The physics engine has slightly exaggerated reality. As a result, the cars get more air, and crashes are more spectacular than what would happen in real life. Rather than being off-putting, this adds to the enjoyment of the race, particularly the replay sequences as you see your vehicle fly over a hump in the road.
Speaking of crashes, the development team has followed in the steps of several recent games. When the unfortunate happens and your car flips, rolls or otherwise acts in unforeseen ways, the camera view changes to outside the vehicle so you can see what’s happening. Then, when the car settles down back to a normal position, the view resets back to your currently selected preference.
The feel of the different road surfaces is also an illusion of reality. You’ll really notice how your tyres react in a variety of ways when you race on a stage that has multiple surface types. You’ll be driving along a dirt section, powerslide around a corner that transitions to tarmac halfway round, and suddenly have to cope with the much tighter grip you have by not oversteering – awesome.
The races and events are locked away into four classes of difficulty. Rather than simply opening up new stages as you complete current ones, you’ll need to prove your worth by the points system. You get points awarded based on position, how much damage was done to your car, the time it took to complete the stage and bonus points for how well you did overall.
To unlock the next set of races, you need to get a set amount of points (eg, to open Expert mode you need 12,000 points). The problem is, the points only count once for each stage in a rally. So, if you want to race that rally again, you lose your current set of points and have to hope that you’ll do better. Again, this adds a nice level of challenge to the title and makes it conceivable that you’ll lose access to some stages if you don’t do well in others.
The races are divided into four main categories – normal point-to-point stages, hill climb sections, ice racing and Rallycross. This latter category puts you head to head with three other drivers and will give those who like the bump-and-grind style of V-Rally and similar racers the opportunity to muscle their way to a win.
The other stages use the normal mode of rally racing, where it’s you and the clock. You’ve only got three other drivers’ times to beat (unlike the WRC with its tens of competitors), but they’re good, especially in the higher difficulties. In fact, it’s interesting, because the computer’s times seem to get harder as you progress through the stages too. So, you have to learn and improve as you go – it keeps you on your toes, but it gives you more satisfaction when you get that steadily harder to achieve first place.
Its biggest problem is that there isn’t a huge selection of stages to race when compared to games such as WRC on PS2, or Colin McRae 2 on PS1. However, it still has over 20 circuits, stages and other races to take on, and a number of settings for these races. In addition, the points system also adds to the challenge and extends the game.
Apart from that there really is little else to lessen the worth of this game. The only other thing worth mentioning is that the invisible tunnel you drive in is a bit narrower than other rally titles. What I mean is that if driving off the actual road, you’ll find yourself reset back on the road sooner than games such as Colin McRae 2 which had a very wide “tunnel”. My response to those complaining about such a situation is “drive better!”.
If you have to buy one title for the Xbox, I say without any reservation in the slightest – get Rallisport Challenge. It’s not only the top title for Xbox, but it’s also the most enjoyable and impressive rally game I have even seen or played on PC or console.