“Like the Xbox version, the best rally game on the planet to date”
Having already played through the Xbox version of this title, we knew what to expect but we didn’t know how it would play on the PS2. After the disappointment that was Colin McRae Rally 3 for many people, Codies as they are affectionately known, went back to the drawing board and have crafted one of the best rally simulations available on any platform to date.
Colin McRae Rally 04 offers four main game modes; championship, rally, stages and quick race. Each basically intertwine with each other. Some of the stages etc will not be available in other game modes until they are unlocked via the championship. There are numerous championships for you to tackle. The main championship is the 4WD championship but other championships include 2WD and the Group B championship.
The championship is divided into eight rallies which feature six stages each. As Colin McRae Rally 04 does not have the official WRC licence, the tracks are fictitious as are the drivers. Most of the stages in each rally are about the same length and will take around the same time to complete. The utmost level of concentration is required as one lapse can have disastrous consequences not only for your car but the overall championship itself. Your team expects you to perform in the championship and if you have not reached a pre-determined amount of points by certain stages, you are thrown out of the team and have to start all over again,
Colin McRae Rally 04 features official licences from numerous teams including Subaru, Mitsubishi, Citroen and others. Each of the cars are highly detailed and feature the new physics engine built especially for Colin McRae Rally 04. Each of the four wheels read the road so you can be traveling both on and off road at the same time and feeling the effects on the car.
When you inevitably come to grief in your car, you will notice the highly detailed damage model in action. Glass will smash, bumpers will fall off and at the extreme end of the scale bonnets and doors may fly off. Every two stages you will be given time to repair the car, sometimes not enough. In this case you have to prioritise and make do with the car for the next two stages. Other damage can occur such as a gearbox which skips gears, and if you push your engine to hard you will start to notice smoke pouring out of the car.
As this is a rally game, the AI itself is simulated and really only consists of times. On the lowest difficulty level it won’t be to long before your winning rallies and challenging for the championship, but crank it up a notch and you won’t be fighting for the championship, but more for the drivers spot in your current team. Other then multiplayer there is no way to actually race against other cars at the same time like in other rally titles such as Rallisport Challenge.
Before each rally begins you are given the chance to test the current settings of the car on the surface the upcoming rally will be raced on. This is known as the shakedown stage and can give vital information about whether the car is handling right or the right tyres have been chosen etc. Also between each rally you will be given the opportunity to test new components. For these new components to be made available to your team you must complete a mini game. The mini games range from driving a short stage trying to test shock absorbers, to keeping the engine running at certain revs for a period of time. Gaining these new components can give you a major advantage with upcoming rallies.
Colin McRae Rally 04 offers you three viewpoints; inside the car, bumper cam and a view behind the car. The view which seemed to work best is the bumper cam as it gives a great sensation of speed and also gives you the opportunity to react to upcoming corners much quicker. The in car view is one of the best in car views available in a game at the moment, but when used it does feel as if the car is traveling like a snail. You can also select manual gears, but also semi-automatic which is automatic but lets you change gears with the controller should you want to.
The rallies across the championship will take you across the globe from the USA, to Japan, to England, Sweden and others. Each rally will offer different challenges. Some such as Spain, are raced on the same surface all the way through, whilst others have differing surfaces and finish in a Super Stage. There is inclement weather featured in the game but this is pre-determined. The stages which have rain will always have rain, and stages which don’t will not. The rallies also greatly differ in environmental aspects. Some rallies feature narrow tracks, whilst others allow for a few mistakes without to many consequences other then lost time.
Visually Colin McRae Rally 04 on the PS2 is astonishing, it is definitely almost on the level of the Xbox version. The frame rate remains a rock solid sixty frames per second (at least using bumper cam) and the cars with their damage models and the highly detailed stages look superb on the PS2 as well. Each car has unique sound effects, and the co-driver Derek Ringer is easy to understand although at times he can get a little ahead of himself and you may find yourself turning the wrong way occasionally.
Colin McRae Rally 04 on the PS2 is most definitely on the level of the Xbox version. There is no online scoreboards via PS2 online however, but this is a small change which doesn’t affect the game to much. If you like rally games and you own a PS2 then you simply must try Colin McRae Rally 04 and congratulate Codemasters on their stunning return to form in the rally racing genre.