I’ve been hooked on Mario Kart Wii since it was released, but there’s been a disconnect for me. Like “Grand Theft Auto”, it doesn’t carry over the level of realism that I experience when I’m out driving a real car – whether it be to run errands, or to race in the Indy 500. Think about it – do you really go and drive around, throwing banana peels at other people? We use these games for escapism, which is great, but it’s nice to have a level of realism to them. Despite all of its fun, that’s what Mario Kart lacks. I remember playing Microsoft’s “Monster Truck Madness” 10 years ago… it was a good step in that direction, but was limited by the graphics technology of the time. Furthermore, I tried it with the Force Feedback wheel that Microsoft was selling at the time, and the experience was just. not. good.
So the new magic line that these kinds of games need to cross in the “realism” category is something that’s fast and responsive (like a real car), and has a photorealistic experience.
Colin McRae Rally Mac (from Feral Interactive) has addressed these concerns. Some of the other racing games I’ve played (even the Gran Tourismo or Need for Speed-type titles) still seem to pull the common cartoon physics; or they try but they aren’t close enough, so it ends up being more frustrating than fun.
It’s been a while since my last “real” (Nascar or stock car) racing game, so I was interested to see how this game played.
Getting Started (Practice Mode)
It has a good library of real-world cars and tracks – some cars I recognize from here in the U.S. (especially the Ford models), and some real tracks from all over the planet. There are enough to choose from, and like any racing title, they each have their ups and downs in different areas (speed, weight, power, etc.).
I wasn’t sure what I was doing, so I figured the practice mode was a good place to start – I tried out a few maps, and got an understanding for what the game really does. An immediately obvious thing: your “copilot” (as I call him) will bark instructions at you regarding what lies ahead, using lingo from the real world racing, I assume. The vocal calls do seem to be a bit hard to decipher, requiring me to look through the manual to figure them out. If you can’t hear or understand the audio, simple icons appear in the top center of the screen, color-coded, I assume, based on the difficulty of the turn you’re about to execute. It seemed to me that the calls were a bit early at times, since I was still in the middle of the previous one. A few points in some of my early races, I was being told to turn when I didn’t see an obvious road. That’s the thing about these levels – some of them take place on open farmland, with dirt roads, leading me to be confused. So the directions end up being more helpful than you’ll think at first.
The remarkable graphics of the game come in to play with those dirt roads. The trees, rocks, and fences you pass by are really well detailed, and the dust kicks up in clouds. Winter and rain driving reveals impressive weather effects (you can customize the weather when you play, and choose to play in rain or snow). If you can’t keep your car on the road for whatever reason, be careful about colliding with anything, as I discovered that damage does affect the performance of your car (like a real car would), and it accumulates when you’re playing in a campaign mode (you have to pay to have that damage repaired). The damage on the car visually matches the damage icon in the lower left, though I noticed in one case that my completely trashed Ford Focus, with chassis exposed, still had pristine-looking headlights and tail lights. Not a huge glitch, as the rest of the car and game have been fairly flawless.
Performance and System Requirements
My PowerMac G5 (Dual Proc, 1.8 GHz, 128 VRAM) looked fairly good on the minimum settings (it gave me “unsupported” warnings, but still worked), though later trying it on a MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.1 GHz with 128 MB of VRAM was even more impressive. Sadly, the game won’t even run on machines with the Intel GMA integrated graphics chips. That leaves out the low-end Macs, like the MacBook and Mac mini. Whatever machine you use, you’ll want to allocate 4 GB in your Applications folder for the game’s files.
How to Play (Keyboard or Gamepad)
As for playing the game, I jumped right in with my keyboard: up arrow is the gas, and the other arrow keys are obvious. I wish I had a wheel or gamepad to test on Rally, as the manual says that these input devices should work. I discovered that the “1” key switches the camera view, so you can get a wider or narrower view, from inside or outside the car, like most other racing games. The audio of the game noticeably changes, giving a bit more “3D” perspective if the camera is positioned inside the car. None of this is incredibly obvious, as the audio is minimal in Rally, used only when needed rather than for useless explosions and noise.
I like this game, overall, because where other games push for having one hand hanging out the window with a gun and explosions at every angle (or throwing banana peels) but the fourth grenade to hit you still doesn’t destroy your car, we can just get a good, clean race – one that really is fun. When you’re seething with rage about the blue shell, it’s nice to have this game – you’re the only one on the road, and the damage is real, from real obstacles, with the same kinds of challenges and outcomes they face in real life. You can score it right now from Amazon.com for only $39.