Rally racing games have existed ever since polygons were introduced back in the early 90s. Sure, there were a few lame rally racers released for the 16-bit consoles of yore, but none of them played significantly different from their standard racing game siblings. Polygonal rally racers were true to the sport in gameplay, graphical and control elements, starting with the acclaimed Sega Rally Championship series.
Nearly a decade later, game developers all around the world continue to lend their talents to this sub-genre, hoping to create a rally racing that’s bigger and badder than the ones that came before it. That’s just what Ubi Soft was trying to achieve when they developed Pro Rally exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube. With somewhat eye-catching graphics and a large list of features, Pro Rally looked to be the game that would satisfy every GameCube owners’ need for a stellar rally racer.
Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out as planned...
This is the part of the game where Pro Rally really shines. Although not as easy to pick up and play as I would have liked (you’re forced to participate in a series of frustrating driving tests before you can begin the real game), there’s so much to do in the game that you probably won’t care.
Pro Rally is a decent-looking game, featuring a nice array of car models, nice backgrounds and even nicer texturing. The only downside here is that it’s not on par with what the GameCube is fully capable of. In fact, only a relatively small margin of the system’s power was used to enhance Pro Rally’s graphics. Luckily, the framerate is consistent, meaning that you’ll never have to worry about the gameplay being affected in a negative way. Not only that, but graphics aren’t everything. If a game provides a great gameplay experience, that’s really all that matters. With that said, this is GameCube -- the second most powerful game console out there. People didn’t wait in line for several hours and spend $200 on a brand-new console just so they could play games that look a couple years behind the competition.
It’s too bad I can’t give this category a 7.5, but it’s closer to a 7 than it is an 8, so this is what I’m going to have to stick with. Why, you ask? Simply put: Pro Rally is fun, but sometimes frustrating game. I don’t want to keep bringing up the driving tests, but that nearly ruins the whole experience. Why developers continue to force gamers to do something that feels like WORK at the beginning of a game is beyond me. Games are supposed to be an escape from reality. Pro Rally becomes an escape once you escape the driving tests.
Each course is designed in such a way that even skilled gamers will be challenged. They’ll have to have quick reflexes and good eyes to spot all of the twists and turns that lie ahead.
The controls aren’t as polished as I would have liked, but that’s because this is a rally game, and developers are constantly going back and forth between realism and entertainment. If they make the controls too tight, the game might be more fun -- or perhaps just easier -- but if they make the controls too lose, it could be less fun, or just more difficult. If done properly, the latter results in a more realistic experience than the former.
Here we have a mixture of both. The game is fun to play, but the controls feel a little strange. You’ll get used to them after a while, but not to the point where you’ll be wishing that every game had steering this loose.
Pro Rally has its share of ups and downs, but overall, it’s worth checking out. GameCube owners don’t have a lot to choose from the rally racing department, but even if they did, they’d still want to check out Ubi Soft’s latest release, if only to see how much depth it has. Diehard rally racing fans will want to add this to their gaming collection, and casual gamers should at least give it a rental, borrow it from a friend or play it at the store. Make sure you play it a lot though, because five minutes is not nearly enough to determine whether or not this game is right for you. It’ll take you at least 20 minutes to get through the driving tests, which are relatively boring when compared to the rest of the game. The game really heats up when you begin to have some goals -- beat the clock, pass the finish line first, etc. Needless to say, this is one time-consuming game! Give it a day or two of your time. The result will be a unique racing experience that GameCube owners won’t find anywhere else.