Dukes of Hazzard, watch out!
The battle of the racing games is fierce indeed. With heavyweights such as the Test Drive series, the Need for Speed games, and the undisputed champion Gran Tursimos, there's little room in anyone's pocket for the likes of the Dukes of Hazard. Yes, this is the spirit of competition and capitalism at its finest.
Let me say first that yes, Gran Tursimo 2 is the king of all racing games. There's no denying that. So why even bother with V-Rally 2, when Gran Turismo has an all-new rally mode? Well, a slight technicality is that V-Rally 2 came out before GT2, but what's really important is that this is a pure rally-racing game and is geared towards the true rally fan. And this game is no slouch either- it'll give the GT2 rally mode a run for the money any day.
Rally racing is all the rage in Europe, but over here in the states it's all about street racing. I mean, what's the point of driving on bumpy dirt roads when you can be hauling ass on the pavement? Well, as this game will prove, racing is a whole new game when you hit the back-roads. And Europeans can't all be wrong, can they?
V-Rally has three different modes of play. There's arcade mode, which is plain ol' arcade style racing, V-Rally Trophy mode, in which four cars battle it out - vying to collect three different world trophies. Finally, in Championship mode, eight competitors race in rallies, each comprised of two or three segments. The goal is to have the shortest times in order to advance to the later rounds. Plus, there are three different championships available, so there is a fair bit of depth here.
16 different, real-life rally cars are available for your abuse. They include the Mitsubishi Lancer, Toyota Corolla, Subaru Impreza, Ford Focus, Peugot 206, and Seat Cordoba to name a few. All the cars are faithfully reproduced and their paint jobs are replicas of their real-life counterparts.
One of the finest features in V-Rally 2, and the one that really sets it apart from GT2, is the new track editor. Yes, someone finally created a decent racing game where you can design and race on your own tracks! Although there's a limit to the length of the track, you pretty much have free reign over its design, from its bumps to its material (gravel, dirt, etc.). There are also some handy features in the editor, like a random bump generator and a random track generator. Your own creations can be saved on your memory card and used to race against your friends. Fantastic!
Speaking of friends, V-Rally 2 let's you compete against up to three of them simultaneously. Due to Playstation limits, very few games permit a four-player split-screen, but somehow Infogrames pulled it off. There's definitely a huge loss in the detail of the vehicles and the tracks, but it works just fine. Kudos to them for making the Playstation multiplayer experience closer to that of the N64.
Of course, no worthy racing game these days comes without some car customizations. In V-Rally 2 you can tweak your car's mechanics but there's no options to buy new parts. You can change your tires, suspension, springs, brakes, and steering to name a few. The system used to modify your vehicle is user-friendly and a nice addition.
In terms of gameplay, V-Rally 2 is a whole different game than GT2. One of the biggest complaints with GT2 was the lack of car damage and interesting crashes. Well, if you want big crashes, look no further. In V-Rally 2 one of the most exciting things is watching your car roll and flip over, or better yet, bashing into you opponents to make them roll. While there are no visual signs of damage to your vehicle, performance is greatly reduced on damaged vehicles.
The driving system is much looser, easier and less of a simulation that GT2. V-Rally 2 keeps racing simple and exciting. With a nice, gently sloped learning curve, V-Rally 2 is easy for beginners to pick up and play.
In terms of graphics, V-Rally 2 is on par with the best of them. There are nice reflection effects, accurate cars, detailed backgrounds, and a smooth frame rate. There is also a replay mode where you can watch your race from broadcast camera angles. This replay isn't quite as nice looking as GT2's, but it's cool to watch for what its worth. One especially cool feature are the random spectators that run across the road as you're racing in the championship time trials -- emulating real life rallies.
Overall there's just not much complain about in V-Rally 2. There are some graphical glitches where there shouldn't be, and sometimes the scenery clips your car too much, but these aren't horrible problems. For the most part, only add-ons that would improve the game, such as more cars, tracks (there are already over 84!), and modes of play. Infogrames and EA put together a pretty nice package in V-Rally 2. The good points by far outnumber the negatives.
True, this is no GT2, but you have to take V-Rally 2 for what it is -- the best rally racing game available for the Playstation. Keep in mind that this is more of an arcade style of game, as opposed to a simulation, so this might be the perfect racing game for the less technically-inclined racing enthusiasts. I easily recommend it to all rally fans. Go ahead, just try it. I'll leave you eating my dust.