Rallisport Challenge Review
This is easily the best driving game currently available for the Xbox, and no Xbox owner should be caught without it.
Rallisport Challenge is the kind of game that you will show off to impress all your friends and family members--it looks and plays that good. Developed by Sweden-based Digital Illusions, the game has what's arguably some of the best graphics yet to grace the Xbox since Halo and Dead or Alive 3, and even if you're not particularly interested in driving games, you should own Rallisport Challenge just for the sake of marveling at its visual splendor. But underneath its layer of graphics is an equally impressive driving game that re-creates the sheer thrill of driving a 450-horsepower rally car in a way that few other games have in the past. To be clear, Rallisport Challenge is by no means a simulation, and the only part of the sport that the game truly captures is the actual driving; other aspects of rally racing have been left out in favor of making the game accessible to a wider range of people than those who have bumper stickers that read "My other car is a Lancia Stratos." Still, fans of the world rally championship league--and those who aren't--will greatly appreciate Rallisport Challenge.
Rallisport Challenge is actually four different rally games in one. There are a total of 41 tracks spread across 12 different environments, and each one of these falls under one of four unique rally types. There are the traditional rally races, wherein you race against the clock throughout a series of checkpoints; ice racing, which involves competing against three other opponents on ice-slicked roads; hill climbs, which are similar to rally races, but your overall objective is to scale a mountain as fast as possible; and rally cross events, which are circuit-based races against other drivers on tracks that have several different types of terrain, like mud, gravel, or asphalt. To be precise, the tracks in the game are made up of one of six different terrain types, and each one has a dramatic effect on the way your car handles. Tarmac, for example, provides for extraordinary grip but makes it somewhat difficult for you to powerslide through corners, a technique that's a staple of rally racing. Gravel and mud, on the other hand, will affect how fast you accelerate in a straight line, but the relative lack of traction makes it easier to push your car around turns. Before every race, you're given the option of choosing a tire compound that's best suited for the current track conditions, but things such as changing weather conditions (a light drizzle at the start of a race might clear up by the time you cross the finish line) and multiple surface types (some tracks consist of mud and gravel or tarmac and sand) will add a bit of challenge to this selection process.
As you'd probably expect from a racing game, Rallisport Challenge is split up between a persistent career mode and a quick race mode designed to get you in and out of a race as fast as possible. A third option, a time attack mode, is also available. Time attack is similar to quick race, but in it, you compete against the clock, not other cars. Obviously, the game's core lies in the career mode. Here, you'll create a persona and compete in a series of 19 events that are split up across four difficulty levels. Each of these events is made up of anywhere from three to nine individual rally, hill climb, rally cross, or ice races, and you'll get points for driving each course faster than the posted times for first, second, and third place. Initially, only the easiest series of races are available to you, but as you rack up enough points, you'll unlock subsequent events. If you didn't think you gave a certain series of races your best shot, you can go back and try it again, though you'll lose all the points that you had previously gained, so there's a bit of risk involved in reattempting old races. Interestingly enough, you also get points for completing each race with as little damage to your car as possible. If you aren't careful, your car can end up with broken taillights, shattered windows, and bent fenders, and the more cuts and bruises that your car accrues, the fewer points you'll get at the end of each race. No matter how much you bang up your car, though, damage has no effect on its handling or performance. As you unlock tracks in the career mode, they'll be made available for you in the time attack and quick race modes.