At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Matt Bailey Xbox Codemasters In-House 1-4 (Split screen), 2-16 (Xbox Live) Here
Requirements Also on... Buy from Amazon.co.uk
Xbox Live subscription for online play PS2, PC Click here to buy Colin McRae Rally 2005.

Colin McRae Rally 2005 review

So Codemasters finally revealed the truth. We suspected it last year with Colin McRae Rally 04, but now we know for sure. The series, like many other sports titles, is getting annual releases. Is this a bad thing? Yearly updates are generally known for focusing solely on improved graphics, and updated stats, and thus are often not be worth the money. However, there are exceptions to this; Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series has been updated yearly, and yet each new version is worthy of purchase. So far the Colin McRae Rally series has done the same, but is 2005 still worthy?

Well, Codemasters have certainly ensured that Colin McRae Rally 2005 is no simple stats update, with plenty of changes made to allow the series to remain as one of the best of the genre. Amongst the changes made is the new career mode. While Championship offers a more traditional run through countries and stages, playing as McRae in a WRC-style system, the game's new Career mode is a great idea by the team, and more akin to the approach of its recent TOCA Race Driver 2. Instead of heading to one country, carrying out a number of stages there, and totalling up your overall time, you take part in what are essentially mini-tournaments, which revolve around a style of car, like 2 wheel-drive (2WD). You take part in a number of stages which are set across many countries instead of one, and you compare timings on each stage to give you points which are totalled up at the end. Not only does this change the emphasis on every race, it also makes the game far more approachable by offering a range of cars and courses right from the start, and keeps providing this thrill throughout. No longer do you have to complete half the game just to see what rallying is like in Spain; instead you find yourself having to adapt from snow to sand to wet tarmac from moment to moment. This gives the game an extra thrill, and while die-hard fans may scoff at this (they do have the Championship mode, however), it certainly allows most people to get more out of the game than before.

Other modes also available are Challenges and Xbox Live. Challenges is where you can take part in Time Trials (on an individual stage or a whole rally), split-screen multiplayer, and System Link play. They all offer a bit of quick fun, and are joined by a separate Xbox Live mode, which offers the same functions but you can play people from around the world. Although the previous title featured Xbox Live-compatibility, it was only in the form of scoreboards and downloadable ghost cars (which are still present in the Time Trial section mentioned earlier). Now we get full online play, with voice-enabled lobby rooms, and exciting lag-free games. The online play may not be as comprehensive as Microsoft's own Rallisport Challenge 2 (which was also XSN Sports-compatible), but at least it's finally present.

So, aside from these significant changes on the modes front, Colin McRae Rally 2005 does also include the mandatory graphical update. While we've been previously impressed with the series, it certainly hasn't held the same graphical edge for Xbox users as the Rallisport Challenge series, and while the new edition still isn't quite there, there's still been significant improvements which deliver an all-round more realistic looking game. Other subtle touches, such as the slight blur around the edge of the screen when you make a heavy collision, certainly help to complete the game. However, there still remains an issue regarding interactivity; though no rally titles currently offer such features, it's still a pity that hitting an object only does damage to your car, and not to the object itself. It may seam reasonable when colliding with a cliff face, or a large tree - but even the flimsiest of gates react the same. Maybe this is just a limitation of this generation of consoles, so we're hoping that this issue - along with flat cardboard crowd - are fixed in a next-gen Colin McRae Rally title. However, the weather is still something the series can do especially well. From snow to rain to bright sunshine - the game always makes the conditions around you believable. Go for a drive in heavy rain in an enclosed forest-based track, like some in the UK, and you'll soon be not only amazed, but also confused; the game's unrelenting weather can be an amazing challenge to try and compete in.

But not only does the weather have an impact on what you see, but also on how you drive. The game's excellent handling is back in form, with a few minor tweaks which make it feel even sharper than before. Though there are many Xbox owners who are more accustomed to the more arcade-style handling of Rallisport Challenge 2, if you want the true gritty and more realistic style of play, then look no further than Colin McRae Rally 2005. It may take more getting used to, but it's ultimately more rewarding. As stated, the weather has a significant effect on handling, as do individual road surfaces; you can feel the difference between mud, gravel, snow and tarmac as you try and take a hairpin bend. This makes tyre choices quite essential, with heavy costs in damage and time if you go wrong.

Essential to avoid taking a left when you should have gone right is the co-driver. Colin's former partner, Nicky Grist - who also did the commentary for the first three games - is back in action, and certainly helps to give some familiarity. Though the instructions are very good, they can come a bit too quickly at times, leaving you with too much to remember in one go. Also, comments on performance are limited compared to the more human-like co-driver that's promised in SCEE and Evolution Studio's upcoming PS2-exclusive WRC: Rally Evolution, though as that title won't be heading Xbox-bound, it isn't a fair comparison. Ultimately the co-driver does a great job in the game, and without in-game music, is the main display of the game's impressive Dolby Digital support.

Ratings

Graphics Although clearly improved from the previous title, the Xbox version still lacks in comparison to Xbox-exclusive titles due to the game being primarily developed for the PlayStation 2. 8/10
Gameplay Still one of the best in the genre; the game may not be as approachable as the more-arcade Rallisport Challenge 2, but when mastered it is more enjoyable and more satisfying. 9/10
Value As well as career mode, there is Championship, Challenges and Xbox Live-powered online play which makes this a complete package. 9/10
Lifespan The new career mode opens up a huge amount of tournaments, with over 300 stages - this is a game that will last you for quite some time. 9/10
Audio Not much music, but the clear voice of co-driver Nicky Grist shows the good use of the game's Dolby Digital compatibility. 8/10
Overall The changes to Career mode will make it worth a purchase, even if you bought last year's edition. However, more needs to be done in next year's edition to keep the series not only one of the best in the genre, but also worth purchasing for long-term fans. For now, Colin McRae Rally 2005 is an essential purchase for rally fans. 9/10

Click here to buy Colin McRae Rally 2005 from Amazon.co.uk.

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