Just like suckers, a crappy driving game is born every minute. And until GR gets up the money to buy whatever weapons will destroy the foul beast that bears such bland offspring, there is only one means of combating such a deluge of crud - good driving games.
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Colin McRae Rally 2.0. This sequel improves upon the original and may well be the last great racing game for the PSX.
For a Playstation game, the graphics are solid. The backgrounds are subtle and unobtrusive (they looked retarded in the first CMR), and the lighting on the night-time tracks looks really good, even though it's a little segmented.
CMR 2.0 does have several minor graphical flaws, like high pixelation, weak lighting effects and lots of 2D objects. However, were all these flaws spiffed up and buffed out, the jammin' pace of the game would have to be diminished, and that'd be like amputating a leg to cure athlete's foot.
The game boasts a bunch of new play modes. The most noticeable new addition is the Challenge mode, in which players race against 5 other drivers on the same track at the same time. Though it's frantic, this really cramps your play and the game's speed since it's kind of hard to fit 6 cars on a tiny, muddy path.
Most of the other races are variations on the regular rally theme, and involve racing on a single track without affecting your saved game on the regular rally mode.
The regular rally constitutes the meat of the game. You bound through 8 different countries, all with varying track conditions and layouts, securing rally points as you vie to be crowned the rally king.
Your rally quest will take you through many different environments, all of which were included in the first CMR. However, elements like snow have been made far more forgiving, making countries like Sweden a pleasure as opposed to a chore.
The driving itself is simply fantastic. The skills are hard to pick up at first, but that just makes mastering them all the more rewarding. CMR 2.0's controls are also way more accessible than the first game, and a lot faster to boot. Jumps and fast turns also play a bigger role, making the courses quicker and wilder.
Contributing to the excellent gameplay is the awesome control scheme. CMR's controls are so intuitive and well-orchestrated that you'll find yourself pulling off maneuvers and slides before you even think to execute them. I love a game where my mind doesn't get in the way.
The translation of thought to action in this case is nearly seamless, which is, I suspect, what makes this game so addictive. Couple the amazing controls with maps that push the limits of your reflexes and you've got a ride that'll make you question exactly who is being driven.
There's only one thing that bothers me. When driving with manual transmission, there's no reverse button. You've got to cycle all the way down through the gears to reverse, costing you several valuable seconds. The actual rally drivers sure as hell don't shift into every single gear on the way to reverse, and it doesn't make sense for the player to have to, either.
Navigation in CMR is still a little redundant. You get your directions from two sources: little symbols that pop up and tell you what's around the corner, and your dumbass co-driver whose speech is totally garbled by the engine sounds.
Instead of a smart, cheeky co-driver (at least he doesn't scream when you screw up like in the last game), I'd like some music. CMR 2.0 is really intense, and the only thing it's missing is some decent driving tunes. Where are the Stones when you need 'em?
There are multi-player options in CMR 2.0, but there don't need to be. There's no sense in trying a head-to-head race on these maps, as the split screen is way too blinding. There is a multi-play mode where up to 4 players can compete one after the other, but such breaks in the action really don't add up to a great party game.
Still, the top notch gameplay makes you forget about the slight problems. This is just a smart, well-made racer. Props to Codemasters for putting out the two best rally games ever. If you like video games and have two opposable thumbs, I recommend that you buy this game.