"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." - Dr. Emmet Brown, Back To The
Future I & II.
That quote couldn't be more true for RalliSport Challenge 2. Yes, there are tarmac portions
within some courses, but it's all about off-road racing, be it on gravel, dirt,
mud, or ice. That's one of the biggest draw about rally racers is that you're not
relegated to just the road. But a difference in terrain isn't the only thing
that's great about rally racing. It's the risk that's taken on driving on razor thin
roadways alongside cliffs, launching yourself off of hills and the inevitable
rollover of your rally car when you take a turn too hard. RalliSport Challenge 2
delivers all of this, plus a whole lot more.
The original RalliSport Challenge debuted in 2002 as one of the more visually
impressive titles for the Xbox that also delivered a fairly accessable driving
experience that a lot of people could get into. The problem with that game, though,
was that it wasn't that long, and the limited number of courses tended to repeat
later within the championship. RalliSport Challenge 2 improves everything over the
first RSC, and includes a few new things that weren't included in the first installment.
The first thing I noticed about RSC2 was that the career mode was a lot bigger,
and a lot more balanced. The earliest championship you start in is easy enough for you
to get a hang of the controls and nuances of the game, and also allow for you to make
up for some of the mistakes you encounter along the way. The next championship contains
more events and a greater level of challenge, but not to the point where it would be overly frustrating.
The last two championships hold a lot more for you to do, as well as really test your
driving skill. And along through each championship, you'll have the oppertunity to
unlock new cars and courses, so you're not really doing everything for nothing.
But the career mode is not the only thing to do in RSC2 (but it's a pretty big part of the
game). You have single session races, time trials, multiplayer and an online mode, which is pretty
much expected in racing games these days.
There's a variety of racing events in RSC2, some of what we seen in the previous
game, and a couple of types new to RSC2. Throughout the game, you'll take part in
a traditional rally race, rallycross races, ice racing events, hill climbs, and crossover events.
Rally races, which should be most familliar to anyone who has ever played a rally
racing game, are basically point-to-point races against the times set by other opponents.
Rallycross races are circuit races with varying terrians, and allow you to race against
three other opponents. Ice racing events allow you to race against three other opponents
on slick, icy terrain. Hill climb events are similar to rally racing events, except you're
going either uphill or downhill on mountianous terrain. Finally, the crossover events
are long circuit courses that switch lanes mid course, and put you up against one
opponent. And all of this is done with a wide assortment of vehicles suited for the
task, and a variety of engine classes. Some of these cars include the ever-so-popular
Subaru Impreza WRX and Mitsubishi Evolution VIII, to the cars that were banned
from rally associations such as the Audi Quattro, and classic cars such as the
Lancia Stratos. This is just a small sample of the overall 40 or so cars offered
in the game.
The handling and controls of RSC2 is actually much tighter than the first RSC,
which I thought was a bit too loose. The braking is much tighter, and the cars feel like they
have more traction, even on gravel or dirt. I said that the first RSC game was fairly
accessible to get into, and RSC2 is even more so, and maybe even a better game for
people who want to get into a rally racer, but not deal with the harsh technical aspects
like seen in Colin McRae Rally 04. The challenge is a little more balanced this time
as well, especially within the career mode, where it feels much more progressive than
it did in the first game. The scoring is also set up much better, as it's just based more
on overall position than other odd factors the original game threw in. Plus, you really
don't have to participate in every event to complete the championship, but it provides an
oppertunity to make up what you lost (in points) by placing poorly in some events.
The courses are much more varied and better designed than the previous RSC, or
in any other rally game for that matter. You can go from the forests of England, to
the city and backcountry of Monte Carlo, and even to the deserts of the Australian outback.
And in between, there's also snowy terrains, rock mountains and coast-side circuits.
The variety, like I said, is much better than the first RSC, which only had like five or so
different areas to race in. And the courses are much longer, too, at least where the
rally races are concerned. One of my biggest complaints in many rally racing games
is that courses tend to be too short, and last only 2 or so minutes, which is actually
pretty unrealistic if you've ever seen a televised rally race. But RSC2 has some
of the longest courses I've ever seen in any racing game, some longer than 10 miles,
which equates to a race time longer than 10 minutes. Not every course is this long,
but quite a few are, and that's a good thing.
Visually, RSC2 is an excellent looking game. In fact, looking at the screenshots
before the game came out was one of my motivating factors for buying the Xbox. The game
just looked incredible, and I knew then and there that I had to get this game by
any means possible, even if I had to buy a new system. But you really have to see
the game in motion to really appreciate RSC2. There is so much detail that went into
each course, even more so than the first game. So many trees, shrubs, grasses, rocks
and so much more alongside the course, as well as actual life, such as people that aren't
just cardboard cutouts. Most of the textures look great as well, but I didn't see as
much bump mapping as I would have expected to have seen in a high quality game like this.
Also, that great glistening effect seen on the ice races of the first RSC seems
to have disappeared. The lighting is excellent, and adds a real sense of realism to some courses
that take place in certain times of day. This time, there are also night courses
included in RSC2, and it's important to have the right lighting to see what and
where you're going on the course, and for the most part, the developers did this right
with the light that comes from your headlights. But take warning, don't HIT anything
on the night races, as you could knock/smash the lights off, which litterally leaves
you blind on the course. I wish the developers could have added more street lights or other sources
of illumination on the night courses, because it is damn-near impossible to find
your way through near-total darkness. That could be one of the bigger gripes on graphics.
The car models are great, and actually show a lot more damage than the first RSC,
and is almost on par with the damage modelling seen in Colin McRae Rally 04. For the
most part, the visuals of RSC 2 are excellent, with very few quibbles.
The sound is great, but not as great as the visuals. The co-pilot is clear and understandable,
which is so much better than the co-pilot given in CMR 04, which I had a hard time
trying to figure out what he was saying. The engine noises are fairly varied,
which is more than we can say for some rally games. The music that is provided is
fine, but pretty much the standard techno that you could almost predict in a game like
this. At least you have the option for custom soundtracks. One thing that did take
me a bit by suprise is the effective use of surround sound, which is better than what
I've heard in quite a few racers.
If there was ever one rally racing game to get, RalliSport Challenge 2 would be
it. It's the most polished, varied, detailed and accessible rally racing game
to ever be released. BUT, it's not the most technical or even true-to-life
in some respects, at least when compared to Colin McRae Rally 04. But there's
probably only a few people who would actually find a problem with that. As far as
games go, this is great, and really makes use of the hardware it appears on. Racing
fans really need to pick this up, and anyone who has ever thought of playing a rally
racer, but may feel intimidated by one, this game is a great place to start.