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. Though 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 was equally good, as well. Well, let's snap out of the past, a 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. But later in the year, PS2 owners will be treated to some of the finest rally titles ever, and we have a copy of one of them, V-Rally 3.
When the announcement of V-Rally 3's polygon specifications were 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 game runs at a very smooth 60 frames per second, and I haven't experienced any noticeable frame rate hiccups. 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, but 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 run over a sudden dip in elevation and the back of your vehicle gets slammed, the 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".
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 precise. The gameplay can be described in few words, and they include: "fun", "exhilarating", "addictive", and "awesome". V-Rally 3 is almost like a dream, much like WRC was. 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. 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. V-Rally 3 has a ton of awesome features, like a fully controllable replay mode (something many racers don't have on the PS2). A gallery option 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. Have the ability to customize your vehicle anyway you wish. Go through an intriguing and lengthy career mode. Choose from 16 rally vehicles, of class 1.6 and 2.0, plus additional cars that have to be unlocked. Travel through countries like Germany, Finland, England, Sweden, among two other countries. Each country features 4 venues, so the game has a total of 24 disclosed tracks, as there is a possibility for secret tracks that require to be unlocked.
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 your not an over-analytical anal bastard, of course. Codemasters' Colin McRae Rally 3.0 has some stiff competition in store, but when it comes down to it, V-Rally can definitely hold its own. It's an excellent racing game, and is poised to be a must-have for 2002. Enjoy the screenshots, and stay tuned for more.
7/17/2002 Arnold Katayev