Rally is one of those odd sports where watching it is pointless to many, or should I say its great if you like watching 1 car go by every 10 years or so and on the TV you just don't see enough of it.
I have recently been watching the WRC Rally programme on Channel 4 as they were covering the last stages of the Championship and I think I am getting to like rally quite a bit. So it was an interesting coincidence that a package that arrived on my doorstep a few days later contained a nicely boxed copy of RalliSport Challenge from good old Microsoft.
RalliSport Challenge is one game where I actually read the manual, the installation procedure is bloody long so I had to do something while I waited. The game offers you what you would expect from any good racing game, you have Career Mode, Single Race Mode and Multiplayer Mode.
Career mode starts you off with a limited number of cars and tracks and to unlock further cars and progress further into the game you have to race though events. When you finish a race you are given a score, this score is cumulative and the better your score, done by winning races, setting fastest lap times and getting the highest speed on a race, the faster you unlock more events/tracks and cars.
Completing career mode is absolutely essential, and is the only way to unlock more cars and tracks. However to help you get more points and to finish the races in first place, Single Mode lets you race any unlocked track against 3 opponents, effectively allowing you to try and try again until your skills on a particular track are up to scratch. Single mode is especially useful in testing out various cars so you can see which one in more suited to a particular event and how they handle on different surfaces.
Multiplayer mode is the same as Single Player Mode, but you can have up to 4 people racing the same track, which is good if you want to feel good about your driving skills and to beat your mates.
The in-game graphics are very good, the cars look nice and they do bend and break pretty realistically when you happen to meet a tree or some rock falls in your way. The scenery is nice and there is always something at the side of the track to make it more believable, this includes things like spectators, trees, shrubs, rocks and signs/advertising, etc.
I was surprised to know that this is actually Xbox port, not that I should know as I'm not a huge fan about the Xbox. Actually, I'm not much of a console person, my PSX is currently sitting in the corner gathering dust but since it is a Microsoft game I expect that the visuals are similar and I didn't see any problems with clipping or suffer any slowdown.
The sound in the game isn't much to speak of, besides the engine noise the only other major sound is from your co-driver giving you instructions or the occasional bump as you hit things, or as things hit you! I didn't think the engine sound was right until a mate pointed out that rally cars are meant to sound like that and not like your bog standard road car.
The car does control pretty well, not that I should know from a rally drivers viewpoint but as a normal car driver it does seem okay, but again it's a rally car so what do I know? I did however find the controls easy to get used to, considering there are only 11 controls on the keyboard, 9 if you have automatic gears! Unfortunately I didn't try a Pad/Joystick or Wheel since I don't own one.
Overall I really, really liked RalliSport Challenge. The game does offer a good variety of tracks and the range of cars is very impressive, offering you a range of 29 different rally cars from the past and present. This is definitely recommended to anyone who likes racing games or is a fan of Rally in general.