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A.P.I Review: RALLY CROSS 2
Developer: Idol Minds OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: 989 Studios 1-2 Player
Game Type: Racing Memory Card
Review Date: March 1999 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene


Well now, how the hell do you like that...a sequel to one of my all time
favorite driving games, Rally Cross, has just arrived on my cold dank
porch.  Yeah, yeah I know I lot of people did not like the original RC
game.  I remember hearing all the sissy boys crying about the fact that
the cars flip too much, or that it was too unrealistic, or boo friggin'
hoo, I can't get my car upright...get a grip!

Well someone besides me must have liked the game because 989 Studio's
has decided to release the follow-up, Rally Cross 2 to the waiting
public.  We all know, sequels don't normally happen unless the original
sold well or there is a damn good chance the new game will attract ample
attention.

RC2 is somewhat of a rally style game where you get to select
unsanctioned cars or trucks and beat the crap out of them through a
variety of different terrain and weather conditions.     
Try to stay on the track and pay attention for those sneaky little
shortcuts because every second counts in this wild race to the finish!

Oh yeah, and for all of you wussies out there...RC2 has a new overhauled
game engine that is much more forgiving than the original game.
Flipping is still in there to be sure, but it is much harder to do
now...sheese, damn cry babies...spoiling all my fun...

Genre

Rally Cross 2 is a rally / off road style driving game that should
appeal to all of you driving fans out there.

Graphics

I remember the time when I first saw the original Rally Cross game and I
was completely enthralled by its graphics. Well, time moves along and
graphics continue to improve and Rally Cross 2 is a case in point.  

The polygon-landscaped foreground is wonderfully depicted in RC2 with a
good amount of detail, colors and shading effects.  Everything looks and
flows quite realistically and there is virtually no pop-up to be found
except for the occasional tree, as you race along the courses.

The distant backgrounds are pre-rendered, match in with the foreground
and are probably done to minimize the pop-up.  At times it seems to be
pasted back there, just looking pretty and at other times it seems to
roll smoothly into the foreground...weird.  All I know is that the
parallax scrolling between the two in done in perfect unison and creates
a nice field of depth.  

The weather conditions are wonderfully done especially the falling snow,
the rustling leaves and lighting effects over the entire landscape
during a lightning storm.  The snow courses are truly like driving
through a winter wonderland complete with snow covered tress, snow
capped mountains and hills and icy patches in the road for you to skid
around on.

There is also some nice active graphical effects that occur to the
vehicles like specular lighting off the windows and metal and mud or
snow that coats the body...only to be convincingly removed when you
splash through a river or puddle...very cool!

Overall the graphics are a nice step up from the original game.
Unfortunately I suppose to get this level of detail something had to be
sacrificed...alas there is only a one or two-player version...gone is
the magnificently implemented four player split screen mode...grumble.

Oh well, the one and two-player games sure do look though.

Sounds and Effects

Perhaps the weakest part of the game is the sound effects and music. 

The sound effects are pretty much identical to those found in the
original RC game.  Don't get me wrong, the sound effects are fine, just
not any major improvement over the first RC.  There is still that great
sound you hear when you slosh through mud or dip through water and the
spring noises and collision sounds are as tasty as ever...just nothing
new.

The music is all over the board, leaning more towards basic rock tracks
than anything else.  There is a specific song for each track and each
one is quite fast paced and energetic.  I definitely chose to leave it
on, just not cranked over the sound effects. 

Playability

The first Rally Cross game was a hit or miss in terms of its popularity.
Some people loved the "floaty" feel of the vehicles while others just
did not think it was worth the time and effect to keep the four wheels
planted to the ground.  I was definitely in the former group of people
and found it a true challenge and quite hilarious trying to compensate
for the vehicles constant sway and tilt.  In an effort to try and please
everyone, the designers tweaked up the game engine to keep the cars a
bit more stable but also included a setup menu where you can adjust the
shocks to soft or firm.  This was a good compromise, not only because it
should please fans such as myself but it just makes more sense.  After
all, there are many different track layouts and players should be able
to adjust the shocks accordingly.

