Rallisport Challenge 2 is the sequel to one of my favorite racing games on the Xbox that came out early in 2002. My hype meter has been pretty high since I first heard that DICE was indeed working on a sequel and that it would include Xbox Live gameplay.
Lately the Xbox has seen a lot of rally (Colin McRae 04), multiple car racing (TOCA Race Driver 2) and straight driving games (Project Gotham Racing 2) within the last 6 months and Rallisport Challenge 2 brings something totally different from the others while the other 3 continue to have their own section of the racing genre. If you were to compare RSC2 to any game it would most closely resemble Colin McRae 04, but it does things far different than that game. Let’s get into the specifics.
The graphics are simply fantastic in this game and there is no slowdown that I have noticed in the single-player game after going through most of the Career mode by now. The cars themselves look very good and take damage that is easily noticeable, but not necessarily hurtful to your driving (I’ll talk about that later). The physics engine of the cars seems to be a bit tighter than the first game and the cars animate and move very smoothly.
As you drive on tarmac you really notice the speed in the game. You can top out well over 100 MPH and the speed feeling is just amazing. For most of the time you won’t be going very fast, but when the tarmac sections come up get ready for a wild and fast ride.
The course effects themselves are amazing in how detailed they are, how many views you have and all the possible weather that you go through. The trees are probably the best I have seen in a pure rally racing game so far and possibly even in any racing game. The grass and “edges” of the main roads will also bend and show graphical changes if you drive over them.
You drive over many different road types and in different weather. If you’re on a mostly dirt track you will notice a big dust wake behind you if you do a look back. You will also see your car get caked in dirt as you drive on it. In rain the roads look fantastic and even if you are looking via a 3rd person view you will still be affected by the rain as it hits the camera. On ice and snowy tracks your car will get filled with snow/ice as you drive on it.
The most beautiful part of the game is when you race in the night. The headlight lighting engine is excellent and it’s just exciting to drive in the night and sometimes even in the night in the rain or snow. Your headlights are the only way to know where you’re going, so be sure to utilize them well.
There are multiple camera views. There are two 3rd person views, one closer and one a bit out from the car. There are “internal” cameras as well. One does not show the dashboard while the other one does with the windshield wipers working if you’re in rain or snow. The framerate doesn’t drop in any of these views, which I find to be a feat in itself.
The only minor problem you will see in the game is occasional pop-up on the tracks. The pop-up works well when you’re in a foggy or rainy environment, but on a clear track the minimal (and I stress minimal) pop-up is noticeable if you care to take notice while moving very fast.
Overall the graphics are top notch, although it may not be as great as Project Gotham Racing 2 from a mechanical standpoint, but it has better environment effects and a greater sense of speed in my opinion.
First we’ll talk about the sound, the better of the two sections in this game. The overall sound of the engines and the cars over all the environments is absolutely top notch. As you go through tunnels the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound makes you feel like you are actually driving through a tunnel and not just doing it on the television.
The navigator is a hit and miss affair. For most of the Career mode you don’t have him barking out what is coming up because he only appears during Rally races. The rest, like Ice Racing, Track Racing, etc. you do not have a navigator and can see the whole track on your HUD if you choose. When the navigator is present it is tough to get past the fact that he talks with no overseas accent like Colin McRae‘s navigator. Instead you hear a regular American voice telling you what is up ahead. My problem with this is that Rally Racing is a huge sport overseas and is only a blip here in the United States. You can get past the accent, but his definition of “easy right” and “easy left” may be a bit different than you think. Sometimes the easy moves are a bit sharper and should get a “medium” treatment to them.
The music on the other hand isn’t so good. There are no licensed tracks like there were in Project Gotham Racing 2 and in fact there are no lyrics at all with the songs provided, they are all instrumental. Now this in and of itself makes it better than the silence of the Colin McRae series, but it still isn’t good enough for my ear. Luckily, DICE put the option for custom soundtracks into the game and that makes it all better. Feel free to put your own songs onto the game and drive the courses with that.
Control in this game is excellent for me. You have to remember that Rallisport Challenge 2 is more of an arcade rally racing game than Colin McRae‘s more simulated style. The physics in this game are good and tight, but it is a bit easier to control your vehicle in this game than in Colin McRae 04.
Much like other racing games the key buttons are: R trigger for acceleration, L trigger for braking, A button for emergency braking, B/X to shift down and up, White button to reset car and Black button to change view.
I found the control to be spot on for this arcade racer.
There are 5 modes of gameplay: Time Attack, Single Race, Career Mode, Multiplayer and Xbox Live. Time Attack allows you to just race a track for the best time. Much like Project Gotham Racing 2 your results can end up on the Xbox Live leaderboards and the ghosts are uploaded and you can race against them. Single Race allows you to battle up to 3 computer cars in a single unlocked race.
Career mode is the meat of the single-player experience. You have 4 different difficulties to go through and become the #1 points person: Amateur, Pro, Champion and Superrally. The last one is locked and you have to get through the other three in order to unlock it. As you go through the myriad of tasks in each difficulty you unlock race tracks, cars, licenses and a variety of other things. I found a lot to like about Career mode and find it well worth many hours of play.
Multiplayer mode allows you to race up to 4 players split-screen or 16 people via System link much like Halo. Having anything over 4 players in one race will turn car collision off in order to stop the race from becoming a bumper car race. The same thing can be said for the Xbox Live section of gameplay. Anything over 4 players will put all the cars into wireframe mode and allow you to pass right through them. If you have up to 4 players you are able to play with collisions on and the connection works pretty well for the game. Rallisport Challenge 2 is also an XSN connected title and will allow you to set up races, invite your friends, etc. through the XSN website. Tournaments are being planned by Microsoft and there is also a plan for some sort of Race Team option coming up where you and 3 of your friends battle everyone else, kind of like the group section of Amped 2.
I would like to talk about damage down here. Yes, your car can get damaged, but it only seems to effect your speed and handling after you have taken significant damage. I only noticed a little extra force feedback from the controller when the bumper was scraping on the ground for instance. I also noticed a slight loss of handling and speed when the car was really damaged. However the cars can take a bit of damage and still run just fine, but this is an arcade racer at heart. The damage models look nice, but it would be cool for them to have more effect on your driving ability.
You have to go into RSC2 thinking that you are going into an arcade racing game and not a simulation based one like the Colin McRae series or the recently released TOCA Race Driver 2. Once you get past that you will find a lot of hours of enjoyment in RSC2, but possibly not to the level of Project Gotham Racing 2. I believe that PGR2 is more robust in its single-player mode than RSC2 is, but RSC2 does a fantastic job with its Career mode. Unlike PGR2 you can also race with up to 15 other people on Live, although you are reduced to non-collision races. This is a plus when put against PGR2 because those races often became bumper car races.
The value of this game is top notch if you just want to enjoy a nice rally racing game with a smooth difficulty curve. The Xbox Live options are just icing on the cake so to speak.