Colin McRae Rally 3 review
During the years of the PlayStation (PSone) there were a great number of rally games, but one series stood out; the Colin McRae Rally series from Codemasters. Colin McRae Rally and Colin McRae Rally 2.0 led the genre, and their only real competition came from the V-Rally series. Colin McRae Rally 3 has already made appearances on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox at the end of last year and you can check out my PS2 review here. The series has always seemed to have taken its time in coming to the PC, but it has so far seemed worth while with two previous titles being of a very high quality, but both have faced strong competition from (a now ageing) Rally Championship.
In CMR3 there is quite a step up from the previous instalment. The most obvious department of improvement is in the field of graphics; CMR3 is fully curved and smoothed through anti-analysing, and the PC version makes very impressive improvements over its console counterparts. The mud and the ice splattering are now standard effects among rally games, but CMR3 just goes one better. Not only do those effects look more real than any offering, but the rainstorms that arrive blur your screen, and you can see the drops pelt your windscreen in first-person view. The weather is truly something in CMR3. Not only that, but the cars themselves now boast thousands more polygons than the previous game (although actually no more than the other versions), so the finest details cars just became ever more accurate and clearer. It is amazing the amount of detail the artists at Codemasters have gone into for CMR3 - especially for this improved edition. Every shape, every logo, every word, in clear-to-read form, and as genuine as the real thing. The soundings too, are of a very high-standard and the trees are clearly more impressive when comparing to the PS2, although the crowd do still seem a little on the flat side. The draw-distance is also something you need worry little about, and with a decent graphics card the frame rate pulls along at a hefty rate. The rally games should always have the visual advantage over other racers, because there's usually only one car on screen at a time, and here it is clear that Codemasters have used this feature to the best that they could have.
One thing that has always pleased me about this series is the handling. It always seems to be one of the Codies' last things they do during production, with pre-finished copies often containing worrying handling. My play of the PS2 version at ECTS back in August 2002 worried me slightly, but was finely tuned for the final. The PC preview was much better than the early PS2 version, but was not quite perfect, due to changes in controllers. However, it has been perfected, and the game does not let us down. This is a fundamental factor, and so when CMR3 does it right, you know you've got a good game on your hands. Aside from being good to control, the game is enjoyable. Sliding around the courses, cranking off those seconds is a real test of skill, although non-rally fans may still miss the lack of other cars to race against. However, there are some special stages to enjoy; some one-on-ones with another car around a special course that finally sees some action for the AI, who is usually off producing times for you to beat in the normal rallies. The experience is as real as the World Rally Championship, as you take Colin and the Ford Rallye team through a WRC-style Season, travelling around the world and taking on many unlicensed, and this imaginary, courses.
I've already mentioned about the special stages and the championship season, but CMR3 also boasts the standard time trial and single rally modes, as well as the racing tradition, multiplayer. Unusually for a PC game you get to enjoy a split-screen mode, which takes place on one of the aforementioned super special stages, and with enough game pads you can enjoy up to four players. One of the strangest parts about multiplayer is the lack of inter-computer player, either over the LAN or the internet. What makes this even more puzzling is the fact that the previous game, CMR2.0, actually included these features, and it seems very strange for Codemasters to remove this popular mode.
Sound-wise CMR3 does not let-down. The roars and the crashes are audio-perfect, and the menu music is also worthy of inclusion. The voice-overs from co-driver Nicky Grist are also impressive and guide you through the action perfectly. All are delivered on the PC in an even better quality thanks to technologies like EAX2. Another job well done by the guys at Codemasters.