reviews\ Dec 21, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Rally Fusion: Race of Champions - PS2 - Review

Let me be up front with you folks … I am not a big rally racing person. Don’t get me wrong, I love cars, I love racing, and who doesn’t love dirt and mud flying around? Well, my issue is not with Rally Racing itself, just with the fact that I have never been as good at them as I have straight street style events and games like GT3, Sega GT 2003, or Total Immersion Racing. Well, as a Rally game, Rally Fusion is pretty average compared to Shox or Colin McRae for PS2, which would make you, put it back up on the shelf … but wait! It really has a lot to offer the racing fan and is pretty darn fun … oddly enough.


Rally Fusion is based around an actual Rally event known as The Race of Champions. This was created by two individuals and was more a matter of team and national pride than anything else, since it pitted two drivers against one another on a parallel track. This really allowed them to see who was the more skilled of the two, and even now it is considered by both the fans and the drivers themselves to be a true test of “who’s the man” … so to speak.


Rally Fusion places you in control of numerous different actual Rally cars like the Opel Kadett or the Toyota RAV 4 and places you in competition with some actual drivers of the Race of Champions like Yannick Dalmas and Frank Biela. While a lot of locales or tracks are similar to life, the game controls help out a lot and are very tight and feel somewhat more like the arcade than a Rally game. This makes it easy for anyone, younger or older; to pick it up, hop right in, but it also decreases the learning curve quite a bit. Along the way, you will get to race through dirt, mud, snow, sand, over the hills, through the woods, and probably to Grandma’s house at some point in time yet to be unlocked. It’s a good variety overall and definitely will put your skills to the test at times. You will even get trophies for completing events and for doing things like having the best crash or reaching a mileage point on one car. 


First off, let’s talk about the game modes themselves, since this was a big part of what impressed me up front. All modes have you racing through three classes, C, B, and A class … each one using various cars of different speeds and difficulty, and you must complete C to participate in B and so on. The first mode, and my least favorite despite its history, was the Race of Champions mode. This put you into a one on one event against the computer, and has you race a pre-selected car against an automobile of the same type in an elimination style duel … best two out of three wins and advances to the next round. At first, this game and I didn’t get along too well because the first track … while really cool and well designed … was also littered with a number of things to trip you up and cause you to have problems. Still not bad, since that’s part of what Rally Racing is about, but add in the fact that the AI opponent didn’t have the same problems and it gets frustrating. Also, there was no way to just simply restart a race, so you can go all the way through the three circuits of the ladder, lose the last race, and you have to start all over again. Well, I walked away that first night feeling let down and pretty annoyed, so I decided to try the next mode out the following evening.


ROC Challenge mode, which is the next big way to race, really turned my impressions around quickly about this game. It starts off with a series of time trial and an obstacle course style single race, which was OK, but then started opening new ways to play. Things like Circuit Challenge which allows you to pick your car and go at it with three other drivers, or Hill Climb Challenge which has you racing up a super dangerous mountain pass trying to get the best time but not fall off the side. After unlocking new cars and a lot of these new modes to play, I quickly found myself having a hard time putting it down. What a turnaround!


Quick Race is something I will talk about a little, even though it may seem like it’s just your average single race kind of thing. While it is one race and no it’s not part of any major circuit or anything, you can use any car that you have unlocked so far while playing on a number of tracks. In addition to that, there are about 13 different ways to play it overall that you will unlock as you go in the main play modes. You can play things that were found in the ROC Challenge, like the Hill Climb and Time Trial, but it also has some really neat ideas and ways to play like Follow the Leader where you have to stay in front of an opponent so your “health meter” won’t deplete, or a Relay Race where you use one car for a lap, then switch off to another for the next lap. This and the ROC Challenge are the big reason that a lot of people will keep coming back and playing over and over again, and will probably be a lot more popular than the actual event that the game is based on.


OK … the major issue that a lot of you will run into (which will be a big plus for a lot of others like me) is the aggravating e-brake rally controls found in this game. The controls work really well, as I stated before, but the e-brake just gave me a bunch of problems. I know it’s supposed to help in sliding around corners and decreasing the amount of brakes that you have to use, but it wound up causing me to smash my car up or losing time instead and felt a lot less accurate than some other rally games that I have played. Finally, I got fed up after multiple attempts resulting in losing and just started using the regular brakes … and it was like the clouds parted and the Hallelujah chorus started up. Soon I was leading the pack, having no problems around corners, and winning race after race after race. So, this is a good thing for me as it becomes a street style racing game, but you Rally folks looking for a Rally game may not appreciate it as much.


