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Colin McRae Rally 2.0

Preview - a fan of Rally motorsport? This is what you've been waiting for

Off-road

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The other useful aspect of having him onboard for such a project is the experience he can lend to the production team. It's all very well programming what you think it would be like to powerslide round a corner at 70mph, but to have someone of Colin's stature in the motorsport sit down and confirm that it feels right is something very different. And it's for this reason that the original Colin McRae Rally and this sequel are about as close an approximation of the real thing as you are likely to get hold of without putting your own life on the line. CMR 2.0 features eight real life rally venues including Finland, France and even snowy Sweden, which can all be taken on sequentially in the Championship mode. Complementing this is a completely separate arcade section, featuring six cars on a collection of unique circuits. The race's weather conditions will play a large part in how it unfolds, and there is an impressive frontend system in place to keep you up to date prior to each outing. That said, the weather conditions noted on the frontend are merely a forecast, they are not dead set..

Gripping

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The action once you get out onto the track is quite encapsulating. After a few seconds at the start to get your bearings, you're off, and out into the unknown. The detail on the chassis of your car is intricate, and unlike other racers where the body skin switches depending on your level of damage, your car bruises, dents, dirties, slumps and even falls apart. Your windshield and windows can be smashed, your bonnet can become loose, your rear bumper can drag along the ground kicking up sparks! There's a whole world of damage that can be done to your 4WD racer, even though these are all authentic, and many developers of similar titles have run into problems with the car manufacturers over the disintegrating nature of the vehicles as the game purports them. As you drive off into the first turn you change gear and in classic rally style each change in gear provides a little whoof through the exhaust and a dash of flames. The car even drops off momentarily just as you would expect a road vehicle to do. If your gears are set to Automatic Transmission you will have very little control over how this works, but as you gradually learn how to control the game more skilfully you can outperform AT times with relative ease.

Driven in

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Visually CMR 2.0 is very striking. The rolling landscapes tend to suffer from clipping issues in the version we were privy to, but what you can see is remarkable enough. The snow in the Swedish stages is leavened down on the track itself into a firm snow pack, which you skid and sludge your way over, whereas the light fluffy snow to the left and right is a nightmare to grip should you overdo it on a corner. Similarly, in Southern France where the sun is beaming, the tough gritty track isn't hard to move swiftly about on, but the trees packed tightly against the sides and the sharp rocks that surround them can easily be your undoing. The slightly more frivolous additions such as the flashing photographers on the edge of the track at certain points and the way the direction the snow appears to be falling in alters with the orientation of the camera make up the rest of the aesthetic, and it's certainly one area that CMR 2.0 looks like it could succeed in, if only they could cut out that damned clipping problem. When you're not taking in your surroundings you should be driving, and throughout proceedings your nameless partner in the cab next to you (well undoubtedly he has a name but I didn't pick up on it) reels off the various upcoming areas of the track. His advice is pretty damn useful truth be told if you actually pay any attention to it, but the Codies in their infinite wisdom have also included a visual dictation of his instructions via little coloured arrows which appear in the centre of your screen, and indicate how the next corner unfolds.

The rest

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If you're competing against the computer although you won't see your opponents, your screen will flash with their positions relative to you in the top left, keeping you updated pretty well on how you're doing in the grand scheme of things. The CMR 2.0 press releases are touting your opponents' intelligence as "Neural Net AI". We're not quite sure what they mean by that, but it's evidently pretty impressive or you wouldn't find it so difficult to keep up. If you're a little disappointed with your performance at the end of things though it's no trouble to pull up the Action Replay section and with cameraman direction watch the race unfold again. The multiplayer elements of the version we received weren't functional, but the game looks like it will include Network and Online Play elements (the latter through the Codemasters' new online service which hit the headlines in recent weeks).

Conclusion

Although there are a few problems with the game that we would like to see ironed out before its release on December 1st, in its current state it is already shaping up to be one of the if not the best rally game ever developed. Although it will meet with a certain level of competition from rival title Pro Rally 2001 at Ubi-Soft, which looked defiantly impressive at ECTS this year, it should make it out first and should cement the gaps left by the original CMR and refresh the genre for the better.

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