Aiming to be a bit different from the majority of rally racing games, Rally Trophy by Finland designer Bugbear Entertainment takes you back to the nostalgic days of classic rally cars in the 1960s and 1970s. The 42 European-based tracks place driver skills above technology and telemetry setups as you ease behind the wheel of the Mini Cooper S, Ford Lotus Cortina Mk 1, Opel Kadett Rallye, Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, Saab 96 V4, Volvo 122 Amazon, Lancia Fulvia 1.6 Coupé HF, Fiat 600 Abarth, Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1, Renault Alpine A110 1600, and Lancia Stratos.
Master front- and rear-wheel driving, left-foot braking, the Scandinavian Flick (4-wheel slide), power slides, handbrake turns and more using manual or automatic shifting in arcade, rally, single race, time trial, or championship modes. Race across Russia, Kenya, or Finland competing against 19 other drivers as you try and finish in the top six slots to unlock venues in Sweden and Switzerland. Go head-to-head with other gamers over the Internet via GameSpy or hook up through a LAN connection.
Game features include three skill levels (novice, intermediate, expert), car tuning options (tires, gearbox ratios, suspension, brake balance and steering), and a host of adjustable gameplay options such as metric (kilometers) or Imperial (mph), ghost cars, graphics, wildlife, sounds, and music. Rally Trophy supports nearly every type of controller from a driving wheel to force feedback joysticks. Realistic damage, an in-car co-driver, and on-screen displays tailored to rally and arcade modes round out the package.
Hey, do you want to hear something really funny? Then pick yourself up a copy of Rally Trophy, turn your PC speakers up and listen to the instructions your 'co-driver' screams at you while you belt through the bush in a fast little Mini. Instead of the traditional "Right, 5, over crest" you hear from rally professionals like Nicky Grist, who sits alongside Colin McRae while racing, you'll here this nut screaming at you to "This time use your eyes, they'll help, trust me!" and "Stop using my car to mow the lawn!" This guy sounds more like a cranky father teaching a 16-year-old learner driver than a rally co-driver! So it becomes obvious early on that this is not just another World Rally Championship game, Rally Trophy is just a little bit different, but that's good.
You'll be driving around on a variety of gorgeous rally routes in the rally cars of yesteryear. So instead of state of the art WRXs, Mitsu Evos and Ford Focuses, you'll be strapped into the Mini Cooper S, Ford Lotus Cortina and Fiat Abarth. Those cars may not be household names in 2002, but back in the golden age of rallying in the 60's and 70's, they were high-tech and exciting to drive, or so our granddad tells us. You even get to drive the Ford Escort and Lancia Stratos, which were two of the greatest dirt bangers of all time and dominated rallying in the 70's.
Fans of virtual racing will immediately make a connection between Rally Trophy and Grand Prix Legends because both take a lot of time to master. In Grand Prix Legends, the difficulty in mastering the game stems from the the fact that it is hard to control the old GP machines, but in Rally Trophy, the steep learning curve exists because your computer competitors keep setting blistering times. So if you're after a game that you can conquer in an afternoon, look elsewhere.
There are 42 rally stages to complete and unless you're a total champion, you'll need several attempts before you rack up a decent result. But where repeating stages in some driving games becomes tedious (I'm thinking Gran Turismo license here), you won't mind honing your skills while learning the ropes in Rally Trophy. For a start you've got that mad co-driver and also some excellent cars to drive.
The default car is the Mini Cooper S and it's a great way to learn the twists of each route. It's quite forgiving and being front wheel drive you don't tend to get the really long and out of control slides that cars like the Cortina generate. If you play for long enough and are fortunate enough to unlock cars like the Stratos, you'll find them blindingly quick but very fiddly to drive.
However, the car handling is well balanced between being realistic and challenging, as well as actually being fun and rewarding to drive. One area of car handling that has been superbly modeled is the sliding. Players can induce a slide, even at great speed, and still feel like they've got the situation totally under control. Unlike in some rally games where players feel they need to tip-toe because driving close to the limit results in crashes every third corner, once you've got some skill up in Rally Trophy you gain a real sense of confidence. In other words, you don't have time to pussyfoot around because the opposition is just too good.
It's worth noting too that while a good steering wheel is the luxurious way to attack Rally Trophy, the keyboard controls are surprisingly useful as you can actually do quite well using the good old arrow keys.
One thing Rally Trophy delivers by the trunk load is variety. The tracks are really varied from dusty trails to chilly ice lined tracks. Throw some rain and night stages into the mix and you've got a wide range of conditions to master. As you'd expect, the cars behave differently depending on the weather conditions and your top speed is reduced at night because the visibility is reduced.
Another factor in Rally Trophy is the condition of your car as you bounce off various objects. The car's body, brakes, steering and other components can all be battered, so you have to tread carefully, especially when you're racing in areas with little run off area. When there is ample room on either side of the road, you have the luxury of being able to push a little bit harder because if you make a mistake and run wide off a turn there is usually enough space to get the car back in shape and race on with little consequence. This is a great feature of Rally Trophy because, just like in real rallying, you can make this mistake without it totally ruining your day.
Assuming you've got a half decent PC, you'll be pleased with the graphics and frame rate in Rally Trophy. The cars look just like the dinosaurs of the 60s and 70s and, for the most part, the courses and scenery look superb (that is if you don't count the laughable animals that run across the road, the paper cutout spectators and the occasional dodgy 2D tree).
Speaking of trees, if you do manage to 'go bush' and crash into the woods, you'll be frustrated by how long it takes for the game to pick you up and put you back on the road. So you'll spend a few seconds revving the camshafts off your engine trying to get going before that bloke yells at you, and the rally resumes. The same goes for rollovers, which happen far too frequently. I've done some pretty stupid things in cars over the years and as a general rule they don't flip over all that often! Hitting a small rock just shouldn't be that disastrous.
The sounds are excellent, too and the engine noises have been taken directly from the actual rally cars they are based on. The guys at Bugbear who crafted the special effects in Rally Trophy have excelled, too, with terrific dust and sun effects that blind you from time to time. You also get very neat real time reflections in the windows and a host of camera angles to view the action from. The in-car view is excellent in Rally Trophy, too. Where in some racing games you fare better by viewing the car from behind to show as much upcoming terrain as possible, the physics model in Rally Trophy is so good that you'll go just as well when using the in-car view.
The menus and options in Rally Trophy don't stack up that well compared to McRae's games and similar others, with less customizing options to choose from. But some virtual racing fans, who get sick of fighting through dozens of options and endless menu screens just to get a race, may actually welcome this. There are single race, full championship and multiplayer modes to choose from, as well as an arcade option that isn't that special. In arcade mode, you race head to head with other rally aces, but the frame rate is dodgy and most players won't choose arcade over the proper rally stages. The handling is also atrocious and if you played this mode to get a feel for the potential of the game and didn't check out the other modes, you'd be pretty unimpressed.
So is Rally Trophy the equivalent of Grand Prix Legends? Probably not, but it is a superb game that offers an unusual alternative to the more technology packed offerings like McRae and Pro Rally. The faults are few and the game is so challenging that you're unlikely to finish it and discard it in a short time. Rally Trophy is a niche game that won't suit everyone's tastes, but neither was Grand Prix Legends and I hear that game did fairly well!
People who downloaded Rally Trophy have also downloaded:
Rally Championship 2000, Rallisport Challenge, Richard Burns Rally, Red Baron 3D, Sega GT, Sega Rally 2 Championship, RC Cars (a.k.a. Smash Cars), Grand Prix 4
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