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At the time it was heralded as the Playstation title to finally kick Sega Rally's butt. Finally we had a rally racer that was worthy of the best games console on the market. Almost two years and over 2.5 Million sales later V-Rally is still in the top-ten of the European all-format charts.
But an awful lot of water has passed under the bridge since the original V-Rally game was released. We've seen Gran Turismo take simulation racing to new dizzy heights. Ridge Racer Type 4 recently stretched the boundary of arcade, four-wheel, power-sliding madness.
Meanwhile Codemasters stunned us all when they opted to produce a game where the actual sport of cross-country rally car racing was retained in it's purest form. Colin McRae Rally well and truly moved the goalposts as there were no qualifying laps to achieve the best possible placing on the starting grid, nor any jockeying for best position at the first corner. In fact there was not another car to be seen in single player mode. This was real rally racing. It was you and your vehicle against the clock.
Infogrames have obviously been sitting back and taking note of these recent happenings. Having gathered together this fresh evidence they now present their new case...
V-Rally Championship Edition 2 offers much more than the original game. There's more play modes (six), more realism (using high resolution graphics), more players (4 Player split-screen), more tracks (between 80 and infinity, thanks to a track generator) and more cars (all from the current WRC season, a selection of kit cars and dozens of bonus vehicles).
Sound and Vision:
Following yet another TV high quality intro it's worth slipping straight into the selection screen for a test drive of each vehicle on offer. At the start of the game there are sixteen cars available, divided into three categories: World Rally Cars, 2L and 1.6L Kit-Cars.
The test circuit is a winding trail around the pleasant coastal route of Corsica and the initial impact almost provides a first round Knockout. It's all in high resolution, meaning you needn't plough through the entire game (like you had to in Gran Turismo) to witness the cars at their visual best. The sheer detail on the vehicle is remarkable. Sporty racing stripes. Rich high gloss waxing. Race number and model name emblazoned over the bodywork. Working brake and headlights. Wheels that turn in relation to direction travelled... spinning hub caps... even the spare wheel may be viewed in the trunk of hatchbacks such as the Vauxhall Astra. Every twist and turn on the road is further recognized as the sunlight reflects across the windscreen and gleaming paintwork.
There are five camera positions allowing tailor made viewing to suit your driving preference. Dependant on the chosen position the driver can be seen frantically turning the steering wheel at each corner, while the co-driver sways from side to side in sympathy with the cars movements. I spent hours testing out the selection of race cars on this never-ending spiral circuit. In fact if you want some idea of what the Next Generation Playstation will offer in terms of graphics then check this out. Just imagine racing against other cars in an entire game set to this standard.
It would be wishful thinking to expect similar high resolution graphics in the main game, but Infogrames must be commended on the quality visuals they have achieved. V-Rally is one of those games where the car gives the impression that it is actually travelling ON a road... rather than a few centimeters ABOVE it. Vehicles are highly detailed and move along at an impressive frame rate. There hardly seems to be any slow down when in two player split-screen mode, while the four player split-screen mode is possibly the most playable quarter screen game I have ever seen.
Effects such as flames leaping from the exhaust and smoke billowing from overheated disc brakes further heighten realism. If that weren't enough the car also gets dirty depending on the type of terrain you're driving over, whether it be mud, dust or snow.
Most noticeable in Championship mode is the way the cars suffer damage when they are involved in collisions. This feature is further enhanced by the fact that the damage sustained actually hampers the cars performance. Imagine the adrenaline rush when leading a race from the start only to try and limp across the finishing line with a flat tyre or no second gear!
Possibly the most impressive improvements in the game are the scenery, weather and lighting effects. Bumpy country roads now have pot holes, trees no longer appear as cardboard cut-outs, a downpour actually looks like real rain falling and animated spectators now wander into the middle of the road to get the best possible view... before scattering back to the trees just as your car approaches.
There are a few niggles worth mentioning such as the replay mode which always seems to select the worst possible camera view. I also thought the collision detection with other vehicles in Arcade Mode was a little too dramatic. I mean spectacular double somersaults just don't happen on every single overtaking maneuver. At least not when I'm driving to the shopping mall.
The music is quite catchy but I found it was best switched off at the options screen so I could concentrate on the co-drivers directions.
Following on from the last point, one of the major complaints with the original game was the slightest contact with the verge of the track resulted in the car careening hopelessly out of control, and often out of the race. Thankfully this has been rectified and now the player can brush over the border of the road without such a disastrous outcome. Of course should you attempt to bite off more than you can chew then you may suffer the inevitable consequences.
V-Rally Championship Edition 2 offers six game modes. There's Arcade, Time-Trial and Trophy modes which were readily available in the last game. However due to the success of Colin McRae Rally, it also includes a single car rally mode allowing players to experience what it feels like to take part in a real off-road rally. For the multi-player fan there is also a Dual and Battle mode. Here players can record their fastest times and exchange them with their friends to race against. After each mode is completed a new bonus car will appear in the selection screen which can then be used in any other mode.
Arcade is divided into three levels of which the first must be beaten to advance. There are four cars in each race. Level one involves four races, level two - six races, and the expert level includes the eight toughest circuits.
There are three Trophies up for grabs. To win the European Trophy eight venues from England to Monte Carlo must be conquered. The World Trophy heads off to twelve exotic locations such as Indonesia and New Zealand. Finally the Expert Trophy involves an almighty sixteen rounds taking in locations such as Australia, Sweden and Argentina.
Championship mode is again divided into European, World and Expert Rallies with each round winner decided by an accumulation of two, or three course times. Before setting off the player must tune up their car to suit terrain and weather conditions. Tires must be selected, gear box adjusted (acceleration and speed), chassis set up (suspensions, height and understeer) and brakes must be balanced. Between each round a visit to the pits allows up to thirty hours of time to repair any damage to the engine, gear box, brakes, steering and suspension. The balancing out of this time is essential to completing this event as your car performance is drastically effected by slack steering and a run down engine.
If the wealth of game modes fails to keep you occupied then why not visit the Track Editor and design an exclusive selection of rally circuits. It's as simple to put together as a Scalextric game with the computer generating the desired terrain. The results are amazing and can be saved onto a memory card to impress your mates when they call around.
On the downside Championship Edition 2 is not without it's bugs. In Arcade mode the speed does occasionally slow right down and I had to reset the game a few times to correct this problem. There also seemed to be a problem with the A.I, as near perfect laps failed to shake off the CPU opponent, yet should they gain a slight lead then it was almost impossible to catch them up.
Overall I was suitably impressed with the follow up to V-Rally. The feel of the cars has only been bettered by Gran Turismo, while the gameplay gives Colin McRae Rally a good run for it's money.
This is a single disk game for 1 or 2 Players. With the use of a multi-tap peripheral up to 4 Players may race on the screen at one time. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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