Colin McRae Rally 3 is the first of Codemasters' rally series to grace
the PlayStation 2 and possibly the best such title available for the system-boasting
21 playable cars, 8 unique locations, numerous unlockable parts, and 3 difficulties,
Colin McRae Rally 3 serves up the best rallying experience this side of
buying a Subaru and moving to Finland. But the game is not without its faults-a
lack of modes, bland textures, and various gameplay aberrations keep the game
from becoming the seminal rallying title for which PS2 fans have been waiting.
must admit, Colin McRae Rally 3 did not make a good initial impression
on me. Upon starting the game, I quickly realized there were but two modes available-Championship
and Stages. A racing game with only two modes? I felt like I had somehow entered
a time vortex and came out into 1995. Where was my stunt mode? My helpful tutorial?
Or my hill-climb mode? Geez, I'd even settle for a garage where I could view the
cars I unlocked in all their fully modeled glory. But, nope, Codemasters decided
that two modes were enough, and after I stopped complaining and finally played
the game, I hardly noticed.
mode pits the player as Colin "Crash" McRae alongside Welsh co-driver
Nicky Grist as they rally their way to the top of the World Rally Championships
across three seasons and 8 countries in their trusty Ford Focus RS WRC. Nevermind
the fact that McRae and Grist have since parted ways and are no longer employed
by Ford (not to mention McRae's lackluster season thusfar
) But let's get
something straight-this is the ONLY playable team in the ONLY playable car in
Championship mode. Any other cars in the game, either unlocked or not, must be
raced in the Stages mode.
In order to
win the season, points must be accumulated by finishing in the top 10 in each
individual rally, which is accomplished by completing each stage faster than the
other guys. In short, drive faster than everybody else does to win. Stages mode,
however, handles the Arcade half of the game. Any (unlocked) stage with any (unlocked)
car can be played here, either 1 player or 2 player (split screen sans Nicky Grist
audio or alternately with the Welsh cries).
this is a rally racing sim, there is no onscreen maps of the course, only the
Welshman Nicky Grist's calls of "two left into care six right." For
anyone who isn't familiar with rally speak, the manual provides a decoder to help
make some sense of the very necessary audio cues. To accompany the accented crooning,
small logos flash onscreen with an accompanying color code to help demonstrate
the type and severity of the upcoming corners. This system works very well, although
I found myself blasting the audio in order to make out what exactly Grist is mumbling
through his intercom.
The tracks themselves
are very reminiscent of their true-life counterparts. Trees, boulders, dips, and
jumps are all recreated with car-threatening accuracy. Driving on pavement is
quicker and more responsive when compared to the sloppy ice of Sweden. And, customizable
parts available during each day's shakedown help to further the realistic experience.
However, not everything is perfect. Signs and small bushes tend to have the same
stopping power (and damaging effect) as a 75-foot white pine. And while I'm sure
all things obstacle should be avoided when going for the win, it's frustrating
to have my car come to a complete stop when colliding head-on with a yield sign.
final note, is the method of unlocking cheats in the game. Each career spawns
its own four-digit code. Use this code to call in to Codemasters pay 900 phone
number, and they reward you with the cheats. Now granted the cheats are kind of
frivolous-play as a tank, dune buggy, unlock all courses, etc.-but still, paying
extra for cheats in a game that already has an anemic mode choice leaves me wondering
exactly what the hell Codemasters were thinking.
Colin McRae Rally 3 really shines when staring
longingly at the hundred thousand-dollar machines represented on-screen. Each
car is beautifully and accurately recreated to such detail that it awakens an
urge in me to crash them violently. And as I do so, I laugh maniacally, because
Codemasters has outdone themselves to brilliantly mimic the damage onscreen. Crash
head-on into a tree, and players will be rewarded with a lost bumper. Come down
off a jump too hard and say goodbye to the hood. Axles, wheels, windshields-nothing
is safe from the fearsome disaster engine (with the accompanying effects that
breaking such things would have on one's driving abilities). But don't get too
crash happy, because like real life, breaking things is bad, and without such
things as wheels, early retirement and subsequent race withdrawal is inevitable.
The tracks themselves look good-snow looks like snow, and dirt looks like
dirt, but none of them are gorgeous. The sun, as in real life, can be quite a
distraction and it's nice to see the lens flares and glare effects mimicked with
frustrating precision. There is a bit of "tree wall" to the sides of
the tracks, and stare too long at the distance, and a very small amount of pop-up
becomes evident, but not an amount of inhibiting gameplay. But given this is a
PS2 game, these things are forgivable.
Rally games often have a unique reliance on the game's audio and Colin
McRae Rally 3 is no exception. All cornering cues are received from the voiced
co-driver Nicky Grist. No matter if you are racing one of the unlockable cars
or McRae's own Focus, it's the same Welsh drawl. For the most part, his calls
are early and descriptive, although it may take a couple listens to fully understand
what exactly he's saying, but enough time and eventually every player will be
imitating Grist's Welsh accent. The descriptions are very rally-centric, so make
sure to brush up on the terms via the helpful manual. The final super special
stage of the season even offers a refreshing and unique take on the intercom system
that helps to add an extra bit of tension to an already tense race. Well done.
in the game is of the generic Euro-dance techno variety. I thank my lucky stars
I only have to listen to it at the menu and the skippable between-stage cinematics.
Sound effects are done very well. Mash the gas at the starting line and hear the
turbo kick in. Shift a bit too abruptly, and listen to the response as the exhaust
backfires. Flat tires sound appropriately flat and squealing tires sound appropriately
Thankfully, driving fast in Colin McRae 3 is very easy and very fun. The
control scheme defaults to the use of the PS2 controller's two analog sticks.
The left stick is used for all steering purposes while the right stick controls
the gas and brakes-up is gas, down is brakes. This allows the shoulder buttons
to be used for manual shifting and handbrakes-a must for the switchbacks and hairpin
curves that makes rally racing so darn fun to watch (and play). Hailing from the
"drive fast, hit tree" school of reckless driving, I often have a hard
time learning the physics of a new racing title. However with this control scheme,
I was able to pull off power-slides and maneuver through treacherous chicanes
within my first hour of play. But do not be misled-Colin McRae tends toward the
simulation spectrum of racing titles, shying away from the gas-mashing frenzy
of arcade action. The laws of physics do very much apply here, and players would
do well to remember their Gran Turismo license tests when gauging braking zones
and corner cuts. Overall, the control scheme works very well, if not a bit too
well in certain cornering circumstances. However, due to the nature of the gas/brake
stick, there is a lack of "right-foot braking" (or using the brake and
gas at the same time). And although the options allow a separate brake button,
it is not as forgiving due to the analog nature of using the sticks-a minor grievance.
considered, Colin McRae Rally 3 is an excellent rally title that succeeds
in providing a realistic rally race experience while retaining enough arcade attributes
to make the game enjoyable. The car damage models are some of the best I have
ever seen, and have caused me to throw races just for the pleasure of watching
my car spin, jump, and ultimately crash in a beautiful display of broken parts
and maimed windshields. However, the lack of modes and methods of obtaining cheat
codes is rather unforgivable, and these faults prevent the game from being great.
As it stands, however, it is arguably the best rally title currently available
for the PS2. If a lack of modes doesn't dissuade you, then you can't go wrong
with the ultimately fun rally action provided by Colin McRae Rally 3.