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Rallisport Challenge 2 Updated Impressions

We go hands-on with a fully playable build of the upcoming sequel to possibly the best rally racing game ever made. Is RSC2 even better?


The original Rallisport Challenge was quietly released in early 2002 and became one of the Xbox's biggest sleepers of the season. Featuring breathtakingly beautiful graphics, a terrific sense of speed, and an excellent combination of arcade-style thrills and real-world authenticity, Rallisport Challenge became an instant classic among fans of rally racing and was an incredibly good racing game any way you sliced it. As such, the game's forthcoming sequel has some pretty big shoes to fill. However, judging by an updated preview build we just played, Rallisport Challenge 2 is going to be pretty darn impressive, and it looks as though it's set to live up to fans' high expectations.

Structurally, the game is similar to the first one, which means Rallisport Challenge 2 offers more than just traditional rally racing, in which solo drivers (and their copilots) race from point to point across treacherous stages while gunning for the fastest times possible. There are also rallycross races, in which you race in laps, wheel-to-wheel, against three other rivals; the truly challenging ice racing events, in which you must navigate slippery surfaces while trying to beat your opponents to the finish line; and hill climbs, where you'll muscle your way up or speed your way down steep inclines. New to Rallisport Challenge 2 are the crossover events, in which you switch lanes with your opponent every other lap. Also new to Rallisport Challenge 2 is the ability to play any of these events online over Xbox Live. Much like the highly acclaimed Project Gotham Racing 2, Rallisport Challenge 2 was evidently built from the ground up to provide intense multiplayer action. It will even provide support for Microsoft's XSN service, for those players who really want to get into the competitive nature of the game. If online play isn't your thing, of course you may compete in any of the race events in a single-race mode or in the game's career mode.

You might be wondering about the graphics. The original Rallisport Challenge stands as one of the best-looking Xbox games, to date, and by extension, it's one of the best-looking games ever made. Let's just say the sequel does not disappoint. Those thoroughly impressed by the visuals in the recent Project Gotham Racing 2 will be in for a big surprise at how much better the visuals are in Rallisport Challenge 2. Extremely authentic weather effects, tremendously detailed environments and car models, a beautifully smooth frame rate, plus shockingly realistic car damage all add up to what will likely be one of the best-looking racing games of all time. We witnessed a variety of different environments, from the lush jungles of Argentina to the rustic shores of Monte Carlo, and were thoroughly impressed with just about all of them. Some look like they still need a little work, as a few little rough edges here and there made a few of the tracks stand out from the others. We're pretty sure these are going to be fixed, though, since the game generally looks so remarkable.

It's already sounding impressive, too. Each of the game's cars has a noticeably different engine noise, and between the constant revving of the engine and the excellent feedback the game provides via the controller's vibration feature, this is about as close as you're going to get to the real thing.

The game's already got a great feel to it. The action moves extremely quickly, and analog controls let you finesse your way through all the hairpin turns and dangerous curves. This isn't a pure simulation. Should you send your car careening off a cliff, you can magically reset back on the track and keep going. Damage modeling is also mostly superficial, or at least you can set it that way. Actually, Rallisport Challenge 2 seems to have a lot more depth "under the hood" than its predecessor, insofar as you do have the option to tinker with your car's gear ratios, brake alignments, steering, and other properties, if you wish to fine-tune your performance for the best possible times. All in all, the game seems to have a very good chance at succeeding in the elusive goal of providing arcade-style excitement and accessibility without compromising on depth of play.

While we've posted dozens of new shots to show off some of the game's environments, unfortunately--due to licensing restrictions--we cannot yet show you (or reveal) most of the game's vehicles, nor can we show you the impressive vehicle damage. Rest assured, though, Rallisport Challenge 2 will feature most all the automobile manufacturers and specific vehicle models that you'd expect to see in a rally game.

This version of Rallisport Challenge 2 was highly playable and was actually a lot of fun already. The only obviously unfinished aspects we noticed were the game's menus and the loading times between courses, which were quite bad and are presumably going to be optimized. But clearly, this game is shaping up very nicely. There are some other high-profile racing games slated to ship this year, but it's not hard to imagine Rallisport Challenge 2 ending up as a contender for best racing game of the year--on any platform.

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