V-Rally 3 Review
Making its debut under the "Need for Speed" title, the V-Rally series has never been recognized as the pinnacle of rally racing. That claim has always belonged to Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally titles. It should be pointed out that the second V-Rally boasted some of the nicest car models seen in a PSX game and the game altogether played equally good, as well. Well, let's snap out of the past, and quickly forward to the present. Rally racers on the PS2 have been almost non-existent, and for the most part GT3's rally experience was the only one to be found on the PS2. But in 2002, things are different. Thus far the US only has two rally titles, including Sony's/Evolution Studios' wonderful World Rally Championship (WRC) --which is herald as one of the best rally racers ever-- and Majesco's GTC: Africa, a mediocre at best rally title. Though now, PS2 owners are getting treated to one of the finest rally titles ever, courtesy of Infogrames and Eden Studios. Enter, V-Rally 3.
When the announcement of V-Rally 3's polygon specifications was first made, I couldn't quite believe the numbers. The game was said to boast 15,000-16,000 polygons per vehicle, and 500,000 polygons per stage. Now after extensive play with the game, Eden Studios' rally racer sure is an incredible looking title that features some of the finest car modeling and lighting effects in a racer to date. The cars are brimming with lush and vivid details. Every thing about every vehicle is precisely modeled, and I have yet to notice anything significant in terms of improper modeling. The game runs at a very smooth 60 frames per second, and in all my play I have only experienced very minimal frame rate chugs, certainly nothing worth detracting points over, or even moaning about. In comparison to WRC, V-Rally 3 is definitely the better looking title. It's more robust, as it features better texture details on the vehicles, better looking environments, and nicer lighting effects. The real-time damage in V-Rally 3 is pulled off wonderfully. It isn't as flimsy and delicate like in RalliSport Challenge for the Xbox. Instead, it's quite realistic. If you were to hit a bump on the road at 90MPH, and the ground made contact with the bumper, you'll begin to see the bumper dangle from the front of the car. If you hit a sudden dip in elevation on the road, the back of your vehicle will get slammed and naturally, your back bumper will then begin to dangle, as well.
Truly, the details put into V-Rally 3 are wonderful. The tire rims are completely three-dimensional, the shadows are wonderfully done, and look especially well when the sunlight beams onto the car. There are polygonal bystanders (and also paper-flat ones), not to mention deer/elk crossing your path as you rip the gravel or snow with your vehicle -- and no, you can't hit "Bambie". The game's environments are very well done, depending on the locale; they range from vibrant to moody to a merry winter wonderland. And naturally, depending on what type of surface you're racing on, your car will pick up dirt, and by the end of a segment will need some serious cleaning. Lastly, V-Rally 3 features an exhilarating sense of speed, something that was missing from its European counterpart. Eden went back and made some adjustments and the result is an agile and fast paced rally title. It's really hard to point out any faults in V-Rally 3's graphics. The game stands out among the pack, and is certainly an exceptional looking game, filled with tons of detail. This is surely one of the best looking racers on the market.
V-Rally 3 is a simulation rally racer, but it's hardly an anal and overly technical one - so you don't have to worry about everything being too precise. The gameplay can be described in few words, and they include: "fun", "exhilarating", "addictive", and "awesome". When I first played V-Rally 3 back at E3, I knew the game had serious potential. When I was finally got my hands on a preview build of the game earlier this past summer, that potential was reached by Eden, and my expectations were lived up to. V-Rally 3 is almost like a dream, much like WRC was. The game has a ton of awesome features! For one, you are granted a fully controllable replay mode, something many racers don't have on the PS2 these days. V-Rally 3 also features a gallery option, which is where you can view your selected car, zoom in/out on it, open the doors, pop the hood/trunk, and fiddle with the look of the car -- this is one of my personal favorite things about the game. Like any rally simulation title, you have the ability to customize your vehicle anyway you wish. Now to get into the deeper side of tings, you may go through an intriguing and lengthy career mode. The career mode is quite the involving piece of gameplay, as not only do you compete in races, but V-Rally 3 is almost attempting to simulate an actual career of a rally driver. You'll be given a laptop in which you will get emails that include challenges, invitations to test drive a new car and sign a contract for it, congratulations from team members, and what have you. As the gamer, you feel far more involved then you normally would in any other racing title.
V-Rally 3 will let you choose from 16 rally vehicles, of class 1.6 and 2.0, plus additional cars that have to be unlocked. The typical fare of vehicles such as the Suburu Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII, Citroen Saxo, Ford Focus, Peugot 206, and the Renault Xsara, appear in V-Rally 3 -- among nearly a dozen others. You'll travel through six countries including Germany, Finland, England, and Sweden. Each country features 4 venues, so the game has a total of 24 tracks, with the possibility for secret tracks that require being unlocked. The tracks are superbly done. They are wonderfully designed, as they are filled with corkscrews, bumps, jumps, ditches, cliffs, curvy roads, slippery terrain, and more. As a whole, V-Rally 3 presents its self incredibly well. It's a fantastic rally experience that I will continue to play for a very long time. Everything about V-Rally 3 screams fun and enjoyment, even the slick box cover. There's really not much else I can ask for in a rally racer, simply said; V-Rally 3 delivers all the goods.
V-Rally 3, much like WRC, does not sport any soundtrack. In some cases that is a bummer, but in many cases that spare the gamer anything negative that could've come from a soundtrack. I don't recommend listening to music in a rally title, though. With any other racer I always have a soundtrack blaring, though since there's a co-pilot that directs you, you really need to pay attention to that, instead of a soundtrack. Speaking of which, the co-pilot is always on time with his road guiding, and shouldn't ever be a hassle to understand, or be latent in any way. The clarity is all there, and as for the overall sound presentation (engine effects), V-Rally is a winner there, as well. Despite have no soundtrack (although I find the menu track quite soothing), V-Rally 3 still demonstrates pretty good sound effects, and features an excellent co-pilot.
Powersliding is a blast in the game, and the controls allow you to maneuver your vehicles without ever limiting you. There are no restrictions on the controls, as you can make the face buttons as sensitive as you want, in terms of acceleration and braking. To those who don't spend too much time playing rally racers, adjusting to V-Rally 3 may take a little time, but once you get acquainted with the game, it's all bread and butter from there on. The GT Force/Driving Force wheel works wonderfully well with the game as well, so take advantage of that if you can. Controls should be a breeze after about 10 minutes of play time.
After all is said and done, V-Rally 3 is one uber fine rally racer, that is sure to please every fan of the racing genre -- granted you're not an over-analytical anal bastard, of course. It'll be interesting to see how Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally 3.0 will hold up, because as it stands now, it has some seriously stiff competition in store. V-Rally 3 is an excellent racing game, and is a must-have title for the year. I find myself, too often, coming back to V-Rally 3, and diving through the career mode as a new driver, taking new paths by signing different contracts, and whatnot. Visually, it's one of the most gorgeous racers on the market, and thankfully it plays as well as it looks. It controls remarkably well, and features a ton of replay value, so you will be getting the bang for your buck. By now if you don't get the picture, let me put it in blatant wording: V-Rally 3 is a must have, 'nuff said.
10/23/2002 Arnold Katayev