Rally racing isn't nearly as popular here in the United States as it is in Europe, but that might change if enough people give Rally Championship a try. It's one of those rare sims that makes you a fan of a sport you've never even thought about before - so good, in fact, that it might lead some folks to take it up in real life.
Rally Championship is based on the Network Q RAC Rally, the final event in the FIA World Rally Championships. The Network Q RAC Rally consists of 28 stages; in Rally Championship, you can choose to race on any single stage, tackle a group of stages based on difficulty, or strap yourself in for the entire 300-mile event. Victory in the championship depends not only on your driving skills, but also on how you manage repairs: You're only allotted 20 minutes after every three or four stages to fix whatever system or component has taken damage. You've got the option to set up your car's suspension, brakes, steering, gear ratios, and tire type - and adjusting them really does make a difference in how the cars handle.
What makes Rally Championship so appealing is its basics: the cars and the courses. Unlike Formula 1 or IndyCar racing, the cars in Rally Championship are a lot like ones you might drive to work. They're souped-up considerably, of course, but each of the six cars in here has a production-model cousin (although we Americans probably aren't too familiar with the Skoda Felicia or Proton Wira). If you think driving an IndyCar at 200 mph is fun, just wait until you try handling a Ford Escort screaming down a graveled road at 150-plus mph!
Then there are the courses, or stages. Forget the smooth pavement of a NASCAR oval or the pristine city streets of a Formula 1 track; compared to the 28 stages in the RAC Rally, those are for grandmas only. Some of these stages have so many twists and turns they resemble the small intestine - and judging from the mud, gravel, snow, and water crossings you'll face, it's apparently not a very healthy small intestine, either.
Car and scenery graphics are excellent, but all the road surfaces are strangely pixelated, even on the highest detail settings. Fortunately, the sensation of speed more than compensates for that shortcoming - you'll notice that a paved road looks like cobblestones, for instance, but you won't really care. Control is excellent even via the keyboard, and the computer opponents are hardly pushovers: They'll do almost anything to keep you from passing, even if it means a few bumps in a turn or a tap on the bumper.
With so many stages and so many ways to play, Rally Championship easily outdistances Sega Rally Championship, the last entry in the rally sweepstakes - but falls a bit short of claiming the PC racing crown. There's no denying that Rally Championship serves up a ton of very addictive racing action, but it compromises a tad too much in the realism department.
Take car damage, for instance: You might see a message that says your engine or exhaust system has been damaged, but no matter how many times you kiss trees or slam opponents, your car always comes out looking showroom fresh, save for a few mud splatters. As in and , the courses are bounded by invisible force fields - lucky for the spectators who would be crushed to death if those weren't there, but a disappointment for those of us who would like to see a race-ending crash into a tree or wall.
Whether you're looking for unadulterated arcade action or a serious simulation, Rally Championship delivers the goods. Give it smoother road graphics, visual car damage, and enhanced multiplayer support, and Rally Championship will be set to challenge the very best the PC racing world has to offer.
Rallye Racing 97 is a racing game which obtained the original licenses from the car manufacturers, allowing the player to drive the following cars:
Subaru Impreza Turbo, Group A, Class 8
Ford Escort RS Cosworth, Group A, Class 8
Renault Maxi Mégane, Group A, Class 7
Skoda Felicia, Group A, Class 6
Volkswagen Golf MK3 GTI, Group A, Class 7
Proton Wira, Group N, Class 4
The tracks of the basic version are all located in the United Kingdom, with the longest track taking about 25 minutes to complete! Music consists of techno tracks and is stored on the disc as high quality CD-Audio.
People who downloaded Rally Championship have also downloaded:
Rally Championship 2000, International Rally Championship, Road Rash, Rally Challenge, Sega Rally Championship, Screamer Rally, Need for Speed, The: Special Edition, Colin McRae Rally
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