Where's the Challenge?
I've become an anti-environmentalist. Why? I like cars. I want to drive my car. I want to get from point A to B, even at the sake of spewing exhaust into the air. Forget the trees, I want transportation!
I wasn't always like this. I am...er...was the owner of a brand new white Beetle. Great car. One night, I park my car next to a tree. When I get back, the tree has dropped one of its branches on the back of my car. Not just any branch, mind you. A branch the width of the street. The back third of my car is smashed. Window completely shattered. Suspension wrecked. Body damaged. Fear of nature instilled.
It has been more than a month since that incident. I took it pretty well. I mean, it could have been worse. I figured out the time the branch fell; it missed my head by no more than 10 minutes. No one else was hurt. Insurance is covering it. UC Berkeley owned the tree, so that crazy ol' City of Berkeley owes me. Really, it could have been far, far worse - I could have been playing Rally Challenge 2000, for instance.
Now, Rally Challenge 2000 isn't a complete disaster, per se. It's playable and has better than average graphics for the N64. But everything else about this game is not good. It equates to a very boring rally game that doesn't remotely capture the joy of racing.
Rally games rely heavily on the quality of the tracks, which is unfortunate for this game. The tracks don't fit the nature of the game, feeling unnatural and ill conceived. They seem better suited for kart racing than rally. Weren't we playing with real cars? The track is filled with extreme rights and lefts that lend themselves to drift style racing. If all cars imbued the quality of a drift style control, that wouldn't be so bad, but only a few cars have that feature. By all accounts, they might as well have thrown in powered attacks and cute animals.
Arcade mode works on a timing system like arcade style racers. The arcade time allotments allow you to cut it by the wire from checkpoint to checkpoint. Unfortunately, they barely give you enough time to enjoy the race, and you'll end up having to fight the clock rather than other racers.
Oddly, the other cars don't start at the starting line alongside you. They just show up during the race. Plus, no more than 2-3 cars can show up on the screen at any one time. The competition just isn't there.
The cars are incredibly generic. Sure, there are big names like Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Nissan, but take off the labels and stickers and you get the "fast car," the "better handling car," and the "drag car." Races become heavily focused on speed control.
The Championship mode is a step up and portrays a truer sense of rally racing. You compete through all 9 tracks, steadily increasing your position as you go along. Despite this broader goal, the tracks and the cars are still awkward, leaving a less than full experience.
The screen is cluttered with details, from RPM's to the countdown of time in the race. But in Championship mode, they've forgotten the most important detail - what place your car is in. Huh? Did I miss something? If you are supposed to be racing other cars, isn't that the most important piece of information? You have to wait until the end to find out your place? This is racing? This is fun? Can I be more sarcastic?
The audio is weak. The hobo outside could do a better job than whomever they picked to do the voice acting. Plus, there is no way to turn off just the announcer's voice without turning off all the sound effects.
Racing, by its very nature and definition, is about competing. With the lack of challenge from the other cars, Rally Challengeis something of a misnomer. It goes through all the motions of driving, but it doesn't feel like racing. So stay away from those damn trees. And this game.