While most rally games stick to the tried and trusted courses of Europe for their inspiration, taking in settings such as the forests of northern England and treacherous Alpine passes, Rage are going for a more exotic feel in their latest effort. Enter GTC Africa, coming soon to the PlayStation 2.
Out Of Africa
As the title suggests the game is set entirely in Africa, with a total of 19 circuits ranging from the snow-capped mountains of Tanzania and the deserts of Angola to the streets of Capetown. Scrubland, savannah and jungle tracks are all on the cards, and vehicles from manufacturers such as Ford, Subaru, Mitshubishi and Renault will be included, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
This has all been lovingly recreated in the game by Rage's Warrington studio (formerly flight sim specialist DID), with a staff of just nine developers working on the game for the last 18 months. Despite the relatively small size of the team behind the game, the graphics are amongst the best we have seen on the PlayStation 2 to date. With a combination of nicely detailed cars and some truly breathtaking African scenery to admire as you speed through the dust and mist, this could be one of the first games to emerge from the shadow of the all-conquering Gran Turismo 3.
The whole thing is powered by Rage's own graphics engine, which creates the game's vast open landscapes using "a quilt of Bezier patches", with additional detail filled in dynamically by the PlayStation 2 processor. This allows the terrain to be rendered without any of the usual fogging, distance clipping or 2D backdrops usually seen in racing games. According to project manager Steve Powell, "in GTC Africa you will see a mountain 30 miles away and it's a real 3D mountain in all its glory". And this impressive draw distance should apply to the vehicles and special effects as well - "glinting metal looks superb at middle and long-ranges, and tells the eye that there is a solid metal object there, even from half-a-mile away".
Fact And Fantasy
Despite this attention to detail, the event on which the game is based is pure fantasy - there is no Global Touring Challenge of the kind seen in GTC Africa. Indeed, although there is a challenge mode with a number of lengthy rally-style stages to explore, the main game is based around the idea of six cars in full rally trim racing against each other on a variety of off-road courses, something which obviously doesn't usually happen in real life.
As a result GTC Africa is focused on arcade-style action rather than ultra-realistic simulation, with the aim to give players a "white knuckle ride through terrain that just wants to kill your car". The developers at Rage are hoping that this combination of real world rally cars in an exotic setting with wheel-to-wheel action replacing the usual timed stages will help make the game stand out from the horde of other rally games on the market at the moment, with the likes of Rally Trophy and Master Rallye on the horizon as well.
It's certainly an interesting concept which breaks the mould of the rally sim genre and injects a healthy dose of anarchic fun, and come November we should know whether it has managed to live up to its full potential. At this stage though things are definitely looking promising.