Developer: Digital Illusions
Release Date: May 4, 2004
Buy 'RALLISPORT CHALLENGE 2': Xbox
At the risk of being flogged, I’ll admit that the first Rallisport Challenge didn’t really trip my trigger. As a first exposure to the rally racing genre it wasn’t bad, but the game largely felt artificial. Later on games like Colin McRae 3 really defined the genre out a bit, making the racing feel much more realistic. Not to be outdone, Digital Illusions has been working on Rallisport Challenge 2, the successor to the original game and what could prove to be the defining standard for rally racing games to come.
Rally racing is a rather niche form of the racing world. Over here in the US when you ask someone about racing it brings to mind the NASCAR, F1, or Indy styles of racing which all have nice and clean paved roads in common. In rally racing paved roads are mostly a luxury, and while a bit of courage is required in any form of racing it takes a whole different breed to strap into a car and take a icy turn that overlooks a cliff face at 70 mph. Throughout your racing career in Rallisport Challenge 2 Mother Nature throws almost everything she has at you, from inclement weather such as rain and snow to the visually-hindering blankets of fog and darkness. Paved roads do exist and occasionally make up large portions of the tracks, but by and large most of the road surfaces consist of snow, ice, gravel, sand, dirt, and mud.
There are five main types of races in Rallisport Challenge 2, Hill climb, Rally, Rallycross, Ice racing, and Crossover, each making up about an equal amount of the gameplay. Rally racing pits you and your co-driver to race against the clock and get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, with your co-driver assisting you by calling out turns and noteworthy things up ahead, such as jumps, bumps, or cliffs. Hill climb is much the same, but have less turns, faster cars, are largely uphill, and no co-driver to help you along. Ice racing are closed circuit races based on laps, against not only the slick icy road surfaces but also 3 other drivers. Rallycross is the same; only instead of racing on ice you race on actual tracks specifically build for rally cars. Finally, Crossover has you racing head to head with another driver on parallel tracks that eventually cross over each other so each driver has to cover both sides of the track.
In the Career mode of play in Rallisport Challenge 2 you must compete in branches of events of the 5 types. On the amateur difficulty level you only play though about 25 events, and each one is fairly lax in its competition level (You can make many horrible mistakes and still get first place). On higher difficulty levels there are more branches and events to compete in and the competition gets a bit fiercer. As you play through events you can unlock additional cars to use, and if it’s the first time competing on the track it will become available for use in other modes of play.
Regardless of what mode of racing you are competing in sooner or later your car is going to get banged up. The damage modeling in Rallisport Challenge 2 is fairly impressive, while it isn’t completely realistic. On the tamer end of the damage modeling, hitting a sign or fishtailing into a roadside fence might just bend your bumper a bit. Screw up a little harder and you might find yourself losing control and hitting a tree head-on, spidering your windshield, or side-skidding into a telephone pole, shattering your side windows. Every once in a great while a small mistake such as taking a turn too sharp and hitting a small rock with your inside tires might send your car into a fierce rollover, shattering glass, bending metal, ripping bodywork and bumpers off, and basically reducing your car to a soda can that has gone up against a belt sander. Once any given race is over you are given the option to watch and save a replay of the race, controlling the replay speed and camera angle to showcase you driving skills, or lack thereof.
Internal parts of your car can get damaged as you have accidents, but the system is rather flawed. An on-screen indicator displays the current damage levels of your car, including the engine, each tire, and each axle. However, you have to literally try to damage any component past a yellow status. In one particular race to test the theory I had two head-on collisions with trees, a side-skid into a boulder, and two rollovers downhill at about 100mph, and the most damage my car got was two tires in yellow condition. There are two extremes of damage in video games, either having it so cars are too realistic and one major accident puts them down, or make them invincible and able to withstand anything, and Rallisport Challenge 2’s biggest flaw lies in the fact that it stands too far on the latter.
