Review: RalliSport Challenge 2 (XB)

RalliSport Challenge 2
Genre: Sports (Racing)
Platform: Xbox
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Digital Illusions
Release Date: 05/04/2004

Better late than never, as the adage goes. RalliSport Challenge 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed RalliSport Challenge (amazing deduction no?). Anyhow, the game is about rally racing, a type of racing that usually ends up going over rough terrain and roads rather than tracks. Dirt, snow, rain, gravel, and tarmac are all fair game to tear up during the race. The turns are tight, the cars light, and the margin of error slight in this sort of race.



MODES:
While there is a single race mode, Xbox Live, multiplayer race mode (split screen on the same Xbox or a system link), and a time attack mode, the meat and potatoes of the single player experience in RalliSport 2 is the career mode. Instead of taking a driver from obscurity to prominence you race against a list of names and more importantly the clock.

The career mode has four different levels: amateur, pro, champion, and super rally. Each of these modes allow you to unlock courses and cars for use in other modes of play. There is a difficulty progression for each level in the career mode allowing the player to adjust to the better times the CPU drivers will post later on.

The Xbox Live modes of play add some spice but there is enough for the non-Live players to enjoy as well. A solid, if standard, set of choices for the rally racing fan.

Modes: 5/10

GRAPHICS:
A peek at the back of RalliSport Challenge 2 lead me to believe that there were a couple of photographs of actual rally racing instead of screen captures. That assumption was incorrect. The visuals for this game are not only very pleasant to the eye but are also very realistic. The cars look like their real life counterparts. The player can peer inside the cars from the chase view and see that items have been removed to lighten the car. When you drive with a partner it is visible from the rear window. When you crash into a tree and hit the rear left of your car the left break light is smashed. Scrape a wall? Your driverâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s side window will start to break. Driving on snow, gravel, dirt, or muddy terrain? Your car will slowly begin to accumulate road dust, mud, gravel scum, and slush as time progress â┚¬Ëœ enough to where the license plate is completely obscured. Hit an embankment a tad too hard? The light fiberglass spoiler on the back and your bumper will be loose and shake as you gun the engine.

At night the game shows you just how hard it is to drive at fast speeds with maybe 10 to 15 feet of visibility. The surroundings are visible, but in that bluish/black state that unlit areas have when they are driven on. A broken brake light means you have one less visual reference to see where your car is at… especially if it is a darker color. The fact that the road lines come into view is not a clipping issue. Most of the roads have dust or snow on them and when that happens the bright dividing lines are easily hidden.


Raining? The camera on chase view will have raindrops come across it. Snow? Youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll see that fall as well. Birds will camp out on the track and fly away as soon as the rumbling rally cars come bearing down on them. The backgrounds are done to perfection. The deary English countryside beset by rain, the bitter snow of upper Canada, the muddy terrain of the United States, the higher climbs in Argentina. They are all there and beautifully represented. Unfortunately you cannot really take in the backgrounds because of the attention needed by driving, but even the little touches such as road signs, fence posts, and sponsor signs, many of which can be knocked over, add to the overall experience.

The realistic car damage is icing on the cake. Car hoods will fly up and eventually come dislodged to allow the driver to see. Spoilers will come off the rear end of cars. Bumpers will fall. Doors will be smashed in or fall off. Windows will be broken, but in a progressive manner.

All in all Digital Illusions has done a wonderful job in capture the rough and tumble beauty of rally racing.

Graphics: 9/10

SOUND:
Engines roar, gravel sounds like it is being mulched, snow makes that strange crushing sound, tires squeal, fiberglass crumples, chassis thud. The racing sounds are abundant and in fact the default audio settings have the racing sounds higher in volume than the soundtrack.

While the soundtrack is typical for a racing game, catchy and higher in energy, I found myself not really listening to it. The soundtrack is just not that memorable. If, after around 12 hours of playing, I cannot remember the tune to a single song that was played while I was racing, something should be wrong.

Yet, maybe I was just too engrossed on cutting a precious few seconds off my time to notice. The music selection even has songs from MDFMK (KMFDM), Pitchshifter, and Ill Nino but I did not notice. Still, a good soundtrack and it does its job while avoiding the one thing that a racing game soundtrack should not do: draw too much attention away from the actual on course action.

Sound: 6/10

CONTROLS:
Racing games require smooth controls because you are controlling a speeding automobile against not only your opponents but the clock. Taking that into consideration… RalliSport Challenge 2 has excellent controls.

