Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Ubi Soft
Release Date: 11/12/2002
What is it with mediocre rally games this year? If I had a dollar for every frustratingly annoying racing game I’ve played this year I’d have enough cash to buy Gran Turismo 3. So let me pass the savings on to you, I played the game so you don’t have to and the conclusion: Pro Rally isn’t worth your time. The sad thing is that this is the only rally racing game for the Gamecube currently on the market, so there will inevitably be a handful of people who actually purchase this game. The problem with Pro Rally? It’s the age-old dilemma of piss-poor play-control coupled with haphazard course design, among other things. Hardcore fans of the genre might find a passing interest with this title, due in part to its impressive visuals and inclusion of customization options, but any appeal that the game might initially allege is fleeting, at best. Every race feels like you are driving on ice in a low-gravity atmosphere not unlike the moon, and to make matters worse, some areas are completely devoid of any indication as to where you should be going. Not exactly the makings of a classic.
First rally title on the Gamecube or no, this isn’t a game that does justice or homage to the genre. Pro Rally is decidedly a non-simulation-type game as it serves up physics that are anything but realistic. You’ll start out needing to successfully complete a 10 test School mode before you are even given the ability to compete in the main single-player Championship mode of the game. There are three separate racing classes: private, kit, and pro. Placing in the top rank of each race will ensure your qualification for the next set of races. The way Pro Rally handles progression throughout the game is similar to that of other rally racing games in that you’ll be given a certain amount of points based on your position at the end of a race, the players with the most points at the end of the sub-championship rally will progress to the next collection of races.
There is quite a collection of licensed cars in Pro Rally (20 in total) from manufacturers such as Subaru, Mitsubishi, Audi, Toyota, and Citroen. Sadly, all the vehicles control almost identically. There are slight differences in handling and some cars seem to have more of a tendency to slip and slide out of control, but chances are the casual gamer won’t notice any variation in how these cars move. In other words, the automobile physics are completely out of control regardless of which model you choose. To add insult to injury, Pro Rally doesn’t take advantage of the GC pad’s touch sensitivity for acceleration and braking: from the moment you set finger to the R-analog trigger you’ll be redlining.
Aside from the aforementioned School and Championship modes you’ll also be given the option to participate in Time Trial, Arcade, Trophy, and Versus modes. Time Trial is all about beating your lap record and getting the feel of the gameplay before actually competing in Championship mode. Arcade mode pits you in a situation where you contend against five opponents in three sets of races: North, Southeast, and Southwest. You must place in the top three at the end of each stage in order to progress. Trophy mode is comparable to Arcade mode in the sense that progression is dependant on your ranking on a race-to-race basis, except this time around you need to come in first in order to claim victor. Versus mode gives you the opportunity to race against a single human opponent in any available course. What, no four-player action? C’mon Ubi Soft, pfff.
Ubi Soft did a commendable job with Pro Rally’s visuals, enhancing the texture quality and adding more details like reflection and shadow techniques that were not present in the Playstation 2 port. Also, surprisingly, Pro Rally features body damage to the various licensed cars, something that manufacturers rarely allow developers to do. Sadly though, body damage cannot actually be seen but is rather depicted through eight text-based categories representing the theoretical damage to the vehicle. Crashing into, say, a bush or street sign will inexplicably bring you to an immediate halt, as if the shrubbery was made of solid steel. There are graphical glitches here and there, assumably due to the newly-implemented shadowing system, but Ubi Soft did a great overall job in the aesthetics department. The same cannot be said about the audio elements in Pro Rally, however. Every car sounds nearly, if not entirely, identical, regardless of horsepower or class, and music consists of rehashed techno beats that are largely forgettable.
One of Pro Rally’s few highpoints, outside of its visuals, is the option to customize your vehicle before every race. Now before you go thinking that you’ll be able to rip apart your rig from top to bottom, swapping out inferior parts for pricier, more efficient components, let me tell you: the customization options are interesting, but not nearly varied or worthwhile enough to warrant more than a passing reference. Basically, you’ll be able to modify different facets of your ride. For instance, you can select whether you want braking to be focused on the front or rear wheels, you can choose the type of tire you want to use, adjust the gearbox, etc. By doing this you will be able to effectively tweak your vehicle to your personal preferences, though the end-result rarely seems worth the effort.
Despite the fact that Pro Rally was announced well over a year ago, the finished product is surprisingly pedestrian. However, being that this is literally the only option for Gamecube owners who are fans of the rally racing genre, it may qualify as a rental. The floaty, moon-like physics are mind-numbingly frustrating and the lack of distinction outside of aesthetics in the game’s lineup of vehicles is downright shameful. Save yourself the hassle and don’t get this game.