Written by: Rik

Date posted: June 16, 2007


Now that’s a pretty sunset.

I’m no expert, but I think Colin McRae is possibly a rally driver. A quick check of Wikipedia suggests he used to be a pretty good one too, and at the peak of his powers, it’s fair to suggest that his name might have registered in most people’s brains as belonging to someone vaguely famous for something. These days, he’s arguably more well known for putting his name to a series of video games, although any blow to his ego must have been at least partially mitigated by the bucketload of cash he’s (probably) made out of the whole enterprise. [Edit: Since this review was published, Colin McRae died in a helicopter accident – making the slightly flippant tone of this opening paragraph slightly inappropriate.]

As with any successful sport or racing franchise, there have been quite a few McRae games released over the years. We’re going for numero, er, two for a number of reasons, partly because it was possibly the most well-received at the time, and partly because the original (looks a bit ropey, only supports 3dfx acceleration) and the later games in the series (a bit ‘new’, system requirements that would make my PC weep) aren’t really suitable FFG material. We’ve also covered CM2.0‘s closest rival, Rally Championship Xtreme, on the site already, with the reviewer in question brazenly dismissing the claims of the McRae series without mentioning that he hadn’t really played any of them.

As a quick glance at the score suggests, though, an extended play of the game has proved this admittedly rash assessment largely correct. Frankly, I don’t really want to spend the whole of this review going on about how CMR2.0 isn’t as good as Rally Championship Xtreme, so I’ll just say it once: Colin McRae Rally 2.0 isn’t as good as Rally Championship Xtreme (okay, technically that’s twice already). We suggested in our review of the latter that perhaps the ‘Xtreme’ in that game’s title allowed the narrow dirt tracks and forestry normally seen in rally games to be replaced by wide-open spaces and beautiful scenery – and that this was clearly a good thing, with the whole thing not only looking fantastic but allowing for an altogether more interesting racing experience.

Replays give you a good idea of just how much damage you’ve done to your car. A few broken windows can’t hurt – unless a piece of broken glass became lodged in your eye, of course.

In CMR2.0, though, it’s back to the traditional ‘mud and trees’ scenario, and this has a number of implications for the game. First up, while the graphics remain perfectly acceptable, the scenery isn’t desperately impressive, and to be honest you’d have to have played this game quite a lot before you became too familiar with any of the stages. Though conditions change as you progress through the different rallies, of which there are eight (and these are largely as you would expect, with snow in Finland, dirt in Africa and rain, mud and shit in good ‘ol GB), the individual stages can be bereft of anything interesting to look at beyond the next jump or corner.

Gameplay-wise, too, you don’t really have any freedom to leave the road, with misjudgements at corners usually meaning you either hit some unnaturally-solid roadside objects or, worse, a dreaded ‘invisible barrier’ surrounding the road. At other times, this doesn’t happen, and it’s usually to your great disadvantage as you slide off the road into a field and lose valuable seconds. Although it’s difficult to be critical when most racing games, including the very best ones, allow you to bounce harmlessly off the scenery with only a few seconds lost, it’s still something that I’m not particularly keen on.

It should probably be pointed out at this stage that CMR2.0 was also released on the PSOne, and it’s clear that these shortcomings are possibly down to the technical limitations of the little grey box. And, to go into full PC-snob mode for a moment, the game’s console roots are evident elsewhere, too, from minor nitpicks like no mouse support in the menus and irritating techno music, to the fact that the game is effectively quite a simple arcade racer, with the championship mode offering virtually no information about your opponents and very little opportunity for technical tinkering.

You know, we could do with a few more roundabouts in our driving games. In all games, in fact.

That’s fine by me though, as someone who neither knows nor cares about the finer points of rallying and would prefer to concentrate on the basics of trying to keep the car on the road using the four cursor keys. And speaking of which, despite the negative tone of the review so far, Colin McRae Rally 2.0 remains a fine game. It does pretty much everything you’d expect from a rally game, offering Sega Rally-style arcade japes with multiple cars on the track at once, as well as the more lonely plod through several rallies during championship mode. Codemasters, also responsible for the TOCA games, generally have a reputation for producing solid, well put-together titles, and CMR2.0 is another good example of this.

Indeed, aside from the few gripes we’ve already mentioned, there’s little to find fault with. Some may find the handling a little twitchy, and certainly once you lose control of the car it can be difficult to stop sliding all over the place, although it could be argued that part of the point of the whole enterprise is to not lose control in the first place. As ever, it’s case of getting used to the game, and you have plenty of opportunity to do so during the novice-level championship, which is forgiving enough to allow you to skid about and ricochet off the scenery to your heart’s content without being unduly punished. Once you crank the difficulty up the game becomes a lot more challenging, and you also have to progress through a greater number of stages during each rally.

The arcade mode allows you to race against other cars. So now you know.

Elsewhere, there aren’t too many stand-out features, although the ‘Super-Stage’ that rounds off each rally during the championship is quite a nice touch, giving you the opportunity to race head-to-head against another driver on a special ‘dual-circuit’ track. And although Mr McRae himself doesn’t really have much to contribute, Codemasters have managed to secure the services of his co-driver, Nicky Grist, to guide you round each stage. Though I’m sure Grist is an excellent co-driver in real life, he sounds more than a little bit bored during the game, not least when he’s introducing each rally, half-heartedly warning you about the ‘slippery gravel’ or that ‘your brake-pads will be tested here’.

If you’re a fan of rally games, it seems almost inexplicable that you wouldn’t have had a bash at one of the Colin McRae titles. Whether this would be the best one for you to go for largely depends on the heftiness of your PC, and with numbers 3 & 4 in the series also available for the same price as this one, you’d probably be better off going for one of those instead. Still, oldie lovers and those stuck with a cruddy PC could do a lot worse than this game, although in my opinion, another title should be your first port of call.