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.
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.