Warthog clearly knows something we don't. While the past 12 months have seen countless rally titles of varying quality, with no sign in a decrease in the genre's popularity, the Swedish developer remains convinced that its title is going to leave every other rally game released this year floundering like a Citroen 2CV competing against a Sherman Tank. Or, you know, some more appropriate simile.
Unless you're a dedicated rally obsessive, you may not be familiar with the work of Richard Burns. But while gadabouts like Colin McRae and, er, the other famous rally drivers whose names currently escape us for the time being gain all the plaudits and kudos, Burns has been winning actual world championships. Sadly, Richard was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour; naturally we wish him a speedy recovery.
So. How is Burns Rally different from previous titles? Well, SCi reckons that unlike RB's outing, the Colin McRae series doesn't offer much in the way of progression. Blimey, talk about slapping down the gauntlet.
Thing is, though Burns Rally is only a few months from release, the PS2 version we've been shown is far from complete, with bugs aplenty and placeholder graphics all over the shop; although we're assured that we will be shown a much more complete version soon.
Still, the playable levels that we're shown here on the PS2 version are undoubtedly impressive; Burns Rally is far more concerned with dips and ditches, undulating terrain and uneven surfaces than previous rally titles. The tracks are also notably narrower than the courses you'll have experienced in other rally games - which is all in keeping with Warthog Sweden's commitment to realism, according to SCi.
In terms of physics, car handling, and attention to detail, several have compared the title to Gran Turismo, while throughout the game's development Burns himself has been taking an active interest in the title, playing the game and offering feedback.
The importance of getting over a real sense of speed and claustrophobia is not lost on Warthog either. In some of the levels your narrow lane is encroached on all sides by trees. As you hammer your vehicle across the treacherous bumps and potholes at a frankly reckless pace, this is a genuinely thrilling experience; it's a bloody difficult one as well.
Which may well be the sticking point. SCi has emphasised time and again Warthog's commitment towards offering the most realistic rallying experience ever; but too much realism isn't always a good thing, as anyone who has watched The Chris Eubank TV show will surely attest.
The driving model here emulates every conceivable element of an actual rally car: wheels, tyre pressure, suspension geometry, McPherson struts; things you won't know about unless you're hardcore, and all of which apparently work (and break) just like the real thing.
Each wheel, for instance, has its own momentum, meaning each wheel has potential for slippage, and the car itself moves in a realistic manner. The road surface is pockmarked with potholes and other hindrances. On one hand, that's quite some achievement. On the other, the less committed rally enthusiast who just fancies caning it round a mud-splattered track may be rather intimidated.
To the casual observer though, none of these refinements make a tu'penny haypenny's worth of difference. SCi may be firmly aiming its title at the serious simulation fan, but if you forget all that nonsense and just put your foot down, well then Burns Rally appears to be a thoroughly engaging - if demanding - title. Warthog is obviously looking for a way to differentiate this title from its rivals, but as a plain old mud-in-your-eye racing romp the early evidence suggests Burns has plenty of potential.
Of course, the code we played is nowhere near finished; we're assuming that the front end will be as similarly accomplished as the undoubtedly robust physics engine. For now, we're just suckers for those gorgeous environmental reflection effects that shimmer from your car's back window. Richard Burns Rally is set to launch in May on PC, PS2 and Xbox.