|Having never played either of the Colin McRae Rally games previous to CMR3 I didn't know what to expect. I've always been intrigued by rally racing, the power sliding, the destruction of cars with a purpose as opposed to just a straight destruction derby. There is something about that perfect turn you land on a 90 degree corner that brings you to the brink of totally loosing control, yet, you are able to keep the car going and improve your time with the momentum you pulled off the corner. Also, having never raced a rally car myself, CMR3 was the closest thing I was getting to the dirt tracks of the Australian Outback or the green hills of Spain. |
CMR3 does a great job of actually portraying you as a rally racer. From the start you have some control over the suspension, tires, brakes, etc. that goes into making your car unbeatable on the track. While the total customization packaged offered by such racers as Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec is missing, you still feel as though the modifications you place upon your vehicle keep you in control. CMR3 is an easy game to pick up, but a very tough one to master.
Championship mode puts you behind the wheel of Colinís Ford Focus as part of the Ford Rallye Team (yeah, they spell it weird). This brings up one of the gameís drawbacks. While it offers everything from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII to the Subaru WRX you can only race the championship mode behind the wheel of a Focus. To take a trip in the gameís other cars you need to select the Stages mode form the main menu which allows you to plop yourself into any course around the world in your car of choice. But be careful, this isnít San Francisco Rush where bumping and banging your way to the front of the pack pays off, in CMR3 your car takes the punishment very realistically and itís shown to the driver onscreen.
Be a good driver and keep the car out of trees and off walls you will return to your service area only in need of a car wash. Neglect the laws of physics and your ride is sure to be thrown around into just about everything available for you to hit. The cars are fully deformable. Everything from your bumper swinging off to broken glass as you hit a tree sideways, almost every part of the car model can be ripped off, dented, or destroyed if you cause enough agony. There will be times when you make it back to the tent with nothing more than a few dings, and others (especially the brutal Finland courses) you will be lucky if you can keep your steering in alignment and stay out of the countrysideís many rivers.
The game, from a graphical standpoint, looks amazing. Our review version was from the PlayStation2 and the game looked beautiful. Photorealistic landscapes with excellent effects such as dirt being thrown up by your tires or the reflections of the overhead trees on the hood. Everything is represented well with a healthy dose of polygons. The cars, especially, benefit from this as they could be mistaken for photographs of the real thing when shown in screenshots. Individual parts are modeled, which gives them that lifelike appearance. In some screenshots you can even see the brakes glowing bright red from overuse. I havenít damage modeling this good since Vice City.
The sound is also very, very well done. The voice recording of your co-pilot, Nicky Grist, is excellently recorded and presented. Through every turn on the course Nicky will alert you to what your next corner will be, when jumps occur, and when not to cut corners to the outside. At times when music is playing, mostly during the menus, you are bombarded with some excellent techno tunes which clearly show the gameís European influence. While you wonít hear anything but the rumbling of your engine and the squealing of your tires while racing they sound as realistic as possible.
Although CMR3 offers a great racing experience, many gamers may find it lacking in the gameplay options department. Your only two choices are the aforementioned Stages and Championship modes as well as Options. From there you progress through either a season or take to the dirt for a single race by yourself or with a friend. Thatís basically all. After each completed country in championship mode you unlock new parts for your car which come in handy down the line. Still the basic racing game is more than enough to keep you occupied, and even with the lack of options you will find yourself enjoying the modes that are available.
During gameplay you may experience a slight hiccup or two in the framerate, but for the most part the game runs at a silky smooth pace even with such high poly models on screen. Since rally racing differs from traditional racing by the way of not going directly head-to-head with other opponents the engine only needs to render your car and the surrounding environment.
For the most part Colin McRae Rally 3 proves to be an enjoyable experience that delivers the best rally racing game on the PS2, PC, or Xbox. If you make the lack of gameplay options out to be a greater focus on the awesome racing, then CMR3 excels. Yet, if you are looking for a tweaking, customizing rich racer in the same vein as Gran Turismo 3 you may want to give CMR3 a rental and see if it is up you alley. Either way the game stands out in an overly crowded racing genre from both a technical and realistic standpoint. If you like racing games, you will love Colin McRae Rally 3, thereís no doubt about that.