Rally Cross 2 comes with the ability to initially race on 3 different
tracks.  I know the track selection sounds rather skimpy at first but
you need to realize that you can also race the courses in reverse mode
to bump the count to 6.  There are also some secret tracks that you can
unlock if you are good enough!  So far I have managed to open 8 tracks
that can be raced forward or reverse. This works out pretty well and the
tracks themselves are very creative and challenging to race on...some
being downright sadistic.  It doesn't stop there though...RC2 includes a
track editor!  With this little beauty, gamers can design and create
their very own tracks to compete on.  The editor is a very clean one
that is easy to use with various icons representing the different
portions of the track (hills, jumps, streams, etc.) that are simply
plugged in wherever you want to put them.  This slick little feature
offers virtually unlimited tracks to race on, although to be honest you
are limited to the size of the track and you cannot create your own
icons to place on the track.  I was also not able to make huge jumps or
death-defying drops.  It would also have been nice to been able to
create your own championship races with the tracks you have created.  Oh
well...not to be.

The vehicle selection is also rather sparse at the beginning of the game
with your choice of 2 trucks and a car.  Not to worry though, win a
couple of races and more vehicles are unlocked.  I believe there is a
total of 10 cars and trucks to choose from...there may be more but I
haven't found them yet.  Each vehicle is very customizable.  You can
adjust the brakes, shocks, gear ratio, steering play, tires and gearbox
(auto/manual).  You can also go in and custom "spray paint" your
machine.  I really liked all of these little adjustments and appreciated
the fact that I could tailor make a car or truck to suit my needs or to
match each track that I am about to race on.  

The actual races start out a bit on the slow side as the initial batch
of vehicles you get to choose from are a bit slow (top speed of 94 mph).
That turns out to be a good thing though and should be used to
familiarize yourself with the way each of these beasts handle.  As you
progress through the races the new cars you unlock are faster and the
track designs more demanding.

I also liked the fact that in addition to the normal race mode you have
the option of racing head-to-head or in suicide modes.   It's hard to
put into words the feeling of suspense you feel as you are driving down
a strait away and you just know that around the next bend a bunch of
traffic is going to be coming at you in the opposite direction.   My
advise it to either grab the heaviest truck you can and ram the suckers
or choose a quick, maneuverable car to get out of harms way.  The
physics model in the game can definitely detect the heavier vehicle and
in this case, size really does matter.

Overall I really liked this game.  It gives the same thrills as the
original title and has been tweaked to look and control a lot better out
of the box.  I would like to have seen a few things added though. #1:
more cars to race against (three plus you is not enough), #2: computer
controlled cars in the two-player mode, #3: a 4-player split screen and
finally, #4: the ability to create championship races from the courses
you created in the track editor.  I still consider the series to be the
best rally style games available on the Playstation, I just wish it kept
all the good stuff of the original in addition to the new stuff that was
added to RC2.

Value for Money

Hey, it's a driving game and driving games are usually always up there
in re-play value...unless of course the game sucks.  Well RC2 does not
suck, and it offers gamers a lot of reasons to keep coming back for more
(secret tracks, vehicles & loads of race options).

The track editor adds a lot of value for the money.  If you are the
creative type, you can certainly make some truly outrageous courses.

The two-player mode is great with very little loss in detail and should
provide hours of competitive action. 
Opinion
TOM
GRAPHICS: 18/20 A great game in it's own rights and an unusual sequel when compared to the original. Lot's of good stuff was added that was not in the original, but lot's of good stuff that was in the original was taken out of RC2...go figure. I was surprised to find that only four vehicles compete in a race and the wonderful 4-player split screen is history.

The good news is that there is now a track editor to create your own courses, much improved graphics and vehicle physics and a vehicle customize menu to set each machine up the way you want it.

It's clearly a game that will get a lot of playing time on my PSX this holiday season, but it could have been so much more. Oh well, there's always RC3....
SOUND: 7/10
PLAYABILITY: 46/50
VALUE: 17/20
OVERALL 88%

 

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