Whether you're a gamer, a racing enthusiast, or (ideally) both, the name Colin McRae is synonymous with rally racing. Having lent that name to various rally racing games over the years, the Scottish sensation is now grinding the gravel over to mobile. Featuring four tracks from the European rally circuit, Colin McRae Rally 2005 will appeal to diehard fans of the sport who are hoping to manifest their enthusiasm on mobile. However, the game's loose, inadequate control and questionable physics will leave everyone else in the cold. While there's some fun to be had with Colin McRae and pals, the gameplay is far too finicky to be comfortably enjoyed with a digital keypad.
Colin McRae's graphics are fairly serviceable. In fact, they're probably the game's highlight. Since rally races are conducted as time trials, you won't encounter any other vehicles on the track. This has evidently freed up system resources, allowing the game to chug along at a fair clip, provided you avoid crashing long enough to reach top speed. The sprite that represents your car is nicely drawn and looks fine at various turn angles. You'll drive on several distinct surfaces while surrounded by homogenous flora and nondescript backgrounds that are meant to represent your location. You'll know you're in England, for instance, when you're racing toward a big castle, because that's what England specializes in--castles.
The game's sound is also quite good. It's fairly minimal, but that's often a virtue, given the grating nature of many Series 60 soundtracks. Impressively, the sound of your tires skidding will change depending on a track's composition. Skidding on gravel sounds especially believable, for example.
The problems start when you actually try to control your attractively decaled vehicle. Because you're using a digital keypad to control turning, you're not afforded a great degree of granularity in your steering. The game doesn't really account for this, though, so even a quick adjustment will set your car almost perpendicular to the road. Tapping on the brake key has a similar effect, almost bringing your car to a complete stop. Somehow, even if you avoid the brake entirely, Colin McRae ends up being extremely powerslide-happy. It seems like Codemasters was so impressed it could implement this all-important feature that it decided to make this feature the focal point of the game. See a slight bend in the road? You'll have to powerslide into it. Of course, every time you execute the maneuver, you'll drift slightly, and this can sometimes land you off the road. While it's impossible to total your car in Colin McRae Rally 2005, bumping into anything will bring you to a complete stop, costing you precious time.
If you'd like to subject a friend to this madness, the game features hotseat multiplayer. While rally racing doesn't involve simultaneous driving, this still seems like a cheap excuse to avoid Bluetooth implementation, because if it were implemented, at least times could be sent back and forth between handsets.
It's easy to understand why Codemasters, typically a console and PC developer, might be reluctant to make certain sacrifices to foster playability on the mobile platform. However, the inclusion of things like drifts doesn't excuse the frustrating control and driving mechanics experienced here. Only hardcore rally enthusiasts will have cause to play this game in lieu of other racing titles that offer more-playable experiences.