There aren't any PC rally racing games that are better than Colin McRae Rally 04--and there aren't many better driving games of any type, for that matter.
Earlier this year, Codemasters brought its most recent entry in the highly praised Colin McRae Rally racing series, Colin McRae Rally 04, to the US with apparent exclusivity on the Xbox. Initially, the game had been released on the Xbox, PS2, and PC in Europe, but for the game's North American retail release, Codemasters decided (for some reason) to just bring the Xbox version out. However, crafty PC driving fans with the gumption to investigate Codemasters' Web site soon learned that the PC version of the game could be acquired in North America--albeit exclusively through the Codemasters site and for a price that was more than twice the cost of the Xbox version's budget price tag. For what it's worth, however, the fact that the Xbox version of the game is as cheap as it is still remains something of an unexplained anomaly. Aside from this, though, the PC version's equally excellent driving gameplay, better graphics, and added, competitive online mode make the game every bit worth purchasing.
Colin McRae Rally 04 on the Xbox struck an incredibly fine balance between realistic and easily playable driving mechanics, and the PC version is no different. The game features four different car types, including four-wheel drive, two-wheel drive, Group B, and a bonus category. You will feel a pretty significant difference between the cars you play from different categories. For example, four-wheel drive cars are the much more traditional brand of rally racers; two-wheel drive vehicles are designed to be more like day-to-day cars that have been customized for rally purposes; and Group B cars are a notoriously fast bunch that were quite popular in rally racing during the 1980s but were eventually banned due to the many serious accidents they were involved in. When driving a two-wheel drive car or a Group B car, there is a very noticeable difference between them in both handling and speed. There are a little more than 20 cars in the game, and each and every one feels different and varied enough to make it enjoyable to drive time and time again.
Colin McRae 04 features support for all manner of controller types you could possibly want to use, be it a keyboard, an analog controller, or a driving wheel. The keyboard controls are probably the most unwieldy of the bunch, simply because the cars are so touchy when it comes to handling corners. Analog and driving-wheel controllers are probably your best bet, since we had the least-harrowing experiences trying to control our cars with these types of controllers. The driving-wheel method also gets a slight leg up on the analog method, because the game just feels much more realistic when using the wheel controller.
Adding to the realism of Colin McRae 04's driving mechanics are the game's array of tracks and the subsequent variations of terrain. Colin McRae 04 features races spread throughout eight different countries, ranging from the gravelly, dust-laden tracks of Australia, to the soppy, mud-bogged tracks of the UK, to the snow-covered tracks of Sweden. As such, it's up to you before each race to determine the setup for your car so that you can best acclimate yourself to the terrain in front of you. Terrain types on a track are displayed before a race by percentages, and you can alter details like your car's tire type, ride height, spring stiffness, and brake adjustment. Each of these details is quite important to how your car performs on a given track. Gravelly tracks require specific types of tires to prevent you from sliding all over the road, and likewise, setting your springs to a softer setting will also help your traction. You actually feel a legitimate difference between how your car handles on, say, light pea gravel versus heavy pea gravel, so it's not as though these settings are merely an arbitrary option. Although in several of the game's modes, you do have the option to simply race so that you don't have to worry about any of this. The game's championship mode requires you to learn the ropes of car setups, though, so you're better off learning how to properly configure your car.
Of course, if you're no good at figuring out the right combination of tires and spring settings required to keep your car on the track (or if you're just feeling wreck-happy), Colin McRae 04 gives you more than your fair share of ways to royally screw up your car. The damage modeling can be adjusted between two settings, and with it set to high, the damage really takes its toll. Bumpers, doors, and hoods shear off; windows shatter; tires explode; and rolling your car...well, let's just say it looks appropriately unpleasant. Now, of course, all of this damage will have an adverse effect on your ability to drive properly. In fact, most of the game's damage isn't even immediately visible but definitely takes a notable toll on your car. For instance, destroying your engine's cooling system results in terrible engine performance and even causes it to periodically shut off midway through a race. Though this might not be such a big detail when racing in a single race, when racing through a championship you're only able to repair your car once every two races. Additionally, you're only given an hour with which to repair your car, and each category of repair takes up a specific amount of that time. Going over the allotted time nets you a time penalty for the next race. However, if you're a capable enough racer, you should be able to navigate through the various rallies with only a reasonable amount of scathe.
- Player Reviews: 9
- Game Universe:
- Colin McRae Rally (PC, PS, GBC),
- Colin McRae Rally 2.0 (PC, PS),
- Colin McRae Rally 3 (PC, PS2, XBOX, GC),
- Colin McRae Rally 04 (PS2, XBOX, PC),
- Colin McRae Rally 2005 (PS2, XBOX, PC, NGE, MOBILE, PSP),
- DiRT (PC, X360, PS3),
- DiRT 2 (X360, PS3, PC, WII, DS, PSP, MAC),
- TOCA Race Driver 2 with Colin McRae Rally 04 (XBOX),
- Colin McRae Rally 2.0 (GBA)
- Offline Modes:
- Online Modes:
- Number of Players: