Driving Mr. McRae

Holy cats, why didn’t anyone tell me rally racing could be this good? After totally digging Rallisport Challenge 2 for so long, I finally tried the latest Colin McRae. I’ve been having a great time working through the career and the championship mode, but it’s also wonderful as a multiplayer game.

It’s really good looking, with a strong sense of courses just laid out in the Real World, marked off by tape and plastic, with smatterings of people standing around to watch. You’re threading between some farm’s fields, then cutting through the woods, only to run along a stretch of road and through a little town before ducking back into the woods past someone’s pond right before the finish. Good RPG elements letting you run tests and mini-races to improve attributes for particular cars. I’m even using the car setups more than I normally do in a CarPG, doing stuff like checking for how much aspault there is before stiffening the springs.

Pace notes used to sound slightly nonsensical to me. One of the guys at Shoot Club watching us play said it sounded like someone in the passenger seat reading Joyce. “Left four tightens into three careful don’t cut long six yes I said yes yes yes.” But I’m finally finding them useful and, in Colin McRae, even charmingly contextual. “Left 2 at house”. “Right 6, don’t cut, big rock inside”. “Right three, watch for logs”. Is that Mr. McRae himself talking?

And the feel of it is just awesome. Not since --dare I say? – Grand Prix Legends have I really felt this connected to the way a car handles. I’ve been playing with a manual transmission and I really like how you work your way around based on the interplay of gears, breaks, and whatever grip you’ve got going on whatever surface you’re on. These are cars with weight and heft. You can feel how they sling themselves around a corner. You know when you’re going to skid into that tree before it happens.

For comparison’s sake, we went back and did a few races in Rallisport 2 afterwards and it was like playing Ridge Racer the way the cars seemed to slip into a canned drift state. Which I didn’used to mind. Until I played Colin McRae.

Anyway, awesome driving game and – like Eve of Destruction – another example of how physics can really set a driving game apart without necessarily bogging it down.

-Tom

And the feel of it is just awesome. Not since --dare I say? – Grand Prix Legends have I really felt this connected to the way a car handles.

Tom, you should give Richard Burns Rally a try then if you haven’t done that yet. That one actually happens to be the Grand Prix Legends among the rally titles.

-Julian

Do you read CGM? Some guy named David J. Long reviewed CMR2005 in that mag and he really liked it a lot.

;)

It’s really not a sim though. At least nowhere near the Grand Prix Legends way a game is a sim.

The co-driver is McRae’s old co-driver and one of the commentators on SpeedTV’s WRC coverage, Nicky Grist. He’s always been considered one of the best in the world.

–Dave

Dave, why do you say Colin McRae isn’t really a sim? I can understand saying that about Rallisport, but you don’t think Colin McRae is a sim?

As for Richard Burns Rally, JD, I don’t see it available at EB World or Amazon.com. Is it some sort of funky English only thing?

-Tom

Seconded - nothing comes close. The only shame of RBR is that it didn’t get a North American release. It’s not for everyone though, it’s H-A-R-D hard, and the lack of OOTB multiplayer is also a downer, but there’s a decent enough third party add-on that at least allows you to compare times with your mates.

ewww Dick Burns. If you’re going to get that make sure you have a wheel of some kind

Car setup is limited in CMR2005. The cars also perform in a more arcade-level of handling compared to something like Grand Prix Legends. It’s still a lot of “canned” physics unlike the true physics of GPL and the latter day Papyrus NASCAR games that used the same engine.

Because of the lack of US release, I still haven’t played Richard Burns Rally. But as these fellows keep saying, that game is definitely more simulation than arcade game. CMR2005 is closer to a sim than Ralllisport Challenge 2, yes. But it’s really not a simulation of real rally racing with all the car setup and detailed physics model that entails.

See, the thing about GPL and apparently RBR is that hardcore sims are, well, hard to become adept at because not just anyone can fly through the forest on a road as thick as the car at 120 mph. One tiny mistake in a rally can end it like that snaps fingers. You hit a rock, stick a wheel off and BAM suspension is junk. It’s also SCARY when you see in car footage of how fast these guys drive and CMR2005 didn’t give me that sensation like I wanted it to.

All that said, it’s still a lot of fun and a very nice game. I enjoyed it a lot and especially liked the Internet multiplayer. But I had no delusion that it was a simulation when I got done with it.

–Dave

ewww Dick Burns.

Says a guy named nutsak. :)

Dave, I guess there are so many arcade racers out there that anything that’s leaning towards non-canned interaction as much as Colin McRae feels really different to me. But, yeah, point taken: Colin McRae is pretty forgiving when it comes to slamming into trees and running over rough terrain. But to its credit, it’s punishing enough to keep me involved. Which is a lot more than I can say for certain other driving games with their rubberbanding AI, featherweight indestructable cars, and ‘Press Square to drift’ physics.

Man, now you guys have me wondering where I can import an SCi game…

-Tom

Tom, you should watch WRC highlights this weekend. It’s on Speed channel at 8pm PST sunday night. This week they’re in New Zealand, which has stages similar to Australia’s in terms of the surface types (mostly pea gravel).

It’s too bad that WRC won’t ever catch on in the US because of all the funny names and accents, because it’d be nice to get more than 10 minutes of video per stage.

Anyway, watching once or twice will probably help raise your skill, as Nicky generally has little mini-lessons about why drivers do things a certain way, or what sort of tyres you might pick for a particular stage/weather combination. Plus it’s cool to see the cars rocketing at 120kph down dirt roads through a forest :)

Rats, I don’t have TV, but I’d totally like to watch this. I don’t know the first thing about sports, but through gaming, I’m perfectly capable of watching, half-understanding, and enjoying golf broadcasts. I imagine the same would be true of the WRC in New Zealand. Maybe there’s a bitorrent somewhere.

-Tom

A local company is sourcing RBR from Asia (for well below normal retail) - I’m just checking to see if there are any in stock, I’d be happy to send a couple over.

I’ll tell you what game did a good job of giving me the OMG I’M GOING A MILLION MILES AN HOUR THROUGH A FOREST! feeling and that’s Rally Trophy from Bugbear Entertainment and published by JoWood. You might find it for like $5 at EB since it did come out in the US. It’s mostly historic Rally cars rather than modern day. It’s a pretty game graphically and holds up well thanks to Bugbear being stocked with demo-scene coders.

It also has lots of individual tree trunks that freaking smash the hell out of the car’s appearance if you hit them and degrade performance enough that you really don’t want to.

Hardly anyone played it but I was lucky enough to review it for CGM a couple years ago. Bugbear went on to do FlatOut which I guess didn’t turn out as well as Rally Trophy as racing games go.

It’s too bad that WRC won’t ever catch on in the US because of all the funny names and accents, because it’d be nice to get more than 10 minutes of video per stage.

Actually, Speed’s coverage of the WRC has really helped elevate the sport in the US. There’s a lot of talk about a North American event now and I’d say it’s probably going to happen within a few years. Also, games like Gran Turismo being so popular and including rallying have really turned a lot of folks onto rallying. Video games in general have brought sports like this up from obscurity. Motorcycle racing has benefitted also from all the MotoGP games in the last few years. That’s kind of nice since some of the world’s best riders (and World Champion riders too) are from the US.

–Dave

RBR does this in spades. It’s downright terrifying at times. The physics are sensational in how they communicate and once you give it a little time it really feels hooked up right.

Still I’d avoid the console versions - the pc version with a wheel is simply the finest rally sim ever. Still it’s not for the 10 minute hoon crowd and does reward a little time investment and proper technique (which it teaches you along the way).

Here’s a little clip I made a while back from one of the fastest tarmac sections (no pace notes in the replay - and I’ve hidden the cockpit so you can get the best speed effect):

http://www.kiwisim.net.nz/tmp/RBRSpeed.wmv (12.7MB WMV)

Man, now you guys have me wondering where I can import an SCi game…

There’s a demo available which you could check out first. Also, GoGamer seems to have the game. PC version, of course, but you wouldn’t have much fun with the console versions anyway due to the PAL/NTSC thing.

-Julian

Holy crap! That clip is awesome. You’re right that it has that feeling of OMG I’M GOING OFF A CLIFF! at times. Near the end there when you braked just enough to avoid doing just that (which I’ll bet is why you spun and hit the rail soon after… :) ) was a great moment and kind of says it all about how a proper sim feels different from a racing game like CMR 2005.

I’ll have to try the demo and I’ll probably end up importing when I get enough dough.

–Dave

Holy shit. You rule. :shock:

Wow, driving game graphics are THIS good these days? I should crawl out of my hole…

Naturally the graphics are a great deal clearer than these clips that have been pretty heavily compressed.

Glad you liked it! That’s one of the fastest sections in RBR - although there are others on gravel that are similarly scary. Every time you come over the top to that steep dropoff it’s a bit hairy that’s for sure. The spin was because I got a little out of shape and tried braking on the wrong bit of the road i.e. dropped a wheel onto the grassy bit with no grip(!) and that was that!

If you listen to the clip you can hear clearly that I was nowhere near full throttle and in fact downright tentative in places. It’s just that challenging. You can also see how you need to use the camber of the road to make the turns, and also there’s a lot of skipping of the tyres on the road surface when cornering.

I get a massive thrill every time I run that stage. Definitely one of my favourites.

Here’s another clip - with a little external action featuring the Pug 206. I’ve tried to capture some of the speed, edge of the seat racing and dynamics of the road:

http://www.kiwisim.net.nz/tmp/rbr1_0002.wmv (20MB WMV)

As for RBR - take it slow. If you jump in expecting CMS3 handling you’ll crash and burn. So much that you’ll get totally frustrated and bin it. Take your time working up to speed. The brakes and tyres start cold as well. A little patience will be well rewarded.

Then once you drive RBR you’ll know straight away that this ain’t no pivot-physics model cunningly disguised. Add on top a solid damage modelling system and you’ve got a great sim. Try running that tarmac stage with your radiator trashed and the temperatures threatening to end your rally any moment. Kinda stressful - in a good way - but it’s that kind of involvement that makes for a great sim.

Now if only I had a clip of the Australian mineshaft “jump” handy…! It’s not really a jump - rather the entire world drops out from under you. It can be a little rough on the landings lol. Those who’ve played it will know what I’m talking about.

Damn, Agent, now I really want this game. Having never seen the real thing, I had no idea rally racing could be so hair-raising. I just sort of figured it was like trying to drive quickly but safely through backroad courses. Looking at your runs makes me think the “safely” part of the equation is ancillary!

-Tom