Rallisport Challenge 2 Review
Rallisport Challenge 2 isn't just a sequel--it is easily one of the most purely pleasurable driving experiences you're likely to encounter on any platform.
On a console as rife with quality racing games as the Xbox, it's tough to really pick a standout, top dog among the bunch. However, many would argue that if you were to pick one, Digital Illusions' 2002 arcade rally racer Rallisport Challenge would be the one to take the title. For all the good that comes with such a distinction, it's also a pretty tough title to live down when trying to create a sequel to such a distinguished game. However, Digital Illusions has proven that it was up to the task of creating a game that is just as meaningful in this era of the Xbox's lifespan as the original Rallisport Challenge was in its time. Rallisport Challenge 2 has everything you loved about its predecessor and then some, such as better handling and superb visuals and sound. Rallisport Challenge 2 isn't just a sequel--it is easily one of the most purely pleasurable driving experiences you're likely to encounter on any platform.
In any good racing title, it all comes down to the driving mechanics, and Rallisport Challenge 2 is no exception. The first Rallisport game was very arcade-inspired in its methodology, going heavy on the exaggerated physics and crashes. Rallisport 2 is still very much an arcade racer, but a higher emphasis has been put on realism. The game's primary racing controls are simply relegated to the two trigger buttons and the left analog stick. You accelerate with the right trigger, brake with the left, and steer with the stick. You can use the emergency brake by pushing the A button, though in most instances the regular brake works fine for sliding around corners without causing you to spin out too ridiculously. You will still skate around the track a bit more than you would in a more realistic racer like Colin McRae Rally 04, for instance; but all told, the driving controls in Rallisport 2 handle superbly.
Adding to the more realistic elements of the game are the various cars themselves. There are more than 40 licensed cars in the game, and each one drives just a bit differently. Some are more sluggish, some handle better, and others are higher in durability. You can definitely feel the differences in each car, and you will probably be able to pick out specific cars that perform best to your style of driving. You also have the ability to tune your car's performance before every race. Multiple tuning categories are at your fingertips, ranging from tire type, to gear ratio, to brake stiffness--to almost every aspect of your suspension you would want to tweak. Not all of these adjustments are immediately noticeable, but over time you'll become more aware of the differences these changes really can make in your driving ability.
Of course, no driving game would be fully complete without the ability to wreck, break, and otherwise maim your car in all kinds of crazy ways. There is simply no greater mix of agony and ecstasy than to be able to crash your car spectacularly--and Rallisport 2 does not disappoint in this regard. The game's basic crash physics are more than just sound. Smaller objects like signs and loose barriers go flying when you slam into them, and larger obstacles will appropriately cause your car to give under the pressure if you crash into a large building or tree going 90mph, for instance. Cars will roll for quite a distance given the right circumstances, and usually your car will go flying when sent off a cliff, crevice, or any other kind of drop. Occasional hiccups in the feasibility of crashing will present themselves--such as the ability to simply drive up certain walls, rather than crash into them, and instances where your car will be oddly unscathed after a fairly nasty wreck--but these instances are quite few and far between.
To match with these excellent crash physics, Digital Illusions has taken damage modeling pretty much to the hilt of what we've seen thus far in console driving games. Every piece of your car can be destroyed in one way or another. Windows crack and break; car bodies will dent, crack, and occasionally be sheared right off; spoilers and bumpers will partially come off, dangling for dear life as you bounce around a track; and, if you screw up badly enough, tires will even be sent flying. The one real downside to the game's excellent damage modeling is that only in rare instances will this damage ever really affect your driving. Losing tires and rolling your car to the point of losing nearly every removable piece of your vehicle creates some issues with controlling your vehicle, but there's never really a time where you can't drive the car at all unless you turn on a heavy damage option, which is only available outside of career mode. While these sorts of things certainly lend themselves to the more arcade nature of the game's style of driving, it is a bit disappointing in the wake of a game like Colin McRae 04, which lets you destroy a car so it's not even driveable.
Rallisport 2's damage modeling is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the graphical improvements made over the previous Rallisport game. One needs to only look at the difference between the car models in the first Rallisport and Rallisport 2, and an immense difference can be seen. Not only are the cars polished to near photo-realism, they also feature beautiful reflective surfaces as well as degradable dirt and dust cover, dependant on what type of track you're driving on. Every visual effect associated with the cars, from the kicking up of dirt on a dusty road, to the sparks that fly as you scrape along a barrier, look absolutely great. There just aren't better car models available in any game currently on the console racing market.