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Feb. 25, 2002

GW Xbox > Xbox Previews > Preview Page


RaliSport Challenge

Digital Illusions




Ever had any interest in Rally racing? Me neither. But Microsoft's newest racing game looks to change all that.

Racing has always been a genre both of beauty and of intrigue. On the PS2 Gran Turismo 3 revolutionized the genre with its amazing graphics and its genre bending depth. On the Xbox, Project Gotham racing came up a bit short of the echelon of GT3 due to its lack of depth and charisma in gameplay, although it came very very close in the eyes of many gamers. Now Microsoft will take its second stab at the racing genre with RalliSport Challenge.

For those few uninitiated out there Rally racing is basically racing on pavement, minus the pavement. Specially built cars tackle treacherous dirt road, hidden wooded areas, and even the icy slopes atop mountains. Control and speed go hand in hand as the player must be able to take turns at blinding speeds while still keeping complete control of his/her car. Sound difficult? You better believe it is. It's a lot more intricate that left turn, straightaway, left turn, straightaway, repeat.

The developer, Digital Illusions, was hand picked by Microsoft to helm the development of the game. Digital Illusions, a Swedish based developer has extensive experience in the creation of exceptional racing games. Their past works include Swedish Tour Car Championship and RallyMasters, which means that they've got their foot very much in the door of Rally racing. Now with Microsoft's amazingly deep pockets supplying Digital Illusions with all the market capital they'll ever need (as well as technical expertise), it looks as though RalliSport Challenge could put a new spin on an all but forgotten category of racing.

You'll helm one of 25 fully licensed models including, Audi, Ford, Subaru, as well as the infamous group "B" cars which were banned in the 1980's for being "too dangerous" for rally racing. Car customization will be possible to suit your every desire as well as the tactics needed for each and every track included in the game. As with Project Gotham Racing you'll have the ability to deform and damage the car's frame in every way possible. Real-time damage will play a big part in the graphical impact of the game, and will of course play a large part in your car's performance. You'll notice changes in both the car's handling and in its angelic sound that can quickly turn to a devilish grumble.

RalliSport Challenge comes complete with four distinct game modes: Rally Cross, Hill Climb, World Rally Championship Races, as well as the exhilarating and sometimes frustrating Ice Races. The career mode of the game will feature all race types as well as all the available cars. You'll begin in the lower ranks with a small selection of cars and a pitifully small selection of tracks. As you progress through the ranks of Rally racing more and more cars will become available with more and more customization options to better your riding experience.

The graphics of the game are nearing completion as the release date draws closer. You'll notice setting suns as well as other environmental effects such as swaying tree tops and particle effects highlighting the game's intricate dirt. With all of the promised locales you can bet that the graphical detail for each will highlight the Xbox's visual abilities. The aforementioned real time damage modeling will definitely add a tone of realism to the visual performance as well as good old fashioned good looking element to an already superb looking racing game.

While little is known about the multiplayer features of the game we do know that there will definitely be a four-player option to compete against three of your buddies. We also know that system link was not included in this release despite many gamers yearning for some massive multiplayer (or online) goodness with their Rally racing desires.

The controls in RalliSport Challenge could be some of the most important we've seen in a racing game, unlike games of years past where all you need is the acceleration as well as an occasional break thrown in there for good measure. In RC the infamous powerslide will be the key to winning and losing and can often be a deciding factor in a race. The triggers control your acceleration and breaking and the A button will allow for hand braking. The game runs along at 60 frames per second which means that the sense of speed will be very apparent which in turn means that you'll have a very small amount of time for decision making.

The audio portion of the game will feature plenty of shine, not to be overshadowed the always-impressive Xbox exclusive graphics. Microsoft and Digital Illusions went to great lengths to record as many of the cars as possible. You'll hear realistic accelerations and braking from all models of vehicles. Full support for Dolby Digital 5.1 will have your humble abode bouncing up and down with the sounds of a full blown rally race in no time.

While a rally racing game may not be the most desired racing game on the market, with a little Xbox pizzazz and Microsoft swagger anything is possible. A solid mixture of gameplay, graphics, and sound should bring this package together very nicely for RalliSport Challenge's release in early March

Nate "Gamer X" Ahearn
Isn't really an "outdoorsy" person.

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