World Rally Championship 4 PlayStation 2
by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Evolution Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Price : £39.99
It's getting harder every year to review rally titles on the PlayStation 2. For the last couple of years you really get the feeling that the games have pushed the PlayStation 2 as far as it's possible to go with the graphical quality of rally games only slightly, if at all, surpassing the previous years game. Both the Colin McRae Rally series and the World Rally Championship series fall squarely into this categorisation and both have taken the genre probably about as far as it can go for now. Let's take a closer look at World Rally Championship 4 to see if it offers anything over World Rally Championship 3.
Just like last year's version World Rally Championship 4 is filled to the brim with features. The options are Quick Race, Time Trial, Championship, Events and making it's debut Online. Championship mode is where you're going to spend most of your time and you'll have a choice or WRC Professional, WRC Expert, Extreme and Super 1600. Events includes Pro Driver Challenges, Test Tracks to test you abilities on different surfaces, Super Special Challenges and Single Rally challenges. There's a staggering 100+ stages that make up the 16 WRC locations that are spread over 5 continents. Point to Point, Shakedown, Sprint and Super Special stages have all been included too. New locations such as the rallies in Mexico and Japan have also been added. New cars include the Peugeot 307 WRC and the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC 04. The big inclusion this year is the online mode that supports an impressive 16 players. An online time trial mode has been included (PGR 2 really started a trend with that one) and those who make the top 100 can have their times challenged by all who fancy taking them on.
The important point to make with WRC 4 is that the game is not for the feint hearted or those who want to start recording record times straight away. This is not a Colin McRae Rally arcade experience and the learning curve is a steep one. Initially you'll find yourself going all over the place and it takes dedication, time and effort before you'll be able to feel comfortable with the game. In short it's more of a simulation than most driving games and even the Gran Turismo series itself can't claim to be a simulation when comparing it to WRC 4. For rally enthusiasts though this is no bad thing and such gamers are likely to already have the necessary steering wheel etc., that's required to get the most out of the game.
When it comes to the graphics there's little to fault World Rally Championship 4 for. The car models are superb as are the general environments in which you race and it is easily the best looking rally game on the PlayStation 2 (only being surpassed by RalliSport Challenge 2 on Xbox otherwise that statement would be the best looking one on any console). The frame rate is superb and the only real imperfections are the occasional occurrences of pop-up and the fact that we are confined to having cardboard trees that look like there were cut out from a cereal box. These are only minor blemishes on what is a great looking rally game. The 3D models of the cars that you can examine are stunning as is the ability to 'explode' the cars which allows you to appreciate what an excellent job Evolution have done with the car models. It's fair to say that rally games have been pushed as far as they are going to go on the PlayStation 2 and I doubt we'll see a better version, graphically, of World Rally Championship until the PlayStation 3 launches.
Rally games are much of a muchness for deaf gamers. As per usual there aren't any subtitles and the only way you'll know what your co-driver is saying is by the visual pace note icons that appear on the screen. The pace note icons are fairly clear in their meaning but as we've said many times before they don't offer as much information as the verbal pace notes. Whilst this is unfortunate though it's difficult to suggest how it could be any better. If the pace notes were subtitled it would be tricky maintaining a fast ride and being able to read the text whilst if the icons where more numerous it could also be distracting. Away from the driving though all the other information is in text so there's no problem in that respect.
World Rally Championship 4 is once again a great rally game. It's great to have online play but aside from that there's little here that's inspirational or that hasn't been done before. In fairness to the developers it's tough to imagine what could be added to make it stand out from the multitude of rally games now that it appears that the graphical limits have been reached with the current hardware. Rally enthusiasts will no doubt love the game but casual rally fans must be aware that WRC 4 is a simulation and not an arcade racer that will make you feel like a rally legend in no time at all. If you want a rally simulation for your PlayStation 2 though WRC 4 is definitely the game to go for.
Game Rating: 8.5/10
Another great game in the WRC series. It's not for the feint hearted though and it requires dedication but it's certainly worth taking the time to get to grips with it.
Pace notes are not subtitled but as per usual the less informative icons are shown.