The left thumbstick is responsive and the use of the right trigger for acceleration and the left for brake/reverse (dependant on pressure) is a very good control set up, intuitive. The X and B buttons, for down and up shifting respectively, are set up well so you can keep the acceleration going for an upshift and quickly downshift all with your right hand. The black button for changing camera views is comfortable and the white button for resetting your car on the track (with appropriate time penalty) makes up for an occasional problem with the camera.

While you may slide out of control or hit too many side obstacles, that is not a control problem but a problem with how you attack the track you are on. That is how a racing gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s controls should be.

Controls: 7.5/10

BALANCE:
While the amateur level is extremely easy, the learning curve is not too steep. The racers on pro level improve a good amount, but not enough to discourage. In fact the decrease in the times posted by CPU drivers from level to level can encourage a player to improve their runs on tracks exactly because the difficulty does not get out of control.


The track conditions and surface you are racing on play a big part in how you can approach a race. However you can adjust your brakes, wheel power, tires, gear shifting, and other details on the car you are using on the track to try to get the best set up for the conditions you are facing. If you give a little too much power to the rear tires you may fishtail too easily on an up hill racing course. Make your brakes too stiff and you may slide out of control on gravel. This allows the player to give themselves an advantage (or hindrance) on a track.

It does take some time to get many of the vehicles and tracks unlocked, but you do that during the course of the actual game and do so mainly through going through the races rather than getting certain times. This helps in making the player play the races and to maybe race on tracks they may not do so well at, helping them to improve or increasing their frustration a tad. A double edged sword but not too sharp on the bad side.

You can make a few mistakes on champion and still get a win, but not many and not major ones. Just as in real racing slowing down too much on a hairpin turn or not cutting through a turn when possible can mean the difference between 1st and 5th.

Balance: 6.5/10

REPLAY ABILITY:
Unlocking all the different rally cars (over 40 different cars), unlocking ever color combination for the cars, unlocking the 90 tracks to race on, and racing other rally junkies on Xbox Live give RalliSport an excellent shelf life.

Replay Ability: 8/10

APPEAL:
While rally race fans will most definitely want to pick this title up, the game has that pick up and play aura about it that can lend itself to non-rally aficionados. The ability to quickly pick up a career race and finish it in 5 minutes and then stop for the day is very nice and allows one to ease into the game without prior rally racing knowledge.

While knowing about rally racing is a plus, it is not a requirement for the game. The problem is getting someone to pick up the game in the first place. Unfortunately racing games are sometimes a you like them or you do not like them sort of game, par for the course for sports games. Yet RalliSport 2 has things to offer even causal players.

Appeal: 5.5/10

ORIGINALITY:
Alongside Collin McRae, RalliSport Challenge are the real competitors for the console rally racing title. Before that Sega Rally roamed the earth. The 5 rally events in the game add some spice and make things interesting. The rally events are very interesting. Also the new cross-over challenge race gives you a head to head match up instead of a time match up during career and is a nice step. Not having played Collin McRae I cannot say if this is truly original or not, but it was very intriguing to me.

6.5/10

ADDICTIVENESS:
The game can suck time away as if it were water, but it does it in such small drops that before you know it an hour can go by. Of course if you play too much you may get tired of RalliSport a bit fast, but it can left alone for awhile and picked up for another 5 minute burst. That burst factor can lead to playing a game here or there. This varies on how much you like to race but since the game does not go hyper in depth like some racing games do these days it allows for a quick gaming experiencing, something that can hook a gamer like a fine lure hooks a fish.

Addictiveness: 6/10

MISCELLANEOUS:
The Xbox Live online game allows you to race against other people online, look at a leader board for the best times posted by people on Live for different courses. A real plus is the XSN (Xbox Sports Network… or is it Nation?) options.


Available are round robin racing (where you race three other drivers then move onto a single elimination race with other round robin segment winners), singles race (winner stays, loser leaves), or the seasons. You can either compete individually or in a team. With the individual season your times for courses are used (up to five), with the best one counting. Team has all the times of the team drivers added up with the best cumulative time being the winner.

Misc.: 6.5/10

Ratings:

Modes: 5/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 6/10
Controls: 7.5/10
Balance: 6.5/10
Replay Ability: 8/10
Appeal: 4.5/10
Originality: 6.5/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 6.5/10