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Rallisport Challenge
El-Camel's Ratings:

C J Ravey


I like racing games – in fact I love them. Unfortunately, it’s often the same way as it is with women. Love them, just not very good with them. And Rallisport Challenge (as Swiss Tony would say before trying to sell you a Ford Focus) is like a very beautiful woman. It’s very pretty, and it can be very difficult to handle.

As with most rally games, there’s a knack to being essentially out of control around most corners – not so much hugging the bends, but pecking them on the cheek briefly as you slide across, with your car parked sidewards, ready to accelerate off once your careering leaves you pointing the right way.

Not all rally games cause you to crash because the level is so damn stunning though. Comparable with, if not nicer than, World Rally Championship, this game will have you shaking your head that you could ever play something as blocky as Colin McRae. Was it really only a couple of years ago?


As with WRC, the environments are stunning, but should you slide off a mountain side, the game will reset you back onto the track sharpish. Sometimes it’s a shame as you miss out on a splendid crash, other times you’re just so damn competitive you’re glad to be quickly back in the running. Crash on a flatter section of track however, and you’ll be treated to a wonderful shot of your car, yourself and your hapless co-driver whizzing over on its bonnet – this is especially cool when you recover from said crash and carry on running. It’s this kind of hapless buffoonery that makes for entertaining replays, and will keep you playing whilst you get a grip of the controls – and indeed the tracks.


Right trigger accelerates, left trigger brakes – but most useful of all, the A button handbrakes. This will be second nature to Dreamcast racers, but if you bypassed the woefully under-appreciated Sega era altogether, it may be a bit of a head-flip. The aforementioned ‘A’ button is the best way to navigate most tight bends – gentle and sensible driving of the Gran Turismo style won’t help you here – but if you’ve played the rally tracks in GT3, it’s some grounding. I recommend tapping the A button repeatedly on tricky corners, as you slide along your merry way, adjusting your turning angle as you go. That’s my advice anyway, take it or leave it.


I’d also advise starting the game on Beginner. Now, don’t be such a macho man. You’ll soon hit a frustrating learning curve on Normal mode.

There are two options, as usual, from one-off races on your favourite courses – choosing from Rally, Hill Climb, Ice Racing or Rally Cross. Rally sees you point-to-point racing through checkpoints on a closed public road – attempting to beat records previously set. Hill Climb does what it says on the tin, with your poor car being hammered up mountain roads like that of a Turkish taxi driver. Ice Racing is a liberating, slippy experience on the kind of circuit that our beloved curling team would love. Lastly there’s Rallycross – your standard racing circuit, with more than one surface- say, mud and tarmac.

Each of these types of races can be found in the other two modes – career and multiplayer. In single race, as with multiplayer, courses have to be unlocked in the career mode.

The meat of the game, Career mode is, as mentioned, the path to rally greatness – unlocking cars and tracks as you go. The aim of the game is to build up points, which are awarded after each race based on which position you finished in, how much you damaged your car and your top speed within the race. Events that you enter are a series of races, with your score being totted up throughout for your final score. If you fare badly, you can re-enter a series, but beware, this means risking the position you already had.


Your overall points garnered rank you on a sliding scale, from Pro, Expert and Classic to Unlimited. Each new standing allows you to choose new cars, from humble Ford Escort or Volkswagen New Beetle, through to the Peugot 405 T16, Audi Quattro S1, and finally the likes of the Suzuki Grand Vitara PP Special.

The developers have added damage to the cars – or rather, the car manufacturers have left cloud cuckoo land and realised that gamers won’t stay away from their cars having seen them in anything less than showroom state in a game. After all we see damage in real rally driving - and the idea that we'd be disillusioned with a car because it got dented after a 110mph impact is fairly laughable. It's also really nice how the cars get muddy too - in fact, all the various weather and condition effects provide just the right amount of tweaking to gameplay and looks.


The average race is point-to-point. Your progress through the track’s sections is shown as a green bar moving along a grey one – however the bar will turn red if you’ve completed a section slower than everyone else. No other cars are on the track in these races, it’s you against the clock, and it can be depressing to crash and see your position go from first to fourth.

When it comes to Ice Races it’s usually a steal, as CPU drivers are present, and conservative on corners. It’s extremely satisfying gliding past them like a throbbing two litre fuel injected Torvill and Dean. You can also bounce round corners by ‘rubbing’ (as they say in Days of Thunder) – i.e. bouncing off rivals to make a difficult corner. This was annoying in GT3 which prided itself in simulation, but is satisfying enough in Rallisport Challenge.

Hill Climb is great fun, but as with the other races, a lot depends on your camera viewpoint. Now, our very own cuddly Jonny Austin swears by camera view – after all, he reasons, you don’t drive your car looking from behind the bonnet. This is true, however, this is a driving game – not real life – and as far as I’m concerned you need to see which way your car is swerving, and how much the back is flipping out, to negotiate the corners.

Overall, Rallisport Challenge is everything you could want for a launch racing game, and I was more impressed with it than GT3, but then I don’t see cars as sex objects. Rallisport looks nice, offers a fun drive and will keep you competing for months. It fulfills its role in what is looking like the most complete and assured launch range in the history of gaming. I can’t wait to see what we’ll be driving around our Xbox’s in a year’s time, if this is what we get at the start of its long race…

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