Colin McRae Rally 4
When you go to your local games store and you’re in need of a rally sim, you are most likely to buy Colin McRae. Not such a strange thing you might think if it weren’t for the fact that it would be part 3 for the PC and part 4 for the consoles. I’m not saying part 3 was a bad game, far from, but if I were you I’d buy the console version because it’s simply a better game.
When I reviewed Colin McRae rally 3 for the Xbox last year, I came to the conclusion that it was a decent game with some minor issues but it was the best rally sim on the green box at that time. These were my concluding words:
To conclude: CMR3 doesn’t add a single thing to the genre, but if you want the best racing experience out there, get this game. If you look for graphics and a bit of fun arcade, go for Rallisport Challenge.
What Codemasters is trying to achieve with this release is actually pretty obvious for those who played the previous release on any of the platforms. Although the sim part was top notch the game lacked some features and game content. You could only race a championship as Colin in his Ford Focus and that was it. There weren’t enough cars and the multiplayer was only entertaining for a race of 5. Let’s say the replayability was very low and the game was finished in one evening of intense racing. The last issue was the look of the game. After some time of racing it became clear that this was almost a straight PS2 port graphically and this was truly a missed opportunity for the Xbox release.
Let’s head on to part 4 and see if they fixed everything that was in need of fixing. First things first: the graphics. When starting up the first race you can see they put some effort in this part. Everything looks like it’s supposed to for an Xbox game. The cars look absolutely stunning in the pre rally flyby. They went for the showroom approach instead of the realism approach you can see in Midtown Madness 3 but luckily for us, when you start racing the realism approach appears quite neatly in dirt and damage effects. The detail in graphics goes way beyond the cars into the surroundings, effects and even the crowd. It’s not at the level of Midtown Madness 3 but that game was way beyond any other racing game in that area.
You are nothing with nice graphics if you don’t have enough cars, tracks and modes to show them off. When starting the game you get a very nice menu where you can choose from Championship, Rally, Stages, Quick Race, Options, Extras, High Scores, and XBOX Live. Quick Race, Options and High Scores speak for themselves so I’ll skip those. In Stages mode, you can select a country and race all stages you unlocked there. In Rally mode you select a rally on the physical characteristics like the surface, or the nature of the track. Extras are the usual bonus things you get like intro movies and sneak previews. But what it’s all about is the Championship mode and I can tell you that it simply rocks. You can chose from four wheel drive, two wheel drive, group b and expert. Four and two wheel drive are the most common cars in rally these days and most of you probably know them better then I do. Group b are very powerful cars (mostly from the mid 80’s) with difficult handling that were banned in the early 90’s after some deadly accidents, a nice extra for the fans. Expert mode is racing in cockpit view only with a minimum of on screen display and insane damage settings.
All of this is certainly fixing the need of content but the best part is the fact that you can choose the car you want to race in instead of making you race in Colin’s brand of car.
If you are thinking of racing with all these babies right from the start you are painfully wrong. You need to win more difficult races to unlock better cars and even more difficult tracks. All those races take you to the very know rally tracks in countries as Greece, Spain, UK, USA, Japan etc… all having different stages with different difficulties and undergrounds. While you are racing all those dangerous roads, you are very likely to damage your car and you get only 60 minutes to repair your car. You need to be very selective what to repair because there is no way you can fix it all and some parts are more vital than others. Another neat feature is unlocking of better parts when you finish all the stages of a rally. Better parts mean better times mean better parts and so on. Unlocking better parts requires you to finish tasks that are relevant to the parts. For example: to unlock better brakes you need to race to a certain point and brake correctly.
The gameplay is still pretty much the same. The cars handle realisticly and the controls are easy. Racing the game in third person with auto gears is still much easier then racing in the cockpit on automatic gears. The only point of criticism that people had on the gameplay part is fixed too: the cars don’t feel like they are floating when you race certain undergrounds like snow and mud so I’m pretty sure they modified the physics engine.
The sound was top notch in part 3 and it remains that way in this part. Absolutely no bad comments on this.
Last part on the adgenda is the multiplayer. Although the arcade mode from part 2 is still gone, you are not quite alone on the track. Your opponent’s ghost is driving with you which makes a lot more fun to play against some friends. I don’t have an Xbox live connection so I can’t really write anything about it but I’m hoping it’s ok.
This game is just finished. Every little issue from part 3 is fixed without creating a single new one I detected and they added a lot of content such as more cars, tracks and modes and the little unlocking mini games. The game looks good, is doable for newbies and the handling is still the best around. There is enough to do to keep you busy the whole winter season and hopefully until part 5. It’s safe to say that Colin McRae 4 is the king of rally sims on the Xbox.