Richard Burns Rally
There are two types of rally games: arcade and simulation. Some developers find it hard to choose between the two and just take the happy middle, like SCI two years ago. They brought us the very mediocre Rally Championship. The game suffered from an identity crisis many schizophrenics will get scared of. You could adjust about anything, from suspension to the brake power, but no matter what you did, your car floated over the track like a hovercraft. Praise the lord that even developers learn from their mistakes and with Richard Burns Rally they go all the way when it comes to simulation. Did they make a good decision or was it just a little over the top?
Before you can start your rally season you have to take lessons with mister Burns himself in his little rally school. He’ll teach you al kinds of techniques to take a bend at a proper speed. What immediately caught my attention was the fact that you’ll never be able to put the pedal to the medal and go all out. It’s all about playing it safe in RBR or else you’ll park your car against a tree resulting in a smashed car. Which might look cool but it will affect your driving ability drastically: the clutch might brake, your car might diverge to one side and in the worst case scenario your motor will catch fire with a hysterical co-pilot and a retry as a result. You will have to start over quite a lot of times and this might work on your nerves now and then, especially when you know the loading times are long and richly present. It seems like the DVD had a lot of space left and the devs couldn’t think of anything else but to fill the gap with a bunch of loading screens. Well, nice work guys but leave them out next time, ok?
After you’ve mastered all the techniques you’re ready for the big league. RBR will offer you the most common gameplay options you may expect in a rally game. They’ve tried to be a bit original by the time trial mode in the “Richard Burns Challenge” but it’s still just a race against a ghost car so don’t be fooled by the catchy name. The most excitement can be found in the season mode which will become available after having completed the rally school. Before you can go and mess up your vehicle you’ll first have to pick one. You don’t have much choice as the only cars available in the beginning will be the Subaru Impreza, the Mitsubishi Lancer and the Toyota Corolla. As you progress, more will be unlocked.
The car freaks can eat their hearts out again because there will be a whole lot adjusting and fine-tuning to do. It doesn’t really make me warm so I decide to pass to the order of the day: the race itself! To make a flying start it’s advised to wait for the little man next to the track to finish his countdown because you’ll get a false start and some penalty points otherwise, which won’t make things easier. With the difficulty on the lowest level and the damage realism set on reduced it’s still a pain in the ass to dodge the trees. I dare to say that RBR is the most difficult rally game out there. You’ll have to be really persistent if you want to make it to the finish without some serious damage. The less disciplined players, like me, will find that the game enjoyment will suffer from it. It’s safe to say that SCI overdid it a bit making it a tough game to enjoy.
The graphics on the other hand will show nicely to their advantage. During your first crashes you will forget that your engine broke down thanks to the great physics but when you’ve played the game for hours and you’re still hitting trees more often than fast lap times, the frustrations will arise and you couldn’t care less about the damage-engine. The overall appearance of the game is a bit gloomy which works perfectly because of the extreme realism but I’m not a big fan of the gloom. Give me some flashy graphics with a lot of scrolls and flourishes, but hey; who am I? The sound of RBR is equally realistic: the cars sound like their lifelike counterparts and every crash will produce a proper bang. Because of the good articulation of your co-pilot you’ll never be confused which way the road will bend.
The high difficulty level and the long loading times make for a rather inaccessible game. Only the most seasoned players will be able to enjoy the realism and only if they can overlook the long waiting times. The game does offer all the options you might expect in a rally game and I can only hope SCI will learn from their mistakes, because they do have the knowledge to make a great rally game, but they have to work on the execution!