Review by clu82
"Somewhere between Sega Rally and the PS2 WRC titles"
If, like me, you expected this to be a PSOne version of the superb PS2 WRC titles, prepare to be disappointed.
On paper, it seems a decent enough prospect. There are four game modes, including Super Special (climb your way to first place over a number of courses), Grid Race (where you have to race each car on each track and win to unlock the later and bonus tracks, a total of 105 races) and the self-explanatory Time Trial and VS modes.
Options include the usual sound adjustments, a novel system for re-mapping the joypad buttons, and an option to have a male or female voice directing you! In addition to this, there are tracks from 14 countries around the world (Australia, Spain, Cyprus, Kenya, Germany, Argentina, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, Greece, Finland, Monte Carlo and the UK) as well as an unlockable bonus track. These range from the smooth tarmac of France and Italy, through the rough gravel of Cyprus and Greece, to the snow sections of Sweden and Monte Carlo. Note that there is only one track per country and the weather on each track only changes in Super Special mode.
There are seven official World Rally cars, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, including the 2002 Ford Focus, Hyundai Accent, Skoda Octavia, Citroen Xsara, Peugeot 206, mark 2 Subaru Impreza, and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII. The handling on all of them is very loose and generally feels ''off'' most of the time. Direction comes from sparse, over-enthusiastic Sega Rally-style vocal and visual directions (e.g. ''Easy right!'' accompanied by the corresponding arrow), and while there is the option to use the analogue sticks for steering and acceleration/deceleration, the control isn't actually analogue. The three views available are exactly the same as those in Gran Turismo, two different chase-car views, and a first person perspective. Likewise, the replay system after each race is identical to the one used in Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally. It shows the action from various changing viewpoints, but you don't have any control over them.
Being an arcade rally game, there isn't any freedom to explore offroad, and few opportunities to cut the course. Neither are there any set-up options. This would be acceptable were it not for the fact that the suspension set-up is the same all the time, that being very soft and bouncy. This is especially apparent on the tarmac stages, and it often feels odd tearing down those tarmac roads while your car merrily bobs and bounces along. Admittedly, I am writing this as someone who's used to rally games that lean more towards simulation, but I feel a set of simple car setup options would've added to the game. Inexplicably, however, there's NO option for manual transmission.
As a game that was released at the end of the Playstation's life, the graphics are detailed and well-modelled and the sound is adequate. It's a moderately enjoyable game, but once you get used to the handling and learn the tracks, there isn't much of a challenge and those hoping for a slightly deeper playing experience may tire of it quickly. It also gets repetitive, although completists might revel in covering the grid in gold in the Grid Race mode. Overall, rally fans who view the Colin McRae series as over-complicated will be right at home here. But people who see it as the pinnacle will find a shallow, boring gaming experience. Either way, the game can no doubt be acquired so cheaply now that it's probably worth buying anyway.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 09/23/03, Updated 08/29/12
Game Release: WRC: FIA World Rally Championship Arcade (EU, 11/08/02)
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