A rally bard's tale.
Gather round y'all as I tell you a story,
Of a Test Drive game that was a mite sorry.
Good control V-Rally has most sweetly,
Yet not quite enough to tie it up neatly.
To problems and pop ups the game did succumb,
So what you're left with is just a touch dumb.
Move over, Walt Whitman. I think that attempt at poetry sums up the game pretty well, but for the nitty-gritty of it all read on.
Test Drive: V-Rally offers up rally racing through a variety of play options and a worldwide assortment of cars. Including a Peugot, Subaru, and even a Ford Focus, sixteen cars grace the playing field, with 20 more that can be unlocked.
Races occur in four different play modes: Time Trials and Arcade (where you try to finish within a certain time), V-Rally Trophy (where you take on a set of tracks versus 3 competitors), and Rally Championships (7 competitors, taking off one after the other, duplicating a real-life rally race).
One of the game's most positive aspects is control. V-Rally manages to translate that dirt-grinding feel of rally racing pretty well. The drift steering is accurate enough to let you take any corner, from the sharp left to the wily right. It's too bad the dreaded "Up" problem rears its ugly head.
What's the "Up" problem you ask? Well, pressing "Up" on the D-pad causes the camera to take a "rear-glance," allowing you to check for approaching cars. Isn't this the same D-pad that you are steering with? The same D-pad that makes it far too easy to accidentally hit up while maneuvering left and right? Yes, it is.
The alternative would be to use the analog pad, which doesn't have the annoying "up" problem. But then when you do need to check behind yourself, you have to swap back to the D-pad. At least you can re-map the controls, but if you are manually gear shifting, you might be left short a button.
Stylistically, there are some genuine goodies in here. The loading screens look great and the opening movie had me prepared for some rumbly-in-my-tumbly racing. Unfortunately, this style masks the average graphics and horrid pop-up.
The graphics in V-Rally suffer from a general lack of clarity. The rough edges of background objects, like the pixilated trees or the common-hued gravel roads, don't provide the desired level of sharpness. More often than not, the lighting is faked and results in generally less than impressive effects.
Occasionally things get even worse. Take the levels where you drive through the dark with nothing but your headlights, for example. The all consuming darkness and the destructive pop-up is brutal. This pop-up seriously takes away from the realism of the game. Drive a little, and whaddaya know? Some trees pop up to say, "hullo." And look, a mountain that wasn't there a second ago! (I just can't get this rhyming out of my system.) Real nice duplication of reality for ya... the reality of driving through a pop-up book, that is.
And it's not enough that the trees pop up... you also have the divine power to drive through the trees. If only we had real life tress moved out of the way, too. Science had better get off its duff and on its way towards creating an accident free world.
The audio side of things isn't too bad. The sound of an engine pushing itself full-tilt is nicely duplicated. That certain distinct rumble of rally racing is recreated very well. The announcer is another thing, though, as he calls out your turns in a perfectly monotone and emotionless voice.
There is a Track Editor thrown in as a nice little bonus, allowing you to design your own custom tracks. The interface is easy to grasp and you can create some pretty harried levels. The only thing that screws this up is the ever present pop-up.
Somehow, I don't think this game is complete. Once, I started a race only to notice that my left tires were dipping halfway into the road. The championship mode registers damage to your car, but I don't believe that the car being sucked into the gravel is a result of damage. Cars drive on roads, not in them.
The control is done well for rally racing, yet the game can seriously stand to look much better and run much smoother. Flaws like pop-up and little bugs take so much away from what could have been a worthwhile play. V-Rally simply didn't make my day. Hey hey hey. Okay. Last rhyme today.