WRC II Extreme
by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
What a year it has been for console Rally games. RalliSport Challenge and Colin McRae 3 are just two of the top titles that have been released and offered superb gaming experiences. These titles are not alone either. The number of rally titles for the year must be in double figures by now if you count across all formats. Finally, and to finish the year off nicely, here comes WRC II Extreme. Of course with the impressive line-up of rally games that's gone before it this year, it's going to have to offer something very special indeed, luckily it does.
WRC II Extreme is so absolutely chock full of features that it's giving me a headache deciding what to mention first. There are a staggering 14 countries in which to rally. There's the UK, Argentina, France, Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Finland, Kenya, Germany, New Zealand, Italy, Australia, Monaco and Sweden. You don't have to be a Geography expert to know that that offers you a staggering choice of different terrains with which to drive. No other rally game to date has surely offered this much variety. All in all there is well in excess of 100 stages on offer, which is quite simply amazing.
The game modes are another area of the game which will please you with their sheer amount. There are 7 game modes and most of these can be played as a multiplayer game. Time Trial, Quick Race, WRC, Custom Rally, Head to Head, Custom Championship and WRC Challenge are the game modes on offer. Most of the modes are self explanatory and do not need any explanation. WRC is perhaps the heart of the game though and puts you firmly in the thick of the rally action. Of course how difficult the World Rally Championship is will depend on the difficulty level you have picked. Initially there is only the Novice and Professional modes on offer but there is also an Expert mode to be had for those who are good enough. The World Rally Championship contains a staggering 14 rounds (across the 14 aforementioned countries). If you've selected Novice mode then you'll have one stage per day and no damage penalties to contend with. Professional mode offers two stages per day and damage penalties. Leaving the track for longer than 3 seconds (a warning is displayed in text) will earn you a penalty too. Progress can be saved at the end of each day.
The quality of the car handling will depend greatly on your choice of car and how you set the car up. Like Colin McRae Rally 3 the correct car setup is crucial, particularly on the more hazardous stages and setting the car up incorrectly will lead to disaster. The manufacturers on offer include Peugeot, Ford, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Skoda, Hyundai and Citroen. I prefer the feel of the Subaru and Mitsubishi but I suppose this is all down to personal preference and other people will prefer the handling of other cars. I reviewed the game using the lowly Dualshock 2 gamepad but I would imagine that using one of the supported steering wheels offers an ever greater experience.
One advantage WRC II Extreme has over Colin McRae Rally 3 is the very impressive draw distance. As far as I can remember there is zero pop-up on all circuits which has got to be the result of excellent optimisation for the PS2 on the part of the developers. Sadly the damage models are nowhere near those seen in CMR3, but with the all round excellence in other areas of the game this is only a minor quibble. The textures both on the cars and the terrain are very impressive indeed, as are the amount of camera angles which again are plentiful. There has to be a camera angle to suite everyone here and in case you are wondering the realistic drivers in car view is here too.
As we've said many times before with rally titles the co-driver's notes are not subtitled. If you think about it, this would prove complicated and would probably obstruct your view anyway if you had to read text whilst driving at high speeds. Evolution Studios has added more detail in the visual depiction of these notes though. Very often you'll have two appear side by side and the left one will inform you of the immediate turn whilst the one on the right will either inform you that another turn that is almost instantly after the first turn or it will show a caution symbol to show that the turn you are about to take is hazardous and to therefore take care. Details such as these are a nice touch and help to give the deaf gamer more visual feedback. Deaf gamers will also be pleased to know that the force feedback within the game is very good indeed and intermittent like it is in most driving games.
WRC II Extreme is, to put it simply, a rally title you must own. Is it better than Colin McRae Rally 3? Well that's difficult to say but I will stick my neck out and say that in some ways this game is better. Of course it's all down to personal preference but I dare any rally simulation fanatic to try WRC II Extreme and say that they are not impressed. The amount of stages, the amount of game modes plus the fact that you don't have to race in the World Championship in a Ford if you don't want to, make this one heck of an impressive title that's quite simply a must own title.
Overall Game Rating: 9.1/10 Playstation 2 owners are spoilt for choice when it comes to rally games. Evolution Studios prove that a rally title doesn't have to have the words Colin McRae in the title to be a superb game.
Deaf Gamers Comment: No problems here.