Moments in Gaming is where we look back on gaming experiences that have left a particularly strong impression on us over the years: mainly for good reasons, but sometimes for bad ones.

At one point in the early 00s, the number of rally games being released seemed greatly at odds with the level of public interest in the sport. Like many other forms of motor racing, its very existence in the minds of a certain generation (in the UK at least) owed something to the era of terrestrial television, when Top Gear was a fusty motoring programme with car reviews and regular coverage of the rally championship from muddy fields in Wales, and Sunday afternoons meant watching the British Touring Car Championship because nothing else was on.

My memory of early rally games were in line with this slightly staid and old-fashioned image, with the likes of Lombard RAC Rally on Atari ST or Network Q RAC Rally Championship on PC being pretty dry affairs. On consoles, from Sega Rally, to Colin McRae, to Gran Turismo, things were jazzed up a little bit, but the focus was on mastering the slippery-slidey technique required to succeed more than anything else.

Enter Rally Championship Xtreme, which according to internet sources was a later instalment of the same Rally Championship series as the above-mentioned effort, albeit a largely ignored and unloved one, possessing neither the grim mechanical realities of a sim nor the flashy whizzery of a fun arcade racer.

What it did have, though, was a sense that its courses were part of a wider world: big open sections of countryside through which a race had been plotted, rather than some narrow tree-lined tracks. Whether it was true to the real sport or really delivered an authentic rallying experience, I don’t know, but as a game that made you feel that it might be fun to drive a small hatchback through the muddy fields of Great Britain, it certainly delivered.

You can work your way up to the top class of rally vehicles eventually, but I had the most fun in the little cars that you’re forced to begin with: the Citroรซn Saxo, the Nissan Micra, or the Peugeot 106. The early rallies (Scotland, Manx, Wales) also have some of the most memorable scenery and they have remained with me over the years: gaming spaces that I often think about returning to.

In my extremely ancient review, I suggested that (ever one to lack the courage of my convictions) despite enjoying the game, it may well not stand the test of time. But returning to it now, those early stages still retain their magic.

That review also featured a clip from our mid-00s tinkering with video, which resulted in a few short, lumpy and silent clips complementing our review coverage. Remarkably, the one attached to this game captured me negotiating a memorably tricky early stage with some success, power-sliding left through a narrow gate before driving through a church yard:

I can’t remember now whether I tried repeatedly to capture that moment on video or whether it was just a fluke, but I do recall messing that bit up time and again while playing. It’s a moment that can get into your head after repeated failures and probably best approached with caution (as advised by your co-driver) especially as the risks, in terms of damage, associated with hitting the post are significant. But slowing down too soon seems very unsatisfactory, even cowardly, despite the fact that the success of a flashy slide through the gate provides little significant time-saving advantage.

Pull off that initial turn, and the adrenaline high potentially fuels careless mistakes while driving through the church yard and subsequent gates, with equally dire consequences. Many a time I would pull off the turn but then come unstuck by putting my foot down and losing concentration during the next few seconds.

Thinking about that moment made me want to do it all again. Could I get the game working? Was that bit early enough for me to attempt without ploughing through many other stages? Was it actually all that hard really? Could I somehow pull it off one more time with the added pressure of video? Did I even know how to capture video from a game anyway?

(Look, I know it’s not the full arrogant powerslide through the gates, but it was the best I could do. I was 25 then, I’m closer to 40 now…)