Before every race you have the option to tweak your cars performance. There are three aptly named categories of things you can change, Basic, Advanced, and Suspension. In the Basic category you can change, well, basic things such as the tire type, steering sensitivity, and gear ratios (Quick means fast acceleration but slower top speed, Long means high top speed but slower acceleration). The tire type automatically is set to a type suitable for the track, but sometimes its suggestions might not fit what you want as the driver. For example, you might not want gravel tires in a rainstorm but instead might opt for tires specifically designed for wet conditions. The Advanced and Suspension deal with deeper aspects of your cars handling, such as braking ratios, toe in/out, and shock spring stiffness and length. The configuration of the last two categories automatically default to a neutral setting so your casual race fan doesn’t need to change them, but gear heads will find that careful tweaking of their setups will trim a few seconds off of their times due to better handling and performance.
Rallisport Challenge 2 supports Xbox Live play, as well as offline play in the form of split screen mode. Multiplayer can be a blast offline against a friend, but the Xbox Live play is where the most fun will foresee-ably be had. In order to prevent some of the gamers with lesser intelligence who enjoy driving on tracks backwards and disrupting the race there is the option to enable ghosting so that anyone going the wrong way will simply pass right through other players. A big feature of the Xbox Live enhancement is the scoreboards which record racers times on individual tracks, allowing you to see exactly how you rank among the worlds best Rallisport Challenge 2 drivers.
Rallisport Challenge 2 is undoubtedly going to be one of the titles that game stores leave on in the window to showcase the powerful graphical capabilities of the Xbox. The cars themselves look absolutely stunning, both when they look waxed and polished at the beginning of a race, dirty and covered in mud after a race, or bent and busted up after a few accidents. Racing along in rain causes raindrops to collect on the windshield and camera, while cruising along through dense fog obscures turns and potential hazards down the road. Nighttime racing is nerve-racking, as the only thing you can see is what is illuminated by your headlights. A huge enhancement over the original Rallisport Challenge is that the tracks themselves are much, much more realistic. In the previous game distant hills were simply lumps of textured polygons, with Rallisport Challenge 2 they look like actual landscape as seen from a distance. There are many more eye candy objects as well, and instead of lumps of bushes alongside the road as the only bit of detail there are now those as well as rocks, boulders, cactuses, kangaroos, and various other small details.
Rallisport Challenge 2 sounds as good as it looks. As you rip down the tarmac in a Mitsubishi Skyline in a Hill Climb event you can hear not only the engine but also the whine of the turbo, which can be further accentuated by effects such as echo and reverb if you are passing through a tunnel. Every bone jarring wreck and collision makes a variety of nice sound effects, such as the sounds of crumpling metal and shattering glass. Rallisport Challenge 2 actually becomes startling in its detail when it comes to sound effects. For instance, there is actually a unique sound effect for the sound of wet grass slapping against the side of your car as you slide sideways off of the road. Rallisport Challenge 2 comes equipped with a good amount of songs in its soundtrack, mainly of the rock variety, but what most gamers will opt for is the games soundtrack support. If I cant cruise down a winding dust road in Australia or an arrow-straight brick road in Spain listening to my favorite songs in real life, at least can do it in a video game.
As a whole, Rallisport Challenge 2 is a really fun game. The only glaring flaw throughout the entire title is the lack of a damage system that has actual consequences; meanwhile the rest of the game may as well serve as the benchmark that future rally racing game designers should aspire to. Rally racing can be one of the toughest forms of racing since winding turns, bad road conditions, and road hazards are more of the standard than the exception, but instead of constantly frustrating the gamer Rallisport Challenge 2 entertains them. Even when mistakes are made and that shiny car is reduced to a heap of broken glass and loose bodywork, the accident that caused the change is fun to watch in spite of the time lost due to it. Rallisport Challenge 2 may not be a perfect game, but as a rally racing game it may as well be crowned king and be the game that all others of the genre must try to aspire to.
More articles about Rallisport Challenge 2