reviews\ Mar 12, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Rallisport Challenge - XB - Review

Rallisport Challenge took me by storm.  I've known about this game for a while, but didn't actually know anything about it until a few weeks ago.  Then I began to really anticipate its release, expecting to see it on store shelves this summer.  Shortly afterwards, I found out that Rallisport Challenge was only three weeks away!  I could not believe it.  Great games almost never come out that quickly.  Of course, that was before Microsoft entered the gaming industry.  I'm so glad that they did, because these games would not have been made with out them.


Now that I've got Rallisport Challenge in my grubby little hands, I can honestly say that this is the best racing game on the Xbox.  It feels like it's Christmas time again.  First Genma Onimusha, then Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions and now Rallisport Challenge!


You're probably wondering what makes Rallisport Challenge the "best racing game on the Xbox."  There are tons of good Xbox games out there, so what makes this one special?  What makes it worthy of a 9.1?  Believe it or not, Rallisport Challenge is the Gran Turismo of off-road racing (for the most part, at least).  If you own a PlayStation 2 and have yet to play Gran Turismo 3, then stop living under a rock and go buy it already.  If you own an Xbox and can't decide if you should buy Rallisport Challenge or not, then let me help you make up your mind: this is as close to perfection as the rally racing genre is every going to get.  More than a hundred rally racing games have been released over the past ten years (there were probably a lot more than released than that, but only a hundred come to mind) and none of them were able to advance the genre into the next-generation of console gaming.  I like Sega Rally and all, but there was nothing truly special about it.  Not when it was first released and certainly not now.  Finally though, there's an off-road racer that's worth praising. 


Rallisport Challenge has amazing track design.  The layout of each course is both logical and functional.  There are many twists and turns on the tracks, but none of them overwhelmed me.  Power-sliding is pretty easy, thanks to the Xbox's super-sensitive analog trigger buttons.  This allows you to navigate each sharp turn like a pro, or screw it up like an amateur.  Regardless of how well you perform, the outcome is determined by you.  The excellent track design is really what made this game stand out from the rest.  The controls are just about perfect.  You won't believe how good Rallisport Challenge plays until you try it yourself.  However, good controls are fairly common among racing games.  More often than not, the track design, unbalanced AI or lack of longevity prevented the game from being a masterpiece.  Thankfully, Rallisport Challenge has some of the best courses ever made; the AI is balanced, giving casual and hardcore racers alike something to enjoy; and best of all, Rallisport Challenge is packed with tons of events to race, adding hours of replay to a game that's already worth playing again and again.  For some reason or other, I usually don't play through racing games more than once.  But I am really looking forward to having this experience again.  It's the most seamless racing experience I've had in month.  The game's physics are just as impressive as the visuals.  Starz! movie network had a free preview this past weekend, but I didn't care.  Why watch a movie when I could be playing Rallisport Challenge?


When I talk about Rallisport Challenge's graphics, you're going to hear a lot of familiar things, such as: real-time lighting and shadows, breathtaking reflections, insanely realistic textures, spectacular backgrounds, etc., etc., etc.!  The major graphical difference between Rallisport Challenge and other racing games is that it looks even more realistic than Project Gotham, NASCAR Thunder 2002, etc.  The grass, the trees, the sand and the snow are more detailed, moving closer to photo-realistic visuals.  Patches of grass (both tall and small, with individually rendered blades) are scattered throughout most of the courses.  The individual blades are incredible, but just wait until you see them sway in the wind!  It's an effect that I had never seen in a video game before (except in pre-rendered movies).


Once again, the Xbox has beaten the competition at textured lighting.  Everything touched by the light -- ice, dirt, your car, etc. -- glows in the most realistic way.  The sun doesn't just light up the surface; it wraps itself around it, showing all of the detail of whatever it touches.  Overall, Gran Turismo 3 looks a tad more realistic, but Rallisport Challenge's lighting effects are superior.  On the vehicle select screen, the overhead lights are reflected in the windows.  The light quickly stretches across the side of the vehicle as it spins.


Without a doubt, Rallisport Challenge has the most realistic backgrounds ever seen in an off-road racing game.  The Xbox is making it increasingly difficult to praise a game's graphics because of the constant visual enhancements made with each major release.  At this rate, Crazy Taxi 3 will blow everything out of the water, and then Microsoft will release a game in the fall that makes CT3 look dated.  Best of all, these great looking (and great playing) Xbox titles are exclusive Xbox games that cannot be released on any other console.  Even if they weren't exclusive, it's unlikely that we'd ever see them on the GameCube or PlayStation 2 due to the fact that those consoles cannot power a game as technologically advanced as Rallisport Challenge.  The lighting effects alone are too much for any other console to handle.

Microsoft must be trying to make everyone go broke, because Rallisport Challenge is yet another must-have Xbox game.  If I didn't already own an Xbox, I'd be buying one right now.  There are many months left in the year, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft from acting like tomorrow may never come.  That kind of attitude is what gave us all of these great games today.  I really can't praise them enough.  I have yet to play a single first-party Xbox game that I didn't like.  The only other developer that has a track record that good is Capcom.  Statistics aren't everything though. As a gamer, you want the best gameplay experience you can get.  For the most part, Rallisport Challenge gave me what I wanted.  I would have liked more races with computer opponents, but aside from that one major flaw, Rallisport Challenge

Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.1
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines...and never turn them off!  Rallisport Challenge is the most addictive, most engrossing and most entertaining racing game on the Xbox.  If you don't already have an Xbox, Rallisport Challenge will make you want to buy one.

Graphics: 9.5 
Want to see some of the Xbox's true power?  Well then, you've come to the right place.  Rallisport Challenge's visuals will impress just about anyone -- even those who don't play video games.

Sound: 6.5
Rallisport Challenge's music is hardly noticeable, which is good, because it's not enjoyable at all.  On the other hand, the sound effects are incredibly realistic.  The only drawback is that they get annoying after a while.

Difficulty: 8
It's very hard to successfully navigate every turn in Rallisport Challenge.  Sometimes they come up too quickly, not giving you enough time to react.  Other times you'll see them a hundred meters away and still screw it up.  The difficulty is evened out with power-sliding.  It's not easy to beat RC, but it's not impossible either.  I wish all racing games were this balanced.

Concept: 8 

Multiplayer: 8
Just like the box says, "Take on your mates in four-player split-screen competition."  Needless to say, it's a lot of fun!

Overall: 9.1
Rallisport Challenge is the kind of racing game that'll suck you in for months to come.  Even if you beat it in a few weeks, you'll still want to come back for more.  I know I will.  Project Gotham scores more points for originality, but Rallisport Challenge offers more long-term entertainment.  Both are must-have games, so save up to buy them both if you have to.  No matter what though, make sure you buy Rallisport Challenge.  Your Xbox library will never be complete without it.


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