by JoWooD Productions
Historical racing games have been creating a niche market for themselves, slowly but surely, over the last few years. It all started with Grand Prix Legends, a Formula 1 game that accurately simulated the sport in the 1960s. This was followed by Nascar Legends and although it wasn't as good as Grand Prix Legends it was still a worthy purchase. Bugbear Entertainment decided to give the historical treatment to Rally driving. Rally Trophy was what they came up with and in all honesty it is one heck of a simulation.
Of course if you are a fan of PC rally games then Rally Trophy will come as quite a shock. All the mod cons that come with modern rally cars aren't anywhere to be seen. The included cars all handle very differently and you'll need to spend a huge amount of time getting used to additional cars before you feel comfortable with their handling. Front wheel drive and rear wheel drive cars feel very different and its to Bugbear's credit that the handling feels so genuine.
So what does Rally Trophy include then? Well there are 11 classic rally cars. There's the Mini Cooper S, Ford Lotus Cortina, Opel Kadett Rallye, Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, Saab 96 V4, Volvo 122 Amazon, Lancia Fulvia 1.6 Coupe HF, Fiat 600 Abarth, Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1, Renault Alpine A110 1600 and last but definitely not least is the Lancia Stratos. For the rally fans amongst you, this collection of cars is a true feast. There are 42 tracks spread over 5 countries. As well as point-to-point racing there is also wheel-to-wheel racing in which you can square up to some very challenging AI opponents.
While I can't claim to have driven all of these cars I can say that having driven a Mini Cooper S the handling does feel spot on and unlike arcade rally titles such as Colin McRae Rally 2.0 you need to fully develop your racing skill and simply won't get away with just chucking the wheel around. There is also good damage modelling. Taking damage to your car, which is very easy with all the rocks and trees that line some of the tracks, can be disastrous in Rally Trophy. Even small amounts of damage to key areas of the car can seriously effect your ability to control the car, a feature the enthusiasts among you will love, as this is often overlooked in racing games in order to please the 'casual' gamer.
Rally Trophy looks absolutely fantastic. The movement of the car, the textures of the cars and the reflections etc. all look top notch. A special mention must go to the sun flare, it's probably the best seen in any PC game to date, it'll make you reach for your sunglasses. Of course all this graphical splendour means that you going to require a powerful PC. Thankfully the screen resolution is fully adjustable and there are plenty of graphical effects that can be turned off to make the game run acceptably on a lower end system.
The comments from the CO-driver are not subtitled. This may seem like a disappointment but to be quite honest about this, he is quite irritating. There are however, like in all rally games, the directional CO-driver arrows. Occasionally though the timing of the arrows is a little suspect and a little confusing. This doesn't happen too frequently though and doesn't represent a real problem as you'll find that your eyes are firmly placed on the road. I was hoping to experience the force feedback in Rally Trophy, however, the force feedback wheel that was supposed to be supplied hasn't turned up and I've put this review off for over three weeks as it is. The general consensus from people who've played the game is that the force feedback is superb so I guess that we'll have to go along with that for now. When the wheel arrives I'll update the review.
Rally Trophy, for me, represents a step forward in Rally simulations. The skill that is required is definitely higher than that needed to succeed at other rally titles. Whilst this may deter the non-enthusiast (it shouldn't by the way as it's worth the effort) it will definitely please hard-core fans of the motor sport. I should make one point clear though. If you use Windows XP and have a Microsoft steering wheel, force feedback or non-force feedback then you won't be able to use your wheel in Rally Trophy. This is because Rally Trophy insists on having a wheel that uses a split-axis controller (you can apply the brake as well as the accelerator). The drivers that are built into Windows XP do not allow this. Only the Windows 98/ME drivers allow you to configure a split-axis setup. This isn't a bug with the game but a problem with Windows XP drivers for the Microsoft wheels. Microsoft at present hasn't released any Windows XP specific drivers for their wheels and until they do you won't be able to use one of their wheels in Windows XP with Rally Trophy.
Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10 A great representation of historical Rally driving.
Deaf Gamers comment: CO-driver comments are unsubtitled but otherwise there are no problems.