Many moons ago, V-Rally 2: Need for Speed appeared on Sony's PlayStation console. It featured 84 tracks, 27 cars, a track editor, four-player simultaneous action, and some of the best-looking visuals of any PlayStation racing title. In tandem with excellent rally-style gameplay, V-Rally 2 was the best contender for top honors next to Sony's Gran Turismo and Namco's Ridge Racer series of games. Though released by Electronic Arts, V-Rally 2 was actually developed by Infogrames. Now that Infogrames is a powerhouse in its own right, it has chosen to revamp V-Rally 2 for the Dreamcast, dubbing it Test Drive V-Rally.
On the surface, Test Drive V-Rally appears to be a duplicate of the PlayStation release, offering the same cars, the same tracks, and the same basic gameplay. There are 17 initial cars and ten bonus cars, separated into the four categories of World Rally, 2L kit cars, 1.6L kit cars, and bonus cars. V-Rally 2's original selection of 84 tracks returns, spread across three racing modes: arcade, trophy, and championship. Arcade resembles Sega Rally in execution, offering floaty gameplay and forgiving physics. The trophy mode bumps up the difficulty, adding in copious U-turns and a variety of weather conditions. It then follows that the championship mode takes things even further, enrolling you in a multistage series of races, with midstage repairs and brutal driving conditions playing major roles in your success. A time trial rounds out the list of racing modes, a track editor is available for when you tire of the game's stock tracks, and four-player support remains. This also happens to be where Test Drive V-Rally's duplication of V-Rally 2 ends.
Although the tracks and vehicles remain unchanged from the PlayStation release, Infogrames has beefed up the game's control, gameplay, and visual repertoire. Test Drive V-Rally offers responsive controls, slippery driving, and plenty of mind-altering crashes. Thanks to the Dreamcast's analog triggers, the game now sports analog acceleration, offering a great amount of acceleration adjustment for the game's sharp twists and turns. Admittedly, after you choose a car and set out on the initial arcade tracks, you may find the game easy. The computer opponents rarely fight, the turns aren't overly sharp, the weather is pleasant, and your copilot gives you ample warning before you reach upcoming corners. Things become more interesting as you progress, however - opponents become smarter, weather turns inclement, your copilot turns into a babbling idiot, and tracks evolve into a bizarre mess of heinous U-turns. You needn't concern yourself with vehicular damage in the arcade or trophy modes, though, and if you defeat each of their three levels, you'll even earn six new cars to your credit.
To acquire the game's final four vehicles, you'll need to complete each of the time trials and conquer the championship mode. In this mode, CPU opponents are smarter and vehicular damage is a greater factor. Between each segment, of which there are usually two or three, you'll need to spend precious time repairing your car. Waste too much time and you'll end up behind in the next segment. Thankfully, from the Citroen Xsara and Mitsubishi Lancer to the Ford Focus and Lancia Stratos, each of the game's 27 vehicles offers its own unique blend of speed and handling characteristics. For tweak fans, you can also alter a car's suspension, tire type, gearbox ratio, shocks type, brake distribution, and steering responsiveness. Think of it as Sega Rally with a smidgen of Gran Turismo thrown in. The gameplay is dead on, the control is adjustable via vehicle modification, the car variety is excellent, and the track design is clever without being aggravating - all signs of racing game greatness.
Whereas Test Drive V-Rally received only minor adjustments in the gameplay department, Infogrames has supercharged its visuals. It has doubled the resolution, increased the frame rate, included two new racing views, and remodeled the game's formerly low-res vehicle designs. The game still exhibits some signs of draw-in and clipping, and some of the background objects are noticeably flat, but the majority of visual problems present in the PlayStation release are absent. The car models are crisp and defined, sporting sponsorship and manufacturer logos, as well as in-game damage effects. The track design, although not representing real-world courses, succeeds at being beautiful as well as intricate. Each course, whether in England, Australia, Corsica, or any of the game's nine other countries, gives off a noticeably regional feel without losing anything the way of trickiness. Detail fans may rejoice, as the game also features scurrying bystanders, realistic weather effects, aerial traffic, kicked up dust, and a variety of other environmental distractions. If you never played the PlayStation release, you won't mistake Test Drive V-Rally's for Tokyo Extreme Racer, but you won't call it garbage either. If you played Sega Rally 2 and were disappointed by its lackluster visuals, Test Drive V-Rally is the answer to your silent prayers.
After building upon the game's gameplay and visual offerings, though, Infogrames has left the game's sound experience unaltered. A hard-core thrash metal soundtrack backs up realistic engine noises, dirty turf effects, and bone-crunching crashes. There are two copilot voices to choose from, male and female, and although both are sampled to mimic an in-car radio, their notation of oncoming turns and hazards comes across perfectly. The game's sound quality is solid, fitting the medium and perfectly supporting the game's fast-paced, technical rally experience. Oddly enough, that also sums up Test Drive V-Rally. It's an inviting, fast-paced, technical rally game that offers enough replay value and features to satiate any racing audience.