When I first loaded my Gran Turismo 4 disc into my Playstation 2, I had no idea I was about to play one of the most memorable racing games of all time. There was one part of that game that stuck with me as particularly memorable, though.
This was the first game I played with rally stages and I instantly fell in love. Sliding sideways on ice at 80mph is exhilarating, even in a game format.
I had the bug.
That’s why I was so distraught when the Rally stages were inexplicably missing from Gran Turismo 5. I even migrated to the Forza franchise for a spell and while I loved those games, they were still very-obviously missing one of my favorite pieces.
In 1998, Codemasters released Colin McRae Rally on Windows Gameboy Color and Playstation to positive reviews. Since then, Codemasters has been notable for releasing solid simulation-based racing games including the Formula 1 franchise.
After a few sequels to the Colin McRae franchise, Colin McRae: DiRT was released in 2007, introducing the DiRT moniker. Tragically, the same year this game was released, Colin McRae died in a helicopter accident. By the time the third DiRT game was released, Codemasters had dropped McRae’s name from the franchise.
DiRT 3 was a beautiful game but to me it felt very arcade-like. Some days I love arcade-racers and I’m not actually against them at all. I do love racing simulation games, though, and DiRT 3 just felt…easy.
For years, all I wanted was a good rally-sim, and it seemed like it was not meant to be.
Out of the Dry Spell
In April 2015, Codemasters announced an early-access for their new game via Steam. My interest was sparked, but I was nervous. I’d been playing Formula 1 2013 for the past six months and had gained a healthy respect for Codemasters’ ability to create a solid, extremely challenging simulator, but rally is a whole different race and the last time I tried it I was hurt. I didn’t want to be hurt again.
All of that changed when I watched the trialer.
Ten minutes after seeing this video, the game was downloading.
A New Hope
After loading the game I lost two hours of my life faster than I had in years. My back was sweating, I’d pulled the steering wheel off my desk twice, and my wife was halfway through packing her bags to make a point.
Let’s talk visuals. It’s apparent from the trailer video that the graphics in this game are fantastic. Night racing is terrifying with your headlights cutting a narrow swath through the forest as you learn how rally car headlights are rarely pointed the direction your car is moving, making it all the more terrifying. Both rain and puddles cause a near-complete loss of vision until your wipers do their thing which, at 100mph, seems like an eternity.
You’re going to crash. When you do, bits of your car will stop working. Your bumper may fall off, your windshield may crack. Sometimes your wheel falls off entirely and you have to wrestle the car through the rest of the stage pulling hard to the right. Or maybe your headlights get smashed at night in the rain.
The graphics in that trailer sold me, but the sound design kept me. Inside the car, you hear every noise you never knew a rally car dealt with. Your brakes scream under continual punishment and mud assault, your flat tire bangs around the wheel well. You can hear every rock hit your undercarriage and even random “crappy-car” noises of flopping door panels. It’s incredibly immersive.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that rally racing is actually very hard. You can still play the game in the chase-camera and turn on all assists, and you’ll be rewarded with a pretty compelling arcade game, but the real beauty of this achievement comes from disabling every assist and using in-car view.
This video gives you a good overview of the gameplay along with the different available camera angles.
There’s no racing game I’ve played that’s quite as challenging. No other racing game made my heart jump quite as much as the first time I flew off the track, into the trees, and rolled down a mountain.
By now you know how much I love playing this game and how much I’m looking forward to the full release.
I would definitely suggest this to anyone who’s remotely interested in racing games. For casual racers, it’s a fresh take on the genre with beautiful, modern graphics. For sim-fanatics, it’s a rewarding challenge. For hardcore rally-enthusiasts, it’s a great representation of lifelike courses and a beautiful renderings of historical cars.
If you even remotely enjoy stressfully-challenging games, you can easily lose hours to this game.
Find it on Steam for $34.99