Overview

V-Rally was originally released on the PS1, being primarily an arcade racer. It was popular but by no means a great game. Then there was V-Rally 2 which really did it. It was realistic to the Nth degree and had something for everyone but it was, it has to be said, pretty hard for the casual gamer. Now, not surprisingly as with every other popular game on the PS1, V-Rally has been taken to the PS2 to take the franchise to new levels of realism and gameplay. Does it pull it off? Will the big V finally manage to hold McRae off at the last hair pin? Depends what type of gamer you are really…

Gameplay

Once you’ve created your driver and started your V-Rally mode, you are ploked into your office. Here you’ll receive your e-mails from various car manufacturers in the 1.6 FWD rally division. They will offer you test drives for their team and if you pass you will be offered a contract with them for the season. Depending on their average rankings they will have different requirements of you. If they are a relatively poor team they will only want you to come about 12th place during the season and if you perform they will renew your contract. The aim is to get noticed, the better you perform the better the teams will be that ask you to come for a test drive. Once you come first overall then the 2 Litre 4WD will be interested in you, giving you the opportunity to race in the harder, faster division.

At first glance, you may think that coming 12th place in your first season would be no problem, but you couldn’t be more wrong. V-Rally 3 has got to be one of the most frustrating and difficult games out there, for the beginner that is.

Beginners and casual gamers will find the learning curve stupidly steep and the first time I played the game I thought it was going to be impossible. I was rolling all over the shop due to its unforgiving physics and I found it impossible to stay on the track. I didn’t achieve my goals in the first season and I could have probably left the game there and then but I persisted and not without reward either. I found myself being moulded to its realistic physics and gameplay and as I experiment with the brakes and acceleration around corners the game became a lot easier. I was in the zone from there on, the one that no one can explain, the one where you instinctively know how to take the corners and achieve it by almost second nature.

After a couple seasons with Renault then finally winning the championship with Fiat I was really enjoying the game. But alas, my past nightmare was about to resurface as I was offered a contract with a 2L 4WD team. This car really was impossible to control. The sense of speed is overwhelming and if you drive pedal to the metal it’s inevitable that you wheels will probably come off and you’ll fly into orbit. I found myself about to go into the most frustrating ordeal of learning to drive the cars all of again. However, it must be said, the physics are amazing and as I said the sense of speed is exhilarating. Whilst being damn hard for me, the hardcore gamer and V-Rally fan might find it easy, but sadly I found it very annoying.

You have a plethora of options as with any rally game, such as weighting your brakes and how sensitive your steering is. I always prefer to keep them at default, but the hardcore fan might have certain preferences, so these options can also be well implemented.

After rallies in the V-Rally mode, you’ll get the chance to repair your car. You have 30 minutes to do this in and different parts of the car such as steering increase in repair time depending on how damaged they are. This means, if your really rubbish like I was, you’ll have to prioritise your repairs.

The usual rewards are also in place too. On completion of certain aspects of the game you’ll be rewarded new cars that can be used in the time attack and two-four player modes.

The time attack mode is quite self explanatory, but there’s also one other mode, which is the challenge mode. This gives you certain, believe it or not, "challenges" with different types of car, the first of which is the SAXO challenge. Basically they give you a car and a track and tell you to complete it in a certain time. On completion you unlock the next challenge and so on. So there’s plenty to keep you going, if for some bizarre reason you didn’t find the V-Rally mode challenging enough.

To be honest, I can’t knock the game because I am rubbish and the gameplay is actually excellent, but perhaps the casual gamer will be intimidated and they could have made it a tiny bit easier. Just a little bit mind…

Graphics

Two words, one of which I can’t say closely followed by brilliant. The graphics are excellent, the cars are most impressive being rendered nicely even when damaged, which is most impressive. When you crumple the front of your car the light follows realistically around the bumps and dents. These cars easily rival that of Gran Turismo in both detail and shear sharp style.

The Countries are wonderfully varied also being very detailed. The trees, the gravel, the water and various other natural effects look as good as you would expect them to be. Far in the distance you can see that the backgrounds are pre rendered and pixilated, this really doesn’t have much effect though as you’ll be far to busy keeping your eyes on the road rather than what’s going on around you. All will be revealed later.

As with any rally game all weather effects are present. You’ve got your snow and rain, which is again done very well, possibly the best we have seen yet, but most impressive of all are the sun effects. Not unlike that of Gran Turismo you can see the glare as you drive into the sunset which has to be my favourite bit about this game. Racing through any track during the dawn hours is an absolute pleasure, but only if you’ve mastered the frustrating driving.

Your car gets dirty as you might expect but the splash effects aren’t really that great, so it seems that this dirt seems to appear from nowhere. When you drive through a stream or a puddle to water that slashes up looks slightly dodgy but it’s a minor quibble I have against what is otherwise a graphically superb game, which can be shown in its full glory in the replays.

Being so great graphically I was quite disappointed when I experienced slowdown on some of the more detailed tracks. At time this can be quite bad and obviously very irritating. It’s just not on is it really!?

Fun Factor

When you get to grips with it, it can be a really fun game but unfortunately it loses points here because it’s quite a task. It’s rather complex to be fun and although you might think it would gain points in multi-player it doesn’t. I don’t think it should gain points because if your mates have never played the game, they’ll walk away after the first go, probably to fetch a bread knife for you or a hammer for your hardware.

However, as I have said, the V-Rally fan and patient man (no rhyme intended) will probably find it as fun as any game.

Overall

For me, the hour - an hour and a half learning curve for each 1.6 and 2L cars was really frustrating, but the eye candy and speed got me coming back for more. The casual gamer will need patience and maybe the harcore gamer will too, but the V-Rally fan will probably be chuffed to bits with what they have done with it for its third outing. So, not bad really, but its still got slowdown!