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PlayStation Game and Hardware Reviews

Developer: Strange Productions OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Europress Software 1-2 Player
Game Type: Racing Memory Card
Review Date: June 1998 Dual Shock

Setting the Scene

Considering the last racing game I reviewed was Gran Turismo I was 
a little tentative, if not slightly worried, about how the rest of 
the competition would fare for the remainder of the year.  After all, 
I had just spent the last few weeks in excruciating pain before 
finally cracking the nightmarish Stage 11 (after only 60 attempts I 
unashamedly proclaim) to be rewarded with the ultimate lifetime honor.  
No, not a degree, a MBE or even the Nobel Peace prize, but the highest 
award of the lot - an A International license.  

Obviously the fact that GT has received so much attention and adoration 
must worry the hell out of racing game developers, especially those 
who have painstakingly been working away like beavers for the past 
few years and are about to unveil their wares.

Europress Software are one such company and... hold on a minute... 
it's a rally game, therefore it would hardly be fair to compare the 
two, now would it?


Finnish racing driver Tommi Mäkinen currently holds the title of 
World Rally Champion and is the only driver to win back to back 
championships.  His name is being used to endorse the very first 
Playstation game from Europress Software, a team with a string of 
high quality PC rally games to their credit.


Okay, let's step back in time to last year when the Playstation saw 
the first two Rally games appear.  Both V-Rally and Rally Cross 
received mixed reactions.  V-Rally was adored by gamers begging 
for a true rally simulation but detested by those who thought it 
was too difficult and were only after a quick arcade romp through 
the countryside.  Rally Cross fitted this bill perfectly so everyone 
seemed happy.

Now this may cause a slight problem because the graphical content of 
Tommi Mäkinen Rally has visuals that sometimes compare with V-Rally 
and other times Rally Cross.  What I am trying to say is there will 
be parts that the fans of V-Rally will love and sections they will 
hate.  Rally Cross'ers likewise, only visa-versa.

At times Tommi Mäkinen Rally has some stunning roadside effects that 
look ultra realistic although you can never see more than a few yards 
either side of the track because you are always driving in a small 
valley (or large ditch).  This is more noticeable when racing through 
mountainous regions of Italy or the dense forest areas of Finland.  
Other landscapes can appear a little messy such as the barren, almost 
Hard-core 4×4 looking Yosemite which look as if you are driving through 
the sleeves of a rather large camouflage jacket.  Sometimes the lush 
landscape is broken by the occasional small dwelling which looks rather 
pretty while on other occasions, most notably the streets of Germany, 
the roads are lined by a continuous row of ugly cardboard cut-out buildings.

To cope with the amount of scenic detail only the immediate area is 
brightly colored with the verges ahead shrouded in a slight gray mist 
effect that clears as you approach.  This is not off-putting and must 
be preferred to the horrendous pop-up effect that ruins many other 
racing titles.

Each of the nine rally cars have been faithfully modelled on the real 
thing and are accurate to the point where even the license or registration 
plate may be read.  There are three views to race from which are in-car, 
behind car and above and behind.

Finally the lighting effects are worthy of a mention.  During night 
races the city roads are lined with street lights that cast a brilliant 
yellow glow around the immediate area.  Car headlights may be switched 
on at any stage which may be helpful to judge corners if racing takes 
place at dawn.  During night races the headlight beam lights up the 
road in a similar impressive style that was witnessed in V-Rally.

Sounds and Effects

Oh dear!  I'd love to say that the rich throaty engine sounds of the 
rally cars have been accurately presented, but alas no.  Neither can 
I say that the sound of squishing mud can be heard splattering over 
the vehicle behind.  Nor can I say while racing the noise of thrashing 
heavy rock guitars brings trickles of blood from your ear drum.

Here's what you have.
As the cars line up at the start of a race a rather limp 'brrrmm, brrrmm' 
is all you get.  I've heard more roar from a sleeping lion.  Furthermore 
as the steady countdown reaches it's gripping climax all you get it 
'hmmm, hmmm, hum hum hmmm.  Get real!  These sounds must have been 
recorded in an underground tube station.  Not a very busy one at that.  
Are these electric cars?
To make matters worse, gently playing in the background is a selection 
of 'middle of the road' tunes that would be more suitable being played 
in a hotel lounge.  
Sack the sound crew!


