"After being disappointed by how much the bad controls killed any sense of fun from the original, Iím amazed that Rallisport Challenge 2 turns out as good as it does. I came into it very hesitant, thinking that poor controls would once again kill the game. Well, luckily, that didnít happen, as work was done on them, leaving a game that not only looks and sounds great (the high points of the original), but one that also controls smoothly. "
After being disappointed by how much the bad controls killed any sense of fun from the original, Iím amazed that Rallisport Challenge 2 turns out as good as it does. I came into it very hesitant, thinking that poor controls would once again kill the game. Well, luckily, that didnít happen, as work was done on them, leaving a game that not only looks and sounds great (the high points of the original), but one that also controls smoothly.
The problem with the original was that it suffered from controls that just didnít work out in any area of the game. The ice racing, for example, should have slippery controls, but when youíre racing on asphalt, that shouldnít be the case. It went far beyond DICEís arcade play-style for the game, and was just poor game design in that one aspect. Itís a real shame too, because if it wasnít for the controls, the first game would have been an amazing game in every way. With the second installment, they remedied the slippery controls, and managed to strike a balance between providing an arcade-style game and more traditional rally racing. The newly-precise controls pay off in every mode in RC 2.
The traditional rally races, which rely on precise controls for faster times, benefit greatly. When you factor in opponents with that mode, you not only have to beat their time, but outrace them on the track, something that requires responsive controls. The ice racing areas certainly showcase how much work was done since RC didnít feature much of a difference between the on and off the ice controls, here, you can see the contrast between them. The steep hill climbing races really showed this off, which isnít a good thing, as the poor controls could easily send you plunging off the track, destroying your vehicle in the process. Here, you have to rely on your racing skills to succeed, something that is now possible, and enjoyable, since you wonít have the controls getting in your way.
The vehicle damage was a shining feature in the first, and has somehow been improved. Both games feature visually realistic damage. When you slam into a tree with the right side of your car, for example, the window will show signs of cracking, and the door will be deformed. If you hit it again, the window will shatter and the door will hang off the hinges, and so on and so forth until the door and widow area become detached from the vehicle. I say ďvisually realisticĒ because none of the damage shown on the cars affects their performance, something that Iím incredibly fond of, as it allows me to just roam around and take as much damage as humanly possible just to see how it looks. This might not be a winning strategy in a race, but itís damned fun, and thatís what counts.
Itís even more enjoyable to actively race and see the track surfaces fly onto your car. If youíre racing through ice and snow, youíll see snow start to build up on the paint of the car, which is a striking effect given how it progresses from a light dusting to outright covering the car as the race goes on. The same holds true for the dust and dirt that can accumulate on the car, which go from tan, into a light brown, and then get progressively darker as more dirt builds up. I like how realistically this is all handled, well, to some degree. Iím glad itís shown on the engine area of the car if your hood flies off (which show the incredible attention to detail here), but Iím even happier that it doesnít bog down the performance of the cars. There are so many little touches on the detailed car models that Iím amazed the game runs as smoothly as it does, especially with the lush terrain that surrounds the tracks, bustling with life and activity from a vocal crowd on the roadside, enveloping you further into the race, and the game itself.
Itís a shame that the Xbox Live support doesnít fully show off the visuals, since wire frame car models are used for some modes, and when (I think) over four cars are in one race. The wire frame cars do look nice though, despite really clashing with the rest of the game, and they make judging turns alongside one a chore. Aside from that, I love RC 2ís Live support. It compliments the career mode nicely, since you have to unlock vehicles and tracks to make the most of it and there is still quite a bit of activity on Live with the game, and the play is usually pretty smooth, even with the maximum number of players. There are exceptions to that rule though, as jittery wire frames can crop up from time to time. They arenít too much of a bother though, and shouldnít deter anyone from having fun with the Live play for any real length of time.
The in-game audio certainly can deter folks from having fun, online or not. The in-game music is a bland of bad and worse rock, and the heavy-accented co-driver feeding you instructions only makes matters worse. Thankfully, you can customize your own soundtrack and shut that co-driver up. Ideally, a custom soundtrack wouldnít be needed, and the co-driver wouldnít be annoying, still, this is a nice compromise, and the many audio options to show off DICEís skill, although some of the audio certainly doesnít. The sound effect work is a shining example of the audio that they did well, as the effects have great depth to them, and can be quite invigorating, especially when youíve got a tight race and five other car engines are roaring in your ears.
Iím amazed at how well Rallisport Challenge 2 turned out, although I guess I shouldnít be, given that the first provided a solid base that just needed to be tweaked. The tweaks here end up giving us a real night and day difference between the two games, as theyíre done effectively. If thereís a third installment, I hope that DICE works on enhancing the Live play, and making the controls tighter, but giving folks choices between tighter and looser controls would be even better, although they sort of got it right here given the different control acuity in the varying racing types. Barring the slight audio and Live issues, I have no qualms with RC 2. There is so much done right that itís easy to pick out the few, small problems, which donít really hamper things. If you're a racing game fan in the mood for something that does a lot of things, and does them well, give RC 2 a try.
Community review by jpeeples (February 14, 2005)
Jeremy Peeples has been writing about games since 2000. GameFAQs was his first stop, and that led to a writing gig on Game2Extreme, then VGPub. In 2005, he was brought aboard Hardcore Gamer Magazine, and has been a regular Youtuber since 2006.
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