RalliSport Challenge 2 Xbox
by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Digital Illusions
Released - 21st May 2004
Price : £39.99
Out of the initial round of driving games that were released for the Xbox our personal favourite was RalliSport Challenge. In our opinion it just pipped Project Gotham Racing although both were excellent games. Last November we had the sequel to Project Gotham Racing which was simply amazing and fully deserving of the 9.5/10 score we gave the game. In fact during the first two years of it's life span the Xbox has amassed an impressive collection of racing titles and Digital Illusions have certainly had their work cut out in attempting to create another special title. Now it's time to look at RalliSport Challenge 2 and see what improvements Digital Illusions have made to what was already an excellent game.
Rather than simply fine tune the original game Digital Illusions have completely changed the format to make it more accessible and more enjoyable. If you played the original RalliSport Challenge you'll recall how various race modes were locked and you couldn't access them unless you had scored the required number of points in the unlocked races. RalliSport Challenge 2 takes a different approach and you can access all the various types of races from the beginning. The various modes are Time Attack, Single Race, Career, Multiplayer (1-4 on one Xbox or System link) and Xbox Live. As we've just said it's all a lot more accessible and nowhere is this more obvious than in Career mode. There are four different career modes, Amateur, Pro, Champion and Super Rally. You can jump into the Pro career mode if you want but initially you can't enter the Champion or Super Rally careers. The way the career mode works is that you'll see a network of the various races that you can participate in. You are free to choose the races you want but at key points in the network you'll have a race that requires you to have amassed a certain number of points before you can progress. Each race will earn you points depending on what position you attain with 20 points for a win and only 1 point for coming in a dismal sixteenth. This new method feels a lot less frustrating and allows you to choose, to a certain degree, the race types you prefer.
RalliSport Challenge 2 again offers Rally, Hill Climb, Rallycross and Ice Racing. This time though a new type of race has been included, the Cross-over Challenge which is almost identical to the special stages that you get in the Colin McRae Rally games. Basically it's a two car race on a circuit that crosses over so that you'll race on both sides of the circuit in order to complete a lap. The circuits are not simple loops though and they twist and turn like crazy and will put your driving skills to the test. In the previous paragraph we mentioned how you get points based on your performance and that method of getting points is different depending on the race type. For Hill Climb and Rally races it's the usual point-to-point routine and your overall position after all the stages have been raced will determine how many points you earn. For Ice Racing and Rallycross you'll initially complete a qualifying lap and then be placed into one of four groups of four. This qualifying lap is crucial though because it will determine the maximum points you can attain during the final race. For instance if you finish third in qualifying you'll be placed in group A. In group A you can earn 20 points for coming first and 13 points for coming last. If you end up in group B though it's impossible to earn more than 12 points even if you win your group race, so as you can see qualifying is all important. The Cross-over Challenge races are similar except that after the single lap qualifying session you'll be placed into 8 groups of two. Assuming you finish first or second in qualifying you'll go into group A and you'll be guaranteed at least 17 points even if you lose so again achieving a hot lap in qualifying is paramount. The Career mode offers a staggering 238 unlockable items such as cars, car skins and circuits, which is impressive. The only fault you could pick with the Career mode is that the Amateur and Pro modes are too easy and that a challenge isn't really offered until you get to Champion mode.
Most racing/rally fans like to tinker with the car's setup and RalliSport Challenge allows you to do this. The setup options are broken down into three categories, basic, advanced and suspension. Basic allows you to choose your tyre type (most circuits/stages are made up of two types of terrain such as mud, snow, ice, gravel, tarmac etc, and you're shown what surfaces make up your forthcoming circuit stage, and the ratio, so you can make an informed choice of the tyre type you need). You'll also be able to choose manual gears if you don't want the default option of automatic gears. You can also alter the steering sensitivity and gear ratios. The advanced options allow you to alter brake stiffness, brake balance, power ratios and the toe in/out wheel settings for both front and rear wheels. As you might expect the suspension options allow you to tweak the various aspects of the suspension. Of course you can completely ignore the setup options if you wish as the default options are usually sufficient but those racing experts among you will want to tweak every ounce of performance out of the car and these options allow you to do so.
RalliSport Challenge 2 has full support for both Xbox Live and XSN Sports. Digital Illusions have enabled you to race online without the annoying aspect of someone colliding with you. With collisions disabled your opponents will have wire frame car models that you can simply driver through. Whether collision detection is on or not affects the amount of cars that you can have in a race. If collisions are enabled then the limit is four cars whereas if collisions are disabled then you can have sixteen cars in a race. The usual Quick match, Optimatch and Create race options have been included and you'll earn points depending on your performance. You can even set lap times and enter them onto the Xbox Live scoreboards to see how you compare with everyone else. The XSN network support will allow you to create a tournament, season or team season for you and your friends. You can choose the number of participants, the type of rally you want to drive in (so you could just choose ice races if you wish), the type of cars you want to drive (whether they be vintage or Group B cars for instance) and choose however many rounds you want the competition to have. It's fair to say that RalliSport Challenge should be one of the most popular XSN Sports games to date.
RalliSport Challenge was a great looking rally title when it was released in 2002 but RalliSport Challenge 2 represents a big improvement from the original. Throughout the game you'll be driving over mud, gravel, snow, ice, dirt etc., and you'll also have to contend with rain soaked races too. Races occur at different times of the day and in one race you'll be driving in the darkness whilst another will have brilliant sunshine streaming through the forest trees. No matter what the racing conditions though it all looks fantastic and far more realistic than the first game. There's just a far more organic look about the game this time around, which is hard to put into words but it looks beautiful. If you need an example of how much better the graphics are in RalliSport Challenge 2 you only need to have a lap round the ridiculously muddy Hydro Lane rallycross circuit. You'll see mud, which has to be the most detailed mud ever seen in a game, fly all around and it will ultimately cake your immaculately looking car. Damage modeling also looks superb, as do all the car models (there are over 40 different cars this time around compared with the 29 that were in the first game), and it's very impressive to see that the game maintains a rock solid 60 frames per second even during a hectic pile-up.
RalliSport Challenge 2, like virtually all driving games, doesn't offer any problems for deaf gamers. Some races, such as the Ice Racing and Cross-over Challenges, have an announcer at the beginning of the race and these are not subtitled but the countdown to the beginning of the race is shown visually. The rally stages have verbal pace notes from your co-driver and these are not subtitled but the usual visual direction icons are shown and these are adequate. The Xbox Live side of the game doesn't allow for text chat but as we've said before this is a current problem with the Xbox Live system for deaf gamers and isn't specific to RalliSport Challenge 2.
Project Gotham Racing 2 amazed a lot of gamers when it was released late last year and RalliSport Challenge 2 is sure to do the same when it's released in Europe on the 21st May. It's an absolutely fantastic game although there are some areas where improvements could have been made. Although the cars visually damage convincingly, it's very rare indeed that any of the damage will impair your driving. Still it handles wonderfully and is simply as good as any other driving game on the Xbox. The Career mode is much better this time around and while Amateur and Pro careers are a bit too easy, they offer complete novices an easy entry into the game. RalliSport Challenge 2 might still be an arcade driving experience but it's an excellent one and one that every Xbox owning racing fan simply must buy.
Game Rating: 9.4/10
A superb sequel and one of the most enjoyable driving games on any platform to date.
No real problems for deaf gamers.