"We take the upcoming racer for a spin on the Xbox"
Hands up those who like Colin McRae Rally? Ok now keep your hand up if you thought Colin McRae Rally 3 was a good game. Just as I suspected not many. Well Codemasters have learnt from their mistake and Colin 04 is due for release in just a few short weeks. I went hands on with a near final Xbox build and came away with the knowledge that Codemasters, haven't lost their touch, they only had a lapse.
The major change for Colin McRae 04 will be the single player setup. Whilst a career mode will still exist, seven other modes will be available for players. Arcade racing, individual stages and even the ability to create your own rallies from your favourite stages of the World Rally Championship. Unlike Colin McRae 3, players can choose from any of the WRC teams and can run a career through like that. Again like 3 players will be tasked with competing over a series of championships with the aim of winning the World Rally Championship.
The other major change is the car physics, in particular the handling. Colin McRae Rally 3 at times was a lesson in frustration, but although it will take a little while to adjust, 04 improves on this aspect ten fold. Each of the wheels has a pivot point and provides feedback to the physics system producing a much more realistic and pleasurable driving experience.
Should your car accidentally venture off-road, the handling will change dramatically just as when half the car is on one surface and the other half another. The new physics and driving model in my opinion has reinvented the rally game, it feels much more fluid and once a player adjusts they will love it. The person demonstrating it to me also explained that a hardcore mode is included for those who love the rally as real as it gets.
Colin McRae Rally 04 doesn't carry the official WRC licence but all the teams, drivers and stages are included. During my play test I got to drive a Subaru WRX on numerous stages from Finland, Australia and another stage. I chose these due to the differing surfaces. Australia is looking superb, with forests, windy dirt roads and some fantastic scenery, Finland offered a more technical track with many twisty corners and I even managed to get stuck in a ditch. The time's are also a lot more forgiving when a player first starts out as my first stage win on the Australian track proved after just twenty or so minutes of play.
The severe damage modeling is back from Colin McRae Rally 3 and these cars can take a serious beating. As with other rally games, during stages you will have a limited time and if the car is still not road worthy then tough cheddar. The damage model seemed a little more realistic then the one employed in CMR3. Hitting a tree at a slow speed will no longer smash your windscreen, but it works both ways. Hitting a tree at high speed is likely to destroy your car even more so then in last years game.
Visually as expected the game is looking stunning. The cars look even more detailed then last years iteration and the environments are even more realistic. The damage model as mentioned before has returned and of course all team and driver changes which happened between last years game and now are included. The views include, bumper, in car (which is a little easier to use then last years game), and behind the car. During the play test I chose behind the car, and that seemed to be the easiest to drive with. Weather again will play a part in CMR 04 but there will be no adjusting weather patterns in the same stage. Rain, snow, and other environmental effects may play havoc with your championship aspirations.
Although Colin McRae Rally 04 will not include online play in its traditional form, an online component will be available for Xbox Live users. Users will be able to log on and download ghost cars of the top times and try and beat them. You will also be able to upload your own ghost cars for other players to download.
Colin McRae Rally 04 looks like it will bring Codemasters back to the top of the rally game pile. With challenges coming left, right and centre from other games, Codemasters have really put their thinking caps on for this one and looks like it has produced the goods for rally fans. The great thing about Colin McRae 04 will be the fact that rally aficionados can play it till they collapse from exhaustion whilst casual gamers can pick it up and play. Colin McRae Rally 04 is set to ship at the end of September. More information on this title soon.