Despite the title, this arcade racer from SouthPeak Interactive doesn't feature the very cool Boss Mustang in its lineup of cars. In fact, you won't find any authentic vehicles at all, and the six courses on which you race are fictitious, too. But it isn't a lack of realism that steers Boss Rally into the mediocrity zone; that's taken care of by shallow gameplay, touchy controls, nonexistent AI routines for computer drivers, and the absence of support for Internet play.
The frustration begins when you decide to run a few Quick Races to get used to the courses and cars - only to discover you're limited to a rather miserly two cars and two courses until you earn enough points after two races in championship mode. With only six courses in all (twelve if you count the reverse versions of each), Boss Rally developer Boss Game Studios and SouthPeak probably felt the only way to keep things interesting for a while was to parcel the courses out. My opinion? If you've got so little to offer in the way of courses, you might as well cough 'em up at the start instead of making them so elusive that some players will get bored or frustrated before they finally gain access to them.
OK, so you just go out and place high enough in those two events and gain access to more tracks and cars, right? Well, it's not quite that simple, thanks to some extremely touchy controls. Now I know that there's a lot of powersliding and fishtailing going on in real-life rallies. But I've played a whole lot of racing sims over the past couple of years (including 1997's underrated Rally Championship), and I've never had this much trouble making a car go where I wanted it to. For games like Sports Car GT, Grand Prix Legends, and Viper Racing, my Microsoft Force Feedback Wheel is an invaluable asset that adds greatly to the overall ambience of the experience; using that same wheel in Boss Rally, I found it a major struggle just to keep steady on a straightaway.
I had a lot more success with my Microsoft SideWinder Pro, especially since I found myself racing on the same two courses day after day. But by the time I'd gotten good enough to have a realistic shot at moving on to some new courses I was pretty much sick of playing. Part of the reason was clearly out-and-out frustration. Even though I went from 20th to 4th place in those two races (in just three laps), that's apparently not good enough to let me see the few other tidbits this game has to offer (and there's no way to change the difficulty settings, either). But another reason for my growing apathy is that you don't really race against 19 computer-controlled opponents, but against the clock. Sure, you always race against the clock in rallies, but the opponents in Boss Rally are basically nothing more than slot cars set to a timer: Not only do you pass vehicles like they're standing still, but you also do it in precisely the same spots on the course over and over again. Being a dedicated reviewer, I did hunt down a cheat to let me check out the game's full lineup of tracks and cars (thanks Paradigm!). But all it did was convince me that I'd stand even less of a chance in faster cars on tougher courses with snow, rain, or fog adding to the difficulty factor.
A good multiplayer game would alleviate a lot of those issues because you'd at least know you'd finished faster than other drivers rather than just beating some mysterious time benchmark - but the lack of Internet play means you'll either have to play on a LAN or find another Boss Rally owner for a dial-up or serial connection. What makes the absence of Internet play kind of odd is that cars in rallies leave the start line in one-minute intervals, and results are determined by total time, which means the hurdles of latency and packet loss should be pretty minimal.
There are definitely some things to like about Boss Rally. Just slinging the cars around the courses is fun for a while, and I got a kick out of being able to paint the cars (although your modifications show up on other cars as well as your own). But even with a budget sticker price, Boss Rally just doesn't have what it takes to satisfy over the long haul.