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With the upcoming christmas period, the time has once again come for the ultimate rallygame-showdown between Colin McRae Rally 2005 and this WRC 4. Nonetheless, a third player appeared to crash the party, namely Richard Burns Rally. Which one is best suited for you? Read on!

If Richard Burns Rally’s just about the most realistic rallygame on this planet, then WRC 4 must be THE arcade-rally icon. High-speed races (well, I suppose 75 miles an hour isn’t exactly that high-speed, but you know what I mean) through muddy tracks, that’s what this game’s all about. No meddling with car settings (it’s possible though, but the impact it has is rather small), you just pick a car and burn rubber!

Once again WRC, World Rally Championship in full, offers us all the official licences. You can select any car that entered the 2004 rally season and race on tracks that were accurately modelled after their real-life counterparts, or so the developers say.

Nothing really new thusfar, but, unlike WRC 3, this game offers some cool new features. We now welcome the Pro Driver Challenge and the all-new Online-option. Furthermore, you are given a chance to drive Super-1600 cars. These forward wheel drive (FWD), 1600cc cilinder (hence the name) matchboxes speed up like crazy and have a high top-speed, but they behave like a bitch, when it comes to cornering. The only way to get them through a sharp turn is by using the handbrake. Add the returning Extreme-concept cars and the ever-present four wheel drive (4WD) WRC-class and you have quite a few vehicles to choose from.

On the other hand, don’t expect you can drive them all from the start. The Super 1600 and Extreme cars need to be unlocked first. Don’t fear, after just a few races you’ll have gathered enough points to unlock the former; getting the latter will take some time behind your PS2.

And believe me: the game has enough options to keep you busy in singleplayer till next summer! Besides the obvious Time Trial and Quick Race, you also have the Championship mode and several Events. Allow me to explain the last two (by far the most interesting ones).

Championship gives you to chance to participate in the complete WRC-season. You can choose to enter with a Super 1600-car or a “real” rallycar. Be warned that that season is in fact a bit shorter than the others, but it still is a good practice. Furthermore you’ve got Professional, Expert and Extreme (with the concept cars) difficulties. Although the first races in Professional aren’t too hard, the difficulty level skyrockets afterwards. Non-trained gamers will definitely have some problems. It’s clear that Expert and Extreme are only meant for the real diehard-rally lover. This lack of proper balancing bothered me, especially because this was done right in the previous installments. A con worthy of note! Nonetheless, the Championship mode offers hours of varied racing fun, in which you visit every continent, with different environments and ever changing weathertypes.

The Events on the other hand, are well fit for beginners, but they lack the tension of a WRC-championship. There are four different types. Single Race lets you pick any race of the championship and Test Track gives you the opportunity to brush up your driving skills and learn some new tricks. The next one, Super Special Challenge, stole my heart. You go head-on with a real opponent (in stead of the clock) in 8 different duels. You fly over short circuits (pun intended), loaded with sharp turns, hairpins, puddles of water and of course mud. A gauge shows you exactly how far you’re ahead (or behind). Very nail-biting! Unfortunately the SSC only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Last, but not least there is the Pro Driver Challenge, something awkwardly familiar to Colin McRae Rally 2005’s Career Mode. You start out as a total n00b (yeah I like writing 1337), who has to prove his worth, but in you’re successful (or plain lucky) you’ll be given the chance to drive for a professional team and even get to become test-pilot for those nifty Extreme cars (there they are again).

If you just take a sneak peek at the screenshots, you’ll notice that WRC 4 looks gorgeous once again. The cars were crafted with a very high attention to detail and the environments are almost life-like. It’s clearly not fotorealistic (maybe on the next-generation consoles) but it looks far more crisp than the competition. And than there’s the extremely cool damage model. You can really total everything on your car (or should I say wreck). Popped tires, a bumped and bruised chassis and shattered front-and rear windows are just a few of the things that can happen to yourrrrr prrrreciousssss. Even more important is the impact the damage has on your car. If you’ve only ruined your electrical system, your speed indicator will flicker but that’s about it, but when you’ve totalled your gearbox, you’ll only reach 4th gear in rare cases. Needless to say you’ll lose tens of valuable seconds.

Just a notch below the graphics we get the sound part. Your cars sound damn nice. The howling engine sounds and the noise of you shifting gears are very realistic and your fans even go out of their minds when you pass by. What brings down the sound-score is your co-pilot. Once more, he just isn’t flawless; if you go over the terrain like a raging bulldog, his hints are usually late and when you lag behind (after having an incredibly “touching” moment with a tree, for example -got it?) his indications are long gone. As for the rest, he does his job well, by rating the difficulty of the corner (from 1 to 6), but I soon paid more attention to the arrows on top of your screen and I just let him cackle.

To finish there’s multiplayer. You can play most singleplayer-tracs with up to four players, fun indeed, but not as unforgettable as Gran Turismo 3-matches. New this year is the Online-feature. Everyone, owning a Network Adapter (or PStwo) can dish it out in mud, snow, gravel or asphalt. You can only see your opponent’s Ghost Car, probably due to technical limitations. Not bad for a first try.

This year’s update of Sony’s WRC-series once again does what it’s supposed to do: bringing a high-speed racer to the table, coupled with amazing graphics and all of the official licenses. The arcade-lover will keep himself busy with this game for several weeks. If you dig realism, you should check out Richard Burns Rally. Colin Mc Rae Rally 2005 offers a bit of both, but doesn’t stand out of the croud anymore.

Our Score:
related game: WRC 4
posted in: PS2, Reviews, Sony Entertainment
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