The legendary series returns, hoping to turn a corner
When rally fans buy a game emulating their motorsport of choice, they expect the wheel deal. They’re tyred of arcade experiences, and want to get as close to the real thing as possible. This is a challenge for Kylotonn because, although it (mostly) gives arcade sensibilities the boot, it hasn’t snagged licensed drivers, tracks, or championships. Okay, we’ll belt up with the car puns. It’s getting exhausting anyway.
All the cars are licensed, mind you, and there’s even a little in-game advertising (um, yay?). The previous V-Rally is now old enough to buy a lottery ticket, but in some ways, it’s like the series never went away. The first three games are remembered fondly by many rally fans, and much of what they did right is present here.
One of the most important things to get right in a rally game is the feel of each road surface, and V-Rally 4 captures this pretty well. Keeping control of your car while hurtling over gravel is a constant battle, and the difference when you transition to tarmac is as enormous as it is welcome. The snowy wastes of Siberia arguably offer the greatest challenge and, therefore, the most satisfying payoff when you take a corner at speed and somehow don’t wreck your vehicle.
GRAVEL AND BLOCK
The mud and sand of the Kenyan plains, the tight streets of a Japanese town, an American national park: it’s all excellently designed, and constantly nail-biting stuff. The graphics are nothing very special (in fact, they’d look at home on PS3), but the framerate is exceptionally smooth at all times, both offand online. The physics aren’t entirely realistic, especially when it comes to steering, but they’re unforgiving.
The core experience is solid, then, but the game built around it is not. The career mode is a mess. You start off with enough money for one vehicle, and then you need to earn cash from races. The problem is, you need money not just for new cars, but also for entering races, and staff who need paying every in-game week (and their rates go up according to their competence). Everything from repairs (damage is visible, and also gradually affects performance) to upgrades is a constant drain on your resources, and it’s even possible to end a race or tournament with less money than you went in with. The career should be the main draw, but progression will test your patience.
Quick races give you access to everything immediately, and the inclusion of offline split-screen is to be applauded. Online, I’m shocked (and more than a little disappointed) to find that nobody’s playing buggy racing, which is great fun. I never find a lobby with more than four people (including me) on the occasions where I can find or connect to one. Like most of V-Rally 4, online’s stuck in first gear.
“THE CORE EXPERIENCE IS SOLID, BUT THE GAME BUILT AROUND IT IS NOT.”
Different disciplines are available if you fancy a break from the loneliness of traditional rally driving.
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