Rally ’round the family – Part 1

In the great family of racing games, the “Rally” sub-genre is kind of the black-sheep.  You can’t really find rallying on TV anymore these days and I’ll wager that few watched it years ago when the Speed channel was called Speedvision.  While I didn’t follow the seasons too closely, I did look forward to the New Years day special that would run the season in a marathon.  When my family held their annual new years day party, I was the anti-social of the bunch who spent more time glued to the TV with my plate of snacks.  It was glorious!

Back then, Rallying was at the peak of it’s popularity and developers made lots of Rally games.  In fact, there were 3 separate series like Colin McCrae Rally, Need for Speed V-Rally and World Rally Championship, each of which spawned a number of sequels.

Unfortunately, there is a real lack of Rallying in games for current generation consoles.  And don’t mention the Dirt series, please.  Yes, there is some rallying in that series but it’s an X-Games title if anything.  The genre is more popular in the UK as WRC2 and the newly released WRC3 is available across the pond, but they aren’t sold by retailers in the US.  What’s worse, if you only own an Xbox360, the WRC games are region locked.  The news is considerably better if you have a PS3 as there are no region locked games so you’ll have to import one.

So, if you want a real Rally fix in your gaming, you will have to go a generation back in terms of polish, but you can still have a LOT of fun. The other day, I spent a couple of hours with V-Rally 3 and I forgot how much they crammed into this game!  Ok, so the car models aren’t as detailed as Gran Turismo 4 or even Gran Turismo 3 and things can get a little pixelated at times when the camera is close to anything.  Regardless, this game is a joy to discover again.  EA games included a really nice damage system and there are plenty of tracks, cars and surfaces to race on.  The controls take a bit of getting use to, but you can tweak the sensitivity of the steering, throttle and brakes to suit your style.  The backgrounds are also large, colorful and have impressive scale.  You can select from a number of front wheel drive cars which are slow but nimber or step up to the all wheel drive cars which are faster and harder to master.

From time to time, we’ll revisit some old Rallying titles for the PS/PS2 and I’ll also get my hands on WRC2 and WRC3 for the PS3 and put them through the paces.

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