Codemasters’ brings the third iteration of its gritty and initially rally-centred driving game to the market with two notable additions: YouTube and mad-skilled American car-stunt star, Ken Block.
Ken adds some spice to the on- and off-road circuit, open track and head-to-head racing with his ‘Gymkhana’ mode. This has less to do with racing than it does with tricking in order to please the crowd and gain points. Tricks that the gamer and their car of choice have to complete include getting heaps of air via hair-raising jumps, performing tyre shredding ‘donuts’ and ‘spins’ as well as drifting around corners and beneath huge trucks.
Of course, building on the heritage of the Colin McRae Rally series that set the rallying standard for videogames, that form of co-partnered fast but intensely skilled driving also features heavily in the career mode. A wide variety of venues from Aspen’s snow to Kenya’s dusty heat are included.
Also included is Rally-Cross, in which the gaming driver must face several surfaces in a circuit-based set of races.
All of this is achieved in a variety of in-car and out-of-car viewpoints in both single-player and multiplayer modes. The latter includes local split-screen, LAN and online competitive play.
A vast roster of vehicles, including Ken Block’s DC Shoes Ford Fiesta and the official cars featured in the World Rally Championship are available.
In short, the gamer can play nine Pure Rally classes with six non-rally classes: Rally: WRC, Open rally (Rally America), Super rally 2000, Group B(4WD), Raid, 60s rally, 70s rally, 80s rear wheel drive and 90s. Non Rally: Rallycross, Modern Trailblazer, Classic Trailblazer, Landrush trucks, Landrush Buggies and Gymkhana.
I know the developers tried to shoot for a flashy and user friendly interface, and while I give them credit for their ingenuity, I really feel like it is yet another step to dumb down the whole experience, as it makes the game feel very linear with limited choices of cars and races. While the driving is kind of fun, I keep feeling like I am not playing anything more than an arcade racer, where the goal is to mostly ignore physics and good driving techniques and just ram your way to the top spot, while avoiding the obstacles. The concept of opposing drivers saying very corny things via radio during passing and bumping just adds to the whole "childishness" of an already thin experience. Even after doing well in challenging races, I had no real feeling of satisfaction that I would normally experience while playing either the old Colin McRae titles or the Gran Turismo series.
I am guessing that to offset large expenses that come with good graphics and flashiness, the developers decided to build this game for the masses by broadening the scope of the races, doing away with the idea of driving technique and essentially stopping just short of eliminating the concept of "rallying" from it altogether. Personally, I am not OK with that because no amount of good graphics and flash can make up for that feel of a realistic rally experience that was lost somewhere in the evolution of this series.