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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: May 2, 2000
During the past year, the virtual rally racing scene has really heated up. Southpeak has published Boss Rally, Infogrames is preparing Test Drive Rally (formerly Rally Masters) for release, and Codemasters has Colin McRae Rally. But perhaps the most discussed of all has been Mobil 1 Rally Championship, which has an interesting history. Developed by Magnetic Fields, it was first published by Actualize last year as simply Rally Championship; then Electronic Arts in December decided to release it this spring as its own product with the slight name change. Begun in 1958, the British Mobil 1 Rally Championship is as famous in the United Kingdom as the Indianapolis 500 is in the United States. This series has produced more winners in the World Rally Championship than any other national.
This offering contains six races each with six stages, encompassing all 36 stages of the Official British Rally Championship and over an astounding 420 miles of varied terrain, the largest computer game driving environment ever created. The locales are in virtually all parts of the United Kingdom, including England, Scotland, and Ireland. Differing weather conditions and times of day make the stages varied and challenging; the disappointments here are that I wish that the climate changes were more random within each stage, that snow had more of an impact on your driving, and that the grass in differing degrees of wetness more realistically affected your speed. You are not confined to the roads in your driving, but if you deviate from them you encounter a major speed penalty. The diversity in the environments is quite high, with gravel and dirt roads, villages, bridges, quarries, mountains, rivers, and open fields. Having tooled along in the British countryside several times myself, I can vouch for these virtual settings looking just like the real thing.
Over 20 licensed cars are available, including the VW Golf, Ford Puma, Hyundai Coupe Evo II, Nissan Almera, and Honda Civic. A nice slideshow of the cars is available with accompanying oral commentary to give you useful background information. While these compact cars pale by comparison to huge overpowered muscle beasts present in many other racers, they are considerably peppier than production models available to mass consumers. You may initially choose from one of three front-wheel-drive classes: A5 cars have a maximum of 1400 cc, A6 cars a maximum of 1600 cc, and A7 cars a maximum of 2000 cc. When you finish first with these in the Championship, you gain access to the incredible 2000cc A8 class, involving the four-wheel-drive turbo-charged World Rally Cars. When you race in the special Championship with these speed demons, you are in for a real test.
There are five different game modes and for solo play, you may choose single races, championship mode, arcade mode, and time trial mode. This last mode nicely lets you experiment with all the tracks before you try them in a Championship. For multiplayer, you may engage in network competition over a LAN for up to eight players. In addition, you may try Hot Seat and race up to four of your friends on one computer using a split screen. Two players can race in a split screen mode allowing for head-to-head competition or multiple friends can alternate and compete for the best time. A CD is required in each computer in order to play a multiplayer race.
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