Written By Shaun McCracken

The first Paris-Dakar rally game was released back in 2001 for the PS2 and was developed by Broadsword Interactive. I never played the game, and by judging from every review from every publication, I don't think I would want to. IGN said the game play was "laughable", Gamespot said that this was "an embarrassment to the Dakar race". Even places where people can give their opinions said that this game was bad. On the site, one customer said that "the graphics looked like an N64 game". As it turns out, this is/was the worst rally game for the PS2. So, it may come as a surprise of what I'm about to say about the sequel.

Acclaim seemed pretty iffy about releasing the sequel, lowering the price to $19.99. But perhaps they shouldn't have been so cautious. After all, they developed the game themselves this time. In fact, it was the same team who did Extreme G3, and that turned out pretty well. The same can be said for Dakar 2. The game isn't without it's faults, but for $20, you can do a LOT worse.

This game kind of commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Paris-Dakar rally. For those who don't know what this rally championship is, the Paris-Dakar is a huge race from Paris, France to Dakar, Africa. In reality, it's one of the most grueling races in the world, since most of it is spent in the intensely hot African desert. While racers of the WRC championship have the luxury of racing through less intense conditions, Paris-Dakar contestants put everything on the line to win. And the Dakar isn't as much about rally cars as it is off-road racing. What is considered cars is actually modified SUV's and Pick-up trucks. It would have been nice to see an Impreza or Evolution in here, but what's here is pretty good. And they are licensed from companies such as Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan and Ford. The next group is interesting. They call it "trucks", and these aren't normal trucks. These are huge-ass dump-truck like vehicles. And what's funny is that these things haul ass and turn pretty well. The final group is dirt-bikes, which is pretty self explanatory.

While Dakar 2 does it's best to give the Paris-Dakar rally experience, it seems more like a "best of" series of races. There's only 12 sections to race through, and what's stranger, is that some of them are circuit courses. I though the whole thing was point-to-point. Circuits aren't bad, and it actually varies the game play somewhat. The best races are the wide-open races, the ones where you have free run of the desert (though you do have to find the checkpoints), and it does best represent the feeling of the sport. But the whole series can be blasted through pretty quickly, probably in about an hour for the Normal campaign mode. And it's not that hard to place 1st, either. I haven't gone through the "hard" campaign yet, and hopefully it's challenging, but Dakar 2 seems pretty casual. Compared to the multitude of racing modes in Rally Fusion, Dakar 2 is pretty limited. It does have an arcade mode, and you can go through the campaign in different types of vehicles for variety, plus there are cars to unlock. The arcade mode, in particular is interesting, because those courses have to be unlocked separately, instead of unlocking them through the campaign championship.

One of the best features of Dakar 2, though, is the GBA/GCN connectivity. You will need the cable and a GBA for this, so you know. But you can unlock mini-games that can be downloaded to your GBA, and take them with you to go. It does go away when the GBA is turned off, but 20 minutes is long enough to play it through. You can only download one course, but they come with three challenges. There really is no reward if you win, it's just a time waster. But the graphics are pretty damn good considering the limited memory that the GBA has to hold these games. It looks as good as a decent Game Boy Color racing title. For a $20 game, this is a very pleasant and unexpected surprise. And finally, my GCN/GBA cable has a better use than unlocking things in Metroid Prime.

Graphically, this is not a bad looking game. I've seen worse, a LOT worse. For a GCN game, this is average. The vehicle models are fine, but not extraordinary. The textures are probably that of a PS2 game, but are fairly clear and not pixelated. There is some good lighting and shadows, as well as some effects thrown in for good measure. But these things come at a price. The frame rate, while fairly smooth and constant most of the time, and never to the point where it's unplayable ; is pretty low. It seems like it's floating around 30, but at times it goes down to a high 20. It's not as frisky as Spy Hunter's frame rate, and nowhere near as bad as what I heard about the GCN version of Need For Speed Hot Pursuit 2's frame rate. It's not choppy, and it doesn't bog down. It's just not that fast, especially compared to Burnout 2 or even Shox. But then again, these vehicles aren't as fast as the mentioned games.

The sound is pretty respectable. It runs in Dolby Pro Logic II (again, unexpected for a $20 game), and sounds pretty nice. The music is great and very thematic. It matches the mood of every course perfectly. The engines are good, but it's stuff that I've heard before time and again. The announcer is fine, and doesn't start shouting off comments mid-race. The co-pilot is adequate. Overall, good.

The control is a bit touch at first. When I started my first race, I was pretty concerned about how it would play out from there. But luckily, you can adjust the steering sensitivity, and it remains tight and very playable. You may have to adjust the sensitivity for each type of vehicle, since they all handle differently in nature. The motorcycles do seem a bit squirrley, but it can be worked around. Overall, a nit sensitive, but it can be worked around, and you can complete the whole game pretty effortlessly. Like I said before, Dakar 2 seems pretty casual, and the controls kind of reflect that. They seem pretty arcadey.

A brand new game for $19.99, especially for the GCN, does not come around often. And usually when you see games at this price, you have to wonder what's wrong with it. Dakar 2's biggest drawback is it's depth and longevity. It can be completed pretty quickly, and just doesn't offer up as much as Rally Fusion does in terms of game play modes. But, it's threefold better than what the first Dakar was like. It's fully playable, and not overly frustrating. In fact, I don't think I swore at this game once, unlike the many swears I shouted out at Shox, Rally Fusion, Freekstyle and many other racers with a seemingly cheating AI. It's a fairly casual affair, and serves as a pretty good racing adventure. The GBA games sweeten the pot even more. Let's face it, the GCN does not have the largest supply of rally racers. V-Rally 3 was SUPPOSED to come out March 25, but Infogrames instead released the X-Box version, which majorly pissed me off. For $20, take what you can get, and hope more come along the way. But Acclaim has really cleaned up the mess Broadsword made pretty well with a better Dakar experience.


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Not a bad racing game, but certainly lacks longevity and doesn't capture true length of the Dakar rally.

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