Perhaps surprisingly, there haven't been that many Harley Davidson games released over the years. Unfortunately, the ones that have made it to store shelves have been dull, dry efforts. However, none have been so bland, ridiculous, and shoddily executed as Harley Davidson Race to the Rally. It's a terrible game in practically every way, and if you spend even three seconds reading the title of this game while perusing the shelves of your local game store, you've given this game too much of your time.
The mystique around the Harley Davidson brand of motorcycles seems to revolve more around enjoying the journey, rather than getting to your destination as quickly as possible. So a Harley racing game probably doesn't even make that much sense in the first place. It makes even less sense when executed in Race to the Rally, thanks to an atrocious driving and physics model that manages to be utterly bland and ridiculously over the top at the same time. The actual act of riding the bike is an exercise in tedium, as boring, repetitive textures pass you by at a lazy clip, punctuated by a constantly skipping frame rate that looks more like stop-motion video than a game. The sense of speed is nonexistent, even if your virtual odometer reads in excess of 120mph. Only when you kick in with the seemingly ever-present boost option (by holding down the R1 button) does the pace pick up, and even then, it's only a slight improvement.
Racing through the various tracks that include the game's tour mode--your ultimate goal is to end up in Sturgis, South Dakota for the annual motorcycle rally--you'll tackle a variety of point-to-point and circuit races strewn across the US. You'll race on four-lane highways in Laughlin, Nevada, a loading dock in Illinois, and even over a section of the famed Route 66. And while the tracks feature different layouts and scenery, they all share a few traits in common: shoddy, ugly design; zero challenge; and a complete lack of fun to be found anywhere.
Race to the Rally's physics are insane, and that term is used here not to mean "sweet/rad/awesome" but rather "completely disconnected from reality." Running into oncoming traffic and crashing into some, but not all, objects on a particular course results in over-the-top, metal-shredding crashes that are reminiscent of the Burnout series. We say some objects because Race to the Rally's physics are so consistently inconsistent. Sometimes you'll hit a car from the rear and explode into a million bits of bent metal and scraps of black leather; other times you'll just stop. Jumps, too, are crazy. Sometimes you'll go flying into the air off the lip of a jump only to land by instantly crashing. Other times, you'll approach a jump at top speed only to, once again, immediately come to a complete stop. Sure, big crashes are good for a laugh or two here and there, but it isn't long before the fickle nature of the game's slapdash physics becomes merely laughable. To make matters worse, some of the levels are incredibly long, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing. But when those levels are combined with tedious gameplay, it makes slogging through this admittedly short game all the more excruciating.
None of this is helped by the game's absolutely atrocious graphics. A stuttering, jittering frame rate is only the start of the problems here. From top to bottom, this game features ugly, lifeless, and bland textures, many of which repeat over and over again. The aforementioned crash animation is fun at first glance, but kicking your opponents when they sidle up beside you (in an odd bit and mostly useless stab at adding combat to the racing) sometimes results in the disappearance of your opponents from the screen. About the only things that looks right in the game are the Harley Davidson models themselves, all of which are customizable with items, such as new tires, camshafts, or suspensions (though the upgrades don't really seem to improve anything). Fans of the two wheelers might like seeing virtual representations of their favorite hogs in the game, but they could just as easily crack open a catalog or check out the Harley Web site and save themselves the pain.
Do you like '80s metal? If so, you might find a few tracks on Race to the Rally to your liking. The game has licensed five songs from relatively well-known has-beens, such as Heart, Poison, and Great White, and these recognizable tunes are constantly looped through the game. In fact, the game's soundtrack features a lot more tunes than those on display, but it's very rare that you hear Rushmanor's "Rock Exodus Fever" or Skinny Ron's "Showdown in the Furnace." If you aren't careful, you might find yourself humming along to Poison's "Ride the Wind" and, truthfully, we can't think of a more damning indictment of this game than that one.
It's practically unfathomable that a respected company like Harley Davidson ever agreed to lend its brand name and bikes to this bad of an effort. If any good can come out of Race to the Rally, it will be from Harley execs who catch wind of this game's utter lack of quality and think twice before signing on the dotted line again. Fans of their brand--and fans of racing games in general--deserve better than this.