Before entering your first rally there are one or two decisions to 
be made.
Difficulty comes in three levels of which easy is too simple and 
medium not average enough.  I would definitely recommend the use 
of the Dual Shock as a control pad, even if it is to just rest on 
your lap during a race (so that's where that humming sound was coming 
from) because this feature is used to the maximum.  

If you prefer to go for a quick test drive before the main event then 
there are two options that cater for this.  First is a standard Time 
Trial mode where several of the tracks may be played as a single player 
race against the clock.  The second practice mode gives the player a 
chance to go head to head against the World Rally Champion himself, 
Mr. Mäkinen, in a series of Challenge Tommi races.  
Nice touch!  

There is also a two player split screen racing mode which moves a 
little slower and visually seems a bit squashed but then that's two 
player split screen for you.  Bring back link up I say.

Of course the real meat and two veg is the Arcade mode and full 
Championship series.  Selection of Arcade allows you a choice from 
nine vehicles from well know dealers including Ford, Renault, Subaru, 
Toyota and Mitsubishi.  Gear boxes come in 4 or 6/7 speed in Manual 
or automatic.  Determine the number of laps between two and five and 
it's off you jolly well go.  Selection of course takes on a family 
tree format.  There are three initial race courses which each lead 
to four second race tracks.  These lead to four third race tracks 
and so on...  Before deciding which route to take it is worthwhile 
checking the weather, time of day and surface conditions of each 
venue which are displayed on the right of the screen.  

A Championship series takes you across the world to 15 countries 
where four races are held at each venue.  The difference between 
this mode and Arcade is that you get to tune your car up before 
each race to accommodate the weather and track conditions.  Steering 
may be tightened, tyres chosen to cope with the conditions, suspension 
adjusted and gear ratio tampered with.  Points are awarded for finishing 
position against three rival cars while your race times are accumulated 
to use for repairs.  After each race the damage of your cars vital parts 
are displayed and you must use your allotted time wisely to keep the car 
on the road. Expect to face all types of weather condition from torrential 
rain to falling snow where deep tredded tyres are required for extra grip.

An excellent addition is the option to create your very own dream tracks 
by using the unique 3D editor.  I am sure many of you will spend many 
hours tampering with this superb feature.

As far as handling the Rally Cross/V-Rally preference comes to light 
once again.  Tommi Mäkinen Rally is very, very arcade in it's handling 
and at times you feel that you are controlling a toboggan down a 
bobsleigh track.  The further you travel down the track without breaking, 
colliding or touching the roadsides, the faster you seem to go.  
V-Rally fans beware.

Value for Money

You cannot doubt that with 130 tracks, all the gameplay options and 
the facility to design your own circuits Tommi Mäkinen Rally offers 
value for money.  Unfortunately the game plays a little too smoothly 
to present much of a challenge to the more technically minded racing 
fan and soon deteriorates into a style of handling that feels like you 
are taking part in a slalom run.  If Gran Turismo proved too difficult 
for you then why not take a chance on Tommi.
GRAPHICS: 14/20 I didn't enjoy Rally Cross one bit and this racer handles too similar for my liking. In fact I almost fell asleep while play-testing this game due to the lack of challenge on medium setting. Half way through the Championship I was so far ahead of the field that I began to lose interest but with your interest at heart I went on to complete a full 40 race championship. This opened up Mirror Mode and I was presented with what may have been a trophy but sure looked like a badly drawn chess piece.

The question must also be raised as to why this game sounds like you are riding on a tube train and play as if you are powering down a bobsleigh run rather than racing a rally car.

I also found the selection of tyres to be strange because if you select them to combat snow half the track will be clear. The same goes for muddy conditions where half the track is tarmac.

I'm sure there will be many out there who will get their rocks of with this game, but unfortunately I'm not one of them.
SOUND: 4/10
VALUE: 17/20


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