One of the better games towards the infancy end of the Xbox's lifecycle was Rallisport Challenge. DICE created one of the best looking games at the time, and it was also one of the most pick up and playable titles for the system as well. It's been a while to wait for fans of the franchise, but Rallisport Challenge 2 is finally here and it has been worth the wait. More cars, more tracks, more modes and some of the most impressive graphics the Xbox has ever produced.
In Rallisport Challenge 2 the game primarily revolves around a player's career. There are four championships included with only two unlocked initially; amateur and pro. As you complete championships you are given licenses which give you access to the higher tiers. Amateur is more a tutorial championship and can be skipped. If you played the original, or have any experience with rally games then you will find yourself perhaps ten seconds ahead of the nearest AI competitor in the amateur series.
The championships do not have a set path and sometimes give you options as to which race to tackle next. To unlock the license however, all races must be completed so it is not possible to skip your least liked discipline and still get the license to the higher tier. As you progress through the championships you will unlock tracks to use in other game modes and also new cars to use. By the time you complete one championship you will almost certainly have used three or four different cars because of the disciplines included, but may even have a spin with even more, as cars are regularly unlocked during the first hour or so of play.
Rallisport Challenge 2 includes all the disciplines from the previous title plus a new one named crossover. Crossover has already appeared in other games such as Colin McRae Rally and pits two drivers against each other in a track which crosses over at the halfway mark. The other disciplines include your basic rally style, rallycross which is racing against other cars and mountain climb which is basically rally stages but set on steep mountain drives. Some of the rally purists may frown at the amount of rally stages and also the unrealistic nature of it. Rather than replicate real world WRC rounds, it is possible to be racing in Sweden one stage, and then Monaco the next offering great variety but perhaps not the greatest realism factor, but Rallisport hasn't ever really been about realism anyway.
The arcade style has been retained from the original game and cynically it is just an upgraded game with better graphics and one new game mode. Everything people loved about Rallisport, the great graphics, high speed and arcade physics have all returned and it offers one of the best driving experiences on the Xbox. Considering just how many racing games are available on the system, that's quite a feat for DICE. If you're looking for a simulation style then you won't find it with rallisport, but you will find a superb amount of playability with anyone able to pick up and learn the game within five minutes.
The developers have also retained the cars from the original but added many more. They are once again all licensed and do feature a damage model. Cars include famous cars such as the Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi Evo, SEAT Cordoba etc but modeled for Rally. conditions. However the damage once again does not affect the cars ability to drive and is only cosmetic. With that said cars can have doors flying off, bumpers dragging along the ground and smashed windows just to name a few features. Considering the game runs at such a blistering pace, it is not long when using the more powerful cars that you lose control and watch a car disintegrate into many pieces around the track. You are also offered the opportunity to play around with the cars settings to try and shave seconds off your best times.
As with their previous title, DICE have included a multitude of locations for rallies to be conducted and while they haven't tried to replicate any WRC rounds, they are set in somewhat real world locations. The mix of going from Sweden to Monaco keeps the game fresh, if not realistic and the graphics are absolutely stunning. From driving through leafy trees with fractured sunlight shining through to racing in the highly detailed Monaco streets. Not only does it offer a rich variety of places to race, but also the challenges of each track change.
There is no doubt that Rallisport Challenge 2 shows just how powerful the Xbox can be and just how good the system can produce highly detailed, rich graphics. The fact that it manages to produce these graphics without a hint of frame loss shows just how much time and effort DICE have put into this game and it has certainly paid off. Each of the cars are highly detailed and have features such as reflective lighting and of course the aforementioned damage model. One nice effect is the cars gather dirt, dust or snow as they travel through the tracks.
They also feature unique sounds, and this changes depending on the current view in use. Most of the time the pace notes are clear and useful, but very occasionally the co-driver will mention an upcoming obstacle to early and you may be thrown off by him or the track. The music features a mix of rock and techno, but if you don't like the soundtrack custom soundtrack capability has been included.
Xbox Live has been a major addition to the franchise and is one of the best racing games on the service thus far. You can race any discipline with players online and have up to 16 players in a game at any one time. The game also supports the XSN service for those of you who want to setup your own tournaments and leader boards to compare yourself against the world. In many respects its a lot like Project Gotham Racing 2 with only cars and tracks you have unlocked available to be chosen when you are the host.
Rallisport Challenge 2 is one of the best racing games on the system and as mentioned before given the amount of racing games on the system that is quite a feat. DICE have kept the fantastic playability of the original title but added new cars, tracks and online play. If you have Xbox Live this is a must own title like Project Gotham Racing 2 and even if you don't, the offline component in the game offers many hours of play with numerous championships to complete and cars and tracks to unlock.