In Pro Rally 2001 you get the chance to take part in a variety of different game modes. There's the standard arcade mode that will let you select from the large variety of courses, the multiplayer mode and the career mode. The arcade mode is pretty self explanatory and it's the quickest way to get straight into the action. Create a profile, select a car and course and you're off. The career mode on the other hand is a bit more complex. Before you can even start the career mode you have to complete the rally training course which sets a variety of different tasks that need to be completed in a specified time limit. The are around 10 tasks in total but after you've done about five the training becomes a bit of a drag and extremely irritating. Probably the most annoying thing about the training is the fact that even though you seem to complete a section with a few seconds to spare it says you've failed. After the first few training missions you've pretty much mastered the car controls and just want to get straight onto a career, but not in this game as boredom soon sets in after the first 3 training tasks. After slugging it out in the training the career mode becomes available and you can start on a Kit Car career. This is the first of 3 different career modes included, the others being WRC and Legend. To go onto these two higher levels in the Championship you need to finish high up in the overall rankings in the previous championship.
The arcade mode is ok for a quick blast but won't get you quite as determined as the championships. Arcade is pretty straight forward, get to the end of the course before the time runs out. There are handy ghost cars that you need to catch to make sure you're on the time target. There is also the Time Trial mode which will allow you to check out all the tracks and improve your times before doing the championships races.
The first thing you'll notice about Pro Rally is the the graphics, no doubt about it this is the best looking rally title around at the moment. It's not just the vehicles that look good, it's the terrain and backgrounds, everything looks very realistic. The only thing that really looks a bit odd in the game are the roadside spectators who look a bit ridiculous and should really have just been left out altogether.
The different sections of the championship race will test your driving skillson variety of surfaces, everything from snow to tarmac. As you head off from the start you can't but marvel at the detail on the roads surfaces and surrounding landscape which is littered with a variety of different landmarks. One very nice section is a mountain climband in the distance you can see a lighthouse against a backdrop of thunder clouds and lightning. As you race up the hill full pelt trying to keep on the road, avoiding the huge drop over the edge into the ocean, the lighthouse gets closer until eventually you pass straight underneath. The game is full of nice scenic touches throughout, each section offering up a new piece of eyecandy.
Ok, so the game looks great but how does it play? Well to be honest it's a mixed bag, the control system for a rally game is a bit bizarre. . As you attempt some of the trickier twisty tarmac courses the handling is a real nightmare, trying to get round tight corners or hairpins is pretty hard due to the lack of movement at the rear of the vehicle. The inclusion of a handbrake key is a pain in the backside and ruins the game's flow although you do get used to it after a while but a simple bit of pressure on the brakes would have sufficed to get the same effect. While we're on the subject of stopping, for some reason when you hit an obstacle at about 140 kph you're car just stops dead, no real damage is done and all you need to do is reverse and start up again.
Despite the control problems Pro Rally 2001 does excel in the freedom of movementdepartment. Most Rally games will keep you pretty much on the course allowing little freedom to move of the actual road surface and onto the terrain but Pro Rally will punish you hard for bad driving, be over ambitious on tight corners and bends and you could be in a whole world of trouble. The best example of his is on the mountain climbs where there are steep drops over cliffs into the swelling ocean below, push down on the pedal to hard and you'll find the car tipping right over the edge of the cliff. Fortunately it won't be the end of the race as you're placed back on the road but you will suffer for the loss of time. The freedom to drive is a definite plus to the game and certainly allows you to explore the courses a little more than usual adding to the excitement of the race.
Ubisoft have also included the obligatory replay mode which will show a replay of the race from variety of angles which certainly lets you marvel at the game's graphical prowess.
The in-game sound effects are pretty solid but the biggest gripe is the almost patronising comments made by the in-game commentator if you fail any of the training missions. The vehicle engine noises are on-par with what you would expect from a rally some and the co-driver's/navigator's comments are enthusiastic and amusing at times.
Multiplayer comes in the form of either LAN,TCP/IP or split screen mode. The biggest let-down is the fact that there's no online match making service. The split screen is actually not too bad, split screen modes usually don't work too well but the developers have done a pretty good job making it fun for those without any net or LAN connection.
Overall Pro Rally 2001 is a mixed bag, the game looks brilliant but is plagued by sluggish controls and the very annoying training courses to get to the championship mode. Pro Rally doesn't have the feel of a rally sim, it's more of an arcade racer, so if you fancy that then this game may be worth a look. I want to also add that with the addidtion of a patch or 2 to fix some of these issues that the score for this game would rise a bit.
At the time of publishing this article review there has indeed been an update patch to resolve several issues.. click HERE to download it.
OUR SCORE : 75%
Tested on : Pentium3 700Mhz, 256 MB RAM, Soundblaster Live Value