In Colin McRae Rally 04 it's the player in control - choose from over 20 rally cars and which championships to compete in. Exhilarating rally challenges include 4-wheel drive and 2-wheel drive Championships (both with normal or advanced skill levels), Rallies (compete in country-specific rallies and create a Custom Rally), Stages, a Group B Championship featuring classic powerful rally cars and, for the professional, an Expert Championship.
An advanced visual engine drives the game at an incredible pace and provides for more detailed stage environments through the fresh international rally courses. Improved textures, new animated effects in the stage scenery - right down to individual blades of grass moving in the wind - sunlight and shadowing effects and more detailed track surfaces make for natural, lush, living racing environments.
The engine also enhances the camera views, especially in the dynamic replays, which have even more visual detail and dramatically sweeping cameras. There's also the all-new in-game 'bumper cam' delivering an incredible sensation of speed.
Universally acclaimed for having the best car handling physics engine in any racing game series, Colin McRae Rally 04 takes the already sublime handling model and improves it further. Previously the car handling employed a steering aid, which had the effect of making the car move around a central pivot point. Now the aid's been removed, effectively taking the stabilisers off, providing for a more professional and natural handling experience and you'll notice the difference over the varying terrain - Colin McRae Rally 04 features 34 driving surfaces and 19 tyre types!
The high-end car handling is beautifully balanced with the game's rally stages. Each rally stage featured has been individually designed to maximise gameplay. Colin McRae Rally 04 delivers 8 international rally locations (UK, Sweden, USA, Finland, Australia, Spain, Greece, and Japan), each with 6 rally stages and a shakedown event. Four Super Special stages are also featured.
Detailed briefings on the stage ahead, complete with a difficulty indicator and terrain type, are available pre-race and even broken down to individual parts of a single rally stage. As well as the new stages, a couple of all-time favourite stages from the original Colin McRae Rally game have been remodelled for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
There are over 20 rally cars to be driven, including 4-wheel drive cars Citroen Xsara, Mitsubishi Evo 7 and Subaru Impreza. 2-wheel drive cars such as the Ford Puma and Fiat Punto are included alongside classic cars.
In the Championships, Colin McRae Rally 04 introduces a new element to rally gaming - testing new car parts to provide the team with advantageous technology. Now you have to earn new technology between rally events in a series of individual mini-games. The tests take place in different countries and test centres and each is specifically designed around the technology the player is testing - be it an engine, tyres or a suspension test. Complete a test challenge and a new car part becomes an available option for your car, increasing the chance of success against the competition as the season continues.
Drive like a professional and there's an Expert Championship, which demands the best performance from the most die-hard rally fan. Take to the toughest stages, locked into in-car view, using manual gears, and featuring the highest, most realistic damage settings possible and the toughest times to beat.
Petrolheads will welcome a return to the workshop with full set up and repair options at service areas every second stage through a rally. Set up options include tyres, ride height, springs, anti-roll bar, brakes and steering.
All the championships offer multiplayer gaming, where players can either compete against each other rallying for different manufacturers or play co-operatively driving for the same team. In Stages and Rally mode, players can play in split screen - two players on PS2 and four players on Xbox - or four players alternately on both systems. Previous runs can be seen on the stage as a ghost car, which can be then competed against for the fastest time.
In Rally mode, players race a country-specific rally event, each with its own terrain, road surfaces and weather conditions including stunning rain, snow and dust effects. Players can also race in or create a Custom Rally, with themed stages such as straights, jumps or hills.
The McRae series' damage engine is always a sure fire winner, and now that's taken to three different levels. Different damage settings are linked to the normal and advanced skill settings in the 4-wheel and 2-wheel drive championships and, for the absolute professional, the 'no second chances' setting of the Expert Championship. After rallying through a treacherous stage, there's now a cut-scene to really see the damage done to the car as a camera does a full 360-degree sweep of the car for your close inspection.
Maximising the rally gaming experience that tests both the cars and the player's rallying skills, Colin McRae Rally 04 is set to be the rally event of the year when its published by Codemasters for PlayStation 2 and Xbox in late September.