Rally games continue to gain popularity among gamers with a few top quality franchises available to select from. There is the simulation games such as Colin McRae and the pick up and play arcade style titles like Rallisport Challenge. The fact is that if you're looking for a rally game to play, chances are you will find one to your liking somewhere on the market. However there has been a distinct lack of one factor in these games and that is the highest realism available. Richard Burns Rally hopes to fill this void by not only becoming one of the most frustrating rally games ever made (depending on your viewpoint this is a very good thing) but also becoming one of the best simulations made of any motorsport for a gaming system.
The aim in Richard Burns Rally like most rally games is to win the world championship across a number of rallies throughout the globe. The game features four main game modes to choose from; Rally School, World Championship Season, Single rally and the ability to take on a few challenges. There is also some additional features available such as being able to take the passenger seat while a virtual Richard tackles the stages at high speed.
Before you are allowed to take on the championship season you must complete the rally school run by Richard Burns himself. This may seem like a waste of time if you're a rally veteran but once you see just how difficult the physics and damage systems are in the game, you will be thankful it forced you to take a time out and learn how to drive a rally car properly. The challenges are not easy to complete either and if you want to learn more, more advanced challenges are made available once the season is unlocked. The championship season is raced across five rallies in places such as Britain and Finland with six stages in each rally.
One comment that can be made about Richard Burns Rally is that it really is the first game to replicate just how tough and brutal the sport of rally driving is for those who participate in it. The first few stages you are going to crash, and crash a lot and if you're easily frustrated then RBR is not a game for you but for the others who can put up with a little ego smashing gameplay you will find a quality simulation that requires the utmost levels of concentration at all times. If you thought Colin Mcrae was hard with its small tracks in places such as the forest, then you're in for a culture shock when playing Richard Burns Rally. It is a game which will give you the impression that improvement is being made and then bring you back down to earth like a tonne of bricks with a major crash or other problem.
As we mentioned before the physics engine of the game really is second to none. This game will teach you that rally driving is not just about putting the pedal to the metal and drifting around corners but more about keeping the car in control at all times and as you will discover that is a tough art in itself let alone being the fastest on track.
As with most rally games, RBR features a variety of licenses in the game but not as many as some may have hoped. The drivers names are fictional however the Rallies featured do appear licensed, at least the Australian Rally in Canberra is. Each of the rallies is unique to each other and will offer a different challenge. Weather is also featured as another hazard to the drivers but unlike Colin McRae this is not pre-determined by the developers and basically any stage can have inclement weather thrust upon it.
The cars appearing in the game are licensed but the teams are fictional names but this isn't detrimental to the game from a game play perspective. The cars featured are the typical Subaru and Mitsubishi with other cars such as the Peugeot 206 being unlocked for achievements such as winning a rally on the world circuit. The damage model can be turned on and off, and when on will cause some major problems. One small crash can be enough to end your rally and perhaps your championship fight so for at least the first few hours its best to leave it off. If you do run into trouble you can call on the surrounding crowd to help you put the car back on the road which is a nice aesthetic touch.
Once you're done and dusted with the championship another mode can be accessed known as the challenge mode. This allows you to challenge Richard Burns in a variety of stages. One disappointment with this is that you don't actually challenge Burns himself but are given a time to beat that Richard supposedly set in the game. Don't get us wrong this does offer an incredibly tough challenge and will take all your skill to beat but having an AI Richard racing with us would have made this mode much better.
From a visual aspect the game is moderately average. It's not one of the better looking racing games on the PS2 and the graphics are definitely one of the games weaknesses. However it does maintain a stable frame rate and considering how tough the physics engine is, this is an essential requirement to give players every chance of controlling the car. There is no music featured in stages, rather just engine noises and the co-driver. One excellent option that RBR features is the ability to adjust how much before a corner a co-driver will warn you about it. On the default level it seems good enough but those who want to make it sooner or longer can do so in a master stroke by the developers.
It is unlikely that Richard Burns Rally will take Colin McRae's crown away in the gaming sector but the developers have to be congratulated for not being scared to go after a niche market by making a top quality simulation that will please hardcore rally fans. The problem with the game is that it is so tough that many people will be turned away from it very easily and considering you can't adjust many options to make the game easier for the casual gamer then this is going to hit the game in terms of widespread appeal quite hard. RBR is a quality game but only for those who want the utmost realism in their rally simulations.