designers will have a little fun with you and put a sharp turn after a yump or dump a turn after climbing a crest; basically, sometimes things come out of nowhere just to smack you in the face (do notice the placement of street signs, rocks, trees, bushes, tyre stacks, small stone road dividers, and hay stacks as all these things are completely solid and if you smash into them, your car will flip, stop dead on the spot, or otherwise leave you wondering).

A couple more problems with gameplay. When you play a championship, you obviously have to repair the car, as it gets damaged. The illogical part is that you can slightly damage your gearbox or completely destroy it, and it always takes you exactly the same amount of time to replace it. Same for all other components. Moreover, in multiplayer, you get to repair after every stage, rather than every two stages like it's supposed to be. This makes game unnecessarily easier. On the other hand, a neat feature of the game is that when you have a force feedback device, you actually feel the road and everything, and when you damage certain components of the car, you feel it in the response. If you damage the steering, for example, your car will feel a lot more sluggish in turns and such. The other components also matter... probably. I haven't seen a large effect of damage on anything other than the body, the gearbox, the brakes and the steering (that leaves about 5 more components). What happened to the engine, by the way? When you damage your gearbox to the point where your engine redlines improperly, you should be incurring some serious damage to the engine (not to mention when you plow into a tree) - so why is the option to repair it not there?

There are a few options you can choose to enjoy the tracks: rally and arcade. The difference is basically car damage and tracks. You don't have car damage in arcade, and you have circular laps for arcade. So no one will ever touch arcade. In the rally option you have a few subsections; they are all quite standard except for the challenge (those who like "Tokyo Extreme Racer" will be shocked at the lack of flashing your high beams to challenge some other driver). Multiplayer is fun but lacks somewhat, as you want to have car damage and crash into your buddy but can't - as I remind you, the "rally" section is basically solo-play (you see your friend as a ghost car) and the arcade doesn't have car damage but allows for the cars to smash into one another. Once driving you will be caught up in beating your friend's time that you will completely forget how satisfying it would be to have the option of running your friend into a ditch then laughing your ass off as his windshield shatters to the ground. I should mention that this is a moot point: you never see your friend's car damage. This leads into the whining section...

With most games there are initial problems to be solved with a patch. Well this game is badly in need of a patch. The co-pilot navigational directions are a big one to fix (if possible). The other thing to fix is the shadow car problem. During replays your car may turn into a shadow. It has a bottom shadow, and a side shadow (you see the silhouette of your car). You also see it cast a shadow on roadside objects, just like it should. But there is no CAR there! It's also very annoying that the replays can't be saved, as you can't save them nor can you switch vehicles in multiplayer replays nor control their playback with fast-forwards, rewind, pause, camera angle, or anything simple like that. Even during game play you may have a shadow car, which functions precisely as described above, except you control it, which is even freakier. In multiplayer, you may see your friend not as a ghost car but as a shadow. Another problem is out-of-bounds errors. Once your car strays off the track too much you are teleported back onto the track. In some areas (and you will find them soon enough) if your car falls in the ditch then you will not teleport back but rather be forced to "climb" out of them with a great loss in your time. There are also annoyances in the tracks I believe should be fixed. Many a time you shall encounter forks and T-intersections in the race. The problem arises when they don't have road signs to tell you where to turn. Okay, your co-pilot does tell you where to go, but, as I mentioned above, he frequently doesn't time his narrative with the actual track, so you will very often take the wrong turn. They also go for quite a while, so it'll take you some time to figure out you went the wrong way. A perfect example of this is a certain left turn in Italy. But I'll let you find it for yourself. So you shall be swearing a good deal for no fault of your own. There are a couple more multiplayer glitches (which are still not fixed as of this writing, after the patch was released). One, it's sometimes hard to tell who is ahead. The position indicator says you are. The timer says you are. But if you LOOK at the track, you will see your opponent in front of you. Who lies? Also, sometimes your opponent (or you) will get a one-second or so head start for absolutely no reason.

As far as rally racing games go, this one is not one of the most sophisticated ever made. The replay options don't exist. The cars' information are skeletal (exactly how valuable is "BHP [eight squares out of 10]" and "Weight: 10 squares out of 10"?). The racers' biographies are well junk. A section to promote pro rally racing in the real world is not here (I'm used to Europress's pro rally games). Your co-pilot options are nonexistent (eg: male, female, quiet type, very talkative type, etc.). Your car setup options are very simple, not to mention time limited. There's no refuelling of the car. All videos are quite short and dull. Visual effects are limited to the bright spot which is the sun (no solar lense flares, no water splashes, no flying dirt, mud or snow, no flying birds overhead, etc...). There is no weather control for the practice runs (actually I don't think the weather actually changes from one run to the next on the same stage). The screen capture simply pastes to clipboard (this made the first captures extremely annoying!). And the co-pilot really, really sucks. Thus to answer the question posed earlier, this game sticks out because it has "Colin McRae" stuck onto the box, and for very little else.

[ 40/50 ] Gameplay
[ 08/10 ] Graphics
[ 05/10 ] Sound
[ 08/10 ] Fun Factor
[ 07/10 ] Replay Value
[ 07/10 ] Overall Impression


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