Hands-onV-Rally 3

Infogrames' 3D GBA racer is fully playable. We have impressions.

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Infogrames showed off two versions of V-Rally 3, its upcoming racer, at a recent press event. While the PlayStation 2 version of the game was quite impressive in its own right, the GBA version of the game pretty much stole the show. It features a full-on 3D engine to render its tracks, and the level of detail is really quite impressive, when you consider the platform it's on. The prerendered automobiles mesh with the environments quite well, lending the game a look not unlike what you'd remember from first-generation PlayStation and Saturn software.

As far as the gameplay goes, it's all pretty standard. There's a career mode in the game--called V-Rally life--that allows you to play through a series of events and periodically gives you access to different cars. The actual roster is composed of various machines from manufacturers like VW, Fiat, Ford, Subaru, and Mitsubishi, among others, and all the cars look quite nice when onscreen. You can mess with a number of the cars' parameters, too, so as to suit the machine to the particular track it'll be racing on. Different sorts of ground and weather conditions will pop on the various tracks, so, just like in the home-console versions of these sorts of games, you'll have to prepare for them prior to your runs.

In action, the game runs quite impressively. The frame rate is consistent, and vehicle collision seems to be headed in the right direction. There is a moderate amount of pop-up on some of the tracks, but it really is cleverly hidden, most of the time. And when it isn't, it's still fairly easy to swallow, given the hardware constraints. The car handling, truth be told, feels a little flat as this point, as there seems to be very little interaction with the actual surface--it's as if the screen is constantly scrolling, with the cars sort of pasted onto the foreground. Still, the mild jumps that we occasionally saw were evidence that there is some sort of work being done in this area, so hopefully everything will be livelier in the final product. The damage model in the game, though, is one of the cooler elements we saw during our demo, and it was manifested best in the cockpit view that you can switch to and from at your leisure. When you're in that view, damage to your car is registered dynamically as cracks on your windshield, and the effect is quite impressive. The ability to switch from a trailing camera to the cockpit view in a handheld game is impressive in itself, and the nicely drawn and animated car interior helped quite a bit.

Overall, V-Rally 3 is one of the more impressive GBA games we've seen to date. Hopefully, some more robust handling elements will be worked into it before it ships. We'll have more for you soon.

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