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Vehicles are highly customizable through well-defined setup and repair options. Tuning your vehicle carefully is absolutely critical to your chances of victory, as this is not one of those titles where you can just get into your car and take off without any forethought: For example, you need to set up quite differently for windy slick tracks as compared to muddy friction-laden tracks. You get to adjust the tires, suspension, brakes, steering, and gear ratios, but frankly there is not nearly the range of control in this regard as there is available in Mobil 1 Rally Championship or many other racing simulations. Similarly, when it comes to damage, Colin McRae Rally has but five components to repair — brakes, electrical, engine, gearbox, handling, and gearbox — compared to far more elsewhere.
Even more than other rally racers, Colin McRae Rally requires a whole different set of expectations on the part of players than do traditional offerings. You usually never see another car during the racing, and your only sense that someone else is on the course is the ranking on the play screen showing what place you are in among the competitors. Ironically, instead of watching your human competition as you do in other racers out your front window or — if you are lucky — through your rear view mirror, here you are constantly attentive to the roads themselves, which provide the major challenge to be overcome. This is indeed an extremely lonely sport, both in real life and on the computer screen, so you need to be prepared to experience extended solitude.
Like Mobil 1 Rally Championship but unlike Test Drive Rally, Colin McRae Rally is clearly a racing simulation rather than an arcade racer. Given the patience inescapably involved in long rally racing, it is hard to imagine the arcade crowd being really excited about this type of competition in any case. But in having the product move from Europe to the United States, Codemasters needed to understand that it is dealing with a much more ignorant audience when it comes to rally racing. This title is not sufficiently localized, and assumes the buyer is already familiar with the sport. The manual is short, superficial, and not nearly as helpful as it should be. There is a notable absence of background information about the drivers in the game — do the names Didier Auriol or Carlos Sainz really mean anything to most of you out there? Moreover, buyers merit more direct explanation of what makes rally racing so different from other forms and why it is in many ways the most challenging form of driving competition out there.
Colin McRae Rally has served over the last many months as a worthy pioneer setting a high mark for followers to meet and exceed. But does it make sense to take a hit from one part of the world from two years ago and introduce it to the discerning gaming audience in the United States without any significant enhancements? The answer is clearly no, particularly with other sophisticated PC rally racers emerging on the scene in the interim. Even during the installation process, when a dialog box asks you to identify which 3D chipset you have, few of the choices are current or even recent: For example, with Nvidia, you are given a choice not of a GeForce or TNT2 or even TNT chipset, but rather the antiquated Riva 128. Game buyers today by and large will not stand for this kind of slippage into archaic code.
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