WHAT'S YOUR STYLE?
The new genres bring their own unique features into the fold and despite a definite similarity running through them, the resulting selection of races help to make the game feel huge and varied. The different driving styles are a breath of fresh air and unlike the unwieldy number in TOCA3, the smaller variety feel more enjoyable, better implemented and more essential to the game. Plus, there's no monster truck racing. Thank god.
But don't think that if you didn't get on with the arcadey handling of previous Colin titles you'll be any more accommodated here. Each race provides a distinct lack of grip on the road, from the muddy circuits of CORR to the dusty winding trails of the Hill Climb. Luckily, the handling varies significantly between cars too. Jump from a 4WD rally car to a RWD and you'll instantly notice the difference, with the back-end kicking out under power and offering plenty of butt-clenching moments as you narrowly avoid (or don't) large immovable objects on the roadside. If I had to criticise, I'd point out that it's quite tricky to keep a sideways slide going, but with the vehicles successfully going round corners anyway, it's hardly a problem.
If, like me, cars are your thing, then there's a good selection of machinery to get excited about. Hillbillies are catered for by the Hill Climb big rigs; basically, the working end of an articulated lorry, complete with oversized spoiler big enough to have a picnic on. Old-schoolers will surely appreciate the legendary fire-spitting Audi Sport Quattro S1 and the classic Renault 5 Maxi and Lancia Stratos HF.
Plus, there's a host of modern machinery to get excited about too, such as the modified Lotus Exige and the Mitsubishi Evo IX. Or, if everything I've just said means absolutely nothing to you, that's a lot of cars that go fast. The only vehicles I didn't enjoy as much were the CORR buggies, although that was more down to their fragile nature and consequent pile-ups than the handling.
Rest assured though, whatever car you choose, the gorgeous new Neon graphics engine makes everything look amazing. Instead of re-using old assets, Codies have started again. The result is a stunning engine, which despite a bit of over-reliance on bloom effects, produces some spectacular screenshots. It's almost a shame that thanks to the speed of the game, it's only when everything's paused or on replay that you even have time to notice just how good it looks. Each vehicle's modelled with painstaking attention to detail, from bolts on spoilers to interiors.
The tracks look fantastic too, with their amazing draw distances allowing you to see into the distance. Sunlight filters through the tree-lined tracks, with the resulting shadows being reflected beautifully on your car. Trees, bushes and vegetation are all modelled and smoke, dust and spray are all thrown in too, with the mud that builds up on your car during a stage being a particularly nice touch.
Let's face facts though. This is a rallying game and you're unlikely to make it through an entire stage without suffering at least a few dents. Still, at least you get to see the excellent damage engine in full effect. Panels get scraped, bumpers crumple and fly off, windows smash and everything has a technical effect on the way your car drives too (á la TOCA3), meaning as always, danger lurks in the form of trees, road-signs and other immovable objects.
If you do stray off the beaten path, small trees and bushes will bend and slow you down before snapping, while bigger trees and solid objects like walls should be avoided if you fancy continuing. More than once, I was about to cross the finish line first, only to crash into the surrounding wall and irreparably write my car off, to an accompaniment of swearing. The game's accompanying sound effects are worth a mention too, with some excellent wastegate chatter (the part that sounds
a bit like a canary every time you let off the throttle), turbo and engine noises filling your ears.