Another issue that I ran into was the lack of selectable tracks and cars to use up front. I understand that having a lot of unlockable stuff just adds some reward to taking time and completing a game, but you only have a couple of tracks and a couple of cars to choose from up front. Since playing it as a Rally game can be frustrating, you just might say “There’s not enough here for me to do and I just can’t win the darned race, so I’m taking this back” before it really got a good chance to get, well, good. 


Graphically, Rally Fusion looks really good. The cars get a good amount of dirt and mud buildup, and will begin to lose pieces and fly apart as you keep crashing and hitting things. The tracks were well done, and things like rain splatters on the screen or lighting reflections in mud are a nifty extra. Ice will even reflect sunlight as you barrel through snowy mountains, and deserts will have shimmering heat effects in the distance. There is no in game music, which isn’t really a bad thing since the title track selection that plays is a little repetitive, and your navigator that rides along with you will get more and more annoyed as you hit walls, other cars and such and you can really hear it in his voice. He will even start shouting things like “You’re going to wreck the %&$^#*& car!” or “It can’t take much more”, which is a nice touch, but gets repetitive quickly and doesn’t always seem to happen at the right time.


Overall, people who are a little more partial to straight up racing games will enjoy the jumps, mud, and craziness of Rally racing with some great game modes, great graphics, and a fun arcade style feel. This will definitely please your little (or big) racing fan about the house. Unfortunately, grading it as a Rally game will cause it to fall a little short and trying to play it as one is more annoying than it may be worth for some. So if you are looking for a Rally title, you may want to give this one a rent prior to purchasing.  



Gameplay: 7.3
Lots of cars to unlock, lots of tracks and variation, and a lot of gameplay modes are here to provide a lot of fun. The ROC Challenge and Single Race modes will definitely be the highlight of the game for most. The Race of Champions had some frustrating AI issues, and no way to restart one race after the competition had begun. In addition, the arcade controls worked great but the e-brake caused more problems and lost time than it helped. 


Graphics: 8.1
The graphics looked sharp on the PS2 and everything moved at a good consistent framerate, even with the faster Rally cars. There were some cool lighting and environmental effects to be found, and even little things like photographers who run onto the track to take pictures and almost get hit. The flying mud, dust clouds, and splashing water could have had a little more to it, but it won’t ruin the overall enjoyment or quality.


Sound: 7.2 

Each car has its own unique engine noise, and Activision was nice enough to not make every car sound 100% identical. Tires will give the lopping sound of a bad wheel when damaged, and the car will squeak at times after a jump or sharp turn. There is no background music, and the title music didn’t really do much more than provide some noise. The navigator’s voice-overs were funny at first, but he can get a tad critical (I’m an idiot because of your stupid e-brake controls?) and start repeating things, and sometimes his timing was off. His tone getting annoyed as you make mistakes was a cool touch that they threw in.


Difficulty: Medium 
I’m going to go middle of the road on this one. If you play it as a racing game and mostly stick to the ROC Challenge or Single Race mode, it’s easy to pick up and get into and the arcade style controls make it simple to learn. If you play it as a Rally game, the controls in e-braking get annoying quickly and may get too frustrating for you to care after a while.


Concept: 8.0
This game does a lot of really neat things for the Rally genre which make it a unique selection over other titles that came out recently, and do a lot of things like multiple modes that make it a blast to play. If this game were called “Racing Fusion” and had a little of both street and rally worlds tossed in environmentally, it would have faired much better.


Multiplayer: 8.1
Up to 8 people can race head to head or in teams and compete in a number of different events and ladder style competitions. This is a big plus to this title, and is a lot of fun.  


Overall: 7.4
There are a bunch of different game modes here to select from, and a lot of things to do that you won’t find in other rally games. The controls are arcade style and easy for anyone to learn and get into, the only problem is that the rally style cornering just doesn’t seem to be up to the standards of some of the other more popular titles out. If you are a fan of Rally games, you definitely want to rent this one first before buying. If you enjoy a more street racing style, this provides some good, quality racing fun that is challenging but not too hard.  


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