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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Codemasters
DEVELOPER:
Codemasters
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-4
RELEASE DATE:
February 18, 2003
ESRB RATING:
Everyone
IN THE SERIES
Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Dirt 2

More in this Series
 Written by Ryan Smotherman  on February 17, 2003

First Impressions: Move over RalliSport, Colin has got you locked in his sights, and his Ford Focus has your name all over it. *bump*


About this time last year Xbox fans were treated to something really special in the from of RalliSport Challenge. It was just one of those amazing games that just seemed to come out of nowhere. Sporting tight racing physics, drop dead gorgeous visuals, and a good variety of racing types and tracks, to this day it has many believing it's easily the best rally racer ever conceived, if not one of the best racing games ever in general. Well, if we're lucky, history just might be repeating itself, and I'm not talking about a RalliSport Challenge 2, either. Codemasters UK has been hard at work perfecting the upcoming release of their third installment into the Colin McRae series, simply entitled Colin McRae Rally 3, and by all accounts, this is a game worth getting excited for.

The original two Colin McRae titles, both released on the PSOne in 2000, weren't half bad, especially considering that at the time the developers were working with what can be considered some pretty outdated hardware. Now though, with the latest generation of console technology, as well as a commitment to perfecting what it's like to be a real life rally racer, McRae 3 looks to be the definitive rally racing experience. To start things off, expect to see a fair share of the standard play modes -- most prominent of which are the Quick Race and Championship. Quick Race will allow you to select from any of the drivers and accompanying true-to-life vehicles, and then let you take to any of the tracks for a quick racing fix. However, the real meat of the game most certainly will lie is it's fairly complex Championship mode ? it is within this mode that you're only allowed to take on the role of Colin McRae himself, along with his Ford Focus PS WRC. From here you're given a three-year contract to gather the best sponsors you can, with the ultimate goal of winning the championship, which of course will be completed by competing in various events ? some of which take you to real life courses in England, Spain, Sweden, Australia, etc., while others, such as the U.S. and Japan, offer a nice change of pace, with brand new locales that usually wouldn't be raced on.

Each event within the Championship mode is said to take place over a number of days, testing you in a variety of skill-based challenges. This is where a major departure from most racing games comes into play ? the damage your Focus takes is an imminent part of the gameplay, and it's something that you're always going to have to keep in the back of your mind going into each event. Since you can only repair and make modifications to your vehicle at certain set intervals within each challenge, you have to make sure that you avoid event-ending crashes at all costs. As it stands, every facet of your car is taken into account when met with a most unfortunate collision, and depending on what part of your vehicle is hit, realistic damage will present itself and have a major impact on your car's overall performance. So unlike just about every racing game out there, damage to your car isn't just used as a novelty, and it can have a direct impact on how you play the game.

If you've played a rally racer before, or even just the rally segments found in games like Gran Turismo 3, you should already know what to expect gameplay wise. You'll navigate you high-horsepowered rally machine through insane twists and turns, up massive hills, and over humps that send your car flying high through the air, all the while taking into account the various road surfaces ? tarmac, gravel, and mud ? and supplementary weather effects, such as rain and snow. Naturally, the game comes equipped with a good dose of selectable vehicles when not in the Championship mode ? along with the Ford Focus you'll find the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7, Subaru Impreza WRX 44S, Citroen Xsara Kit Car, Ford Puma Rally, Citroen Saxo Kit Car, Fiat Punto Super 1600, MG ZR, and the classic Ford RS200 and Lancia 037. Unfortunately the game only supports split-screen multiplayer action for 2 players, and no system link to speak of. While this is a disappointment, the game seems as if it's still going to have plenty to keep you around for the long haul.

One of the most impressive aspects of McRae 3 are the strikingly realistic visuals. Even if it is a multi-platform title, the Xbox hardware is looking like it's being put to very good use, with visuals that are almost on par with RalliSport Challenge's mind-blowing look. Every vehicle is modeled super-realistically with a very high number of polygons (composed of 14,000 compared to the 600 or so found in the McRae 2), and the track models support superb detail and depth. Other impressive effects includes the jaw-dropping reflective effect on the cars, all the subtle details like the dust that your car kicks up and sparks flying out of your muffler, and the game's remarkable physics engine can be seen, with your car's suspension bobbing around realistically as you take hard turns and go over bumps in the road. The game's collision effects also bring many graphical splendors into account ? just watch as the glass shatters, doors go flying off, and every other part of your vehicle finds it's way crashing onto the dirt roads. Of course, the game's rain and snow effects should also bring even more eye candy into play. Overall, I think it's safe to say that McRae Rally 3 should in no way disappoint on the visual front.

As for the audio, there's no doubt that the sound effects will be complete with very authentic engine effects, and the other noises that usually accompany a game of this type, though, oddly enough, there's no soundtrack during gameplay to speak of, and the game will not support the Xbox's custom soundtrack feature. I don't know if this has to do with laziness, or just the fact that the developers thought this might distract from the seriousness of the career mode. Regardless of the reason, we'll have to wait till we get our hands on the final product to see how this works in the game. Other audio details to note is that you'll have Colin's real-life co-driver, Nicky Grist, navigating the upcoming turns and conditions.

Final Thoughts
The release of Colin McRae Rally 3 here in the states has been pushed back several times, but it looks like it's finally going to make its much-anticipated debut later in the week. And by the looks of things, us Xbox owners are going to have yet another fantastic racing title on our hands. From the in-depth career mode, where you take on the role of McRae himself, to the solid looking gameplay and remarkable visuals, things seem to have come together quite nicely, and along with Codemasters' experience with the original two, we should be left with a game that could give the infamous RalliSport Challenge a run for it's money. Look for the final verdict soon.


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