I was never really that into “proper” racing games back in the day. I either wanted my racing games to be filled with colourful characters and assorted hi-jinx, like Mario Kart, or filled with fast paced arcade style fun, such as Ridge Racer. Racing games designed more around simulation and realism just didn’t do it for me.
As a result of this, I never became a fan of the Gran Turismo’s of the genre. I have a hefty amount of respect for them of course and I’d never deny that they weren’t well designed games, but I just have no interest in playing them. I felt the same in regards to the Collin McRae, TOCA and V Rally racing series’ on the PlayStation. I remember that most of them all enjoyed good scores in the magazines of the time, and whenever I saw screen shots I’d be suitably impressed with the graphics, but I was never moved to purchase any of them. I ultimately only purchased V Rally 2: Championship Edition on a mere whim. On one of my trips to Retro-Reload in Stockport, I picked up a couple of PlayStation games in the discount bin, and the shop owner advised me that it was 3 for 2. I looked in the bin and didn’t really see any games I wanted, but I thought it would be a shame to waste the chance of a free game, so I plumped for V Rally just because it was there and I’d heard of it.
For a free game, I more than got my money’s worth.
V Rally 2 enjoyed some healthy scores upon its release, with IGN giving it a superlative 8.5 out of 10, and it’s easy to see why. The games graphics are very nice for the time period, there are plenty of cars to choose from and there’s plenty of tracks to race on. I’ve mentioned before that sometimes when I play a game for this feature I won’t even touch it again once the feature is written. I’ll play it enough to give it a fair shake of the stick and then it goes into a cupboard to be forgotten about. This happens quite often with games I wouldn’t usually play. Even if they are decent and fun, I still won’t tend to play them that much once the feature is finished because, well, I don’t normally play those types of game.
However, sometimes I’ll like a game so much that it’ll linger in my console long after the feature is written because it has that certain special thing that draws me back, even if the genre isn’t one I would normally indulge in. V Rally 2 is very much one of those games. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an all-time classic or anything like that. I think a rating of between 7-8 out of 10 is perfectly fair and sums up the experience I had with it most eloquently. The game isn’t going to make my Top 10 list anytime soon, but it’s certainly one I’ll look back on fondly forevermore now that I’ve had a chance to play it.
Would I have liked it as much if I’d played it back in 1999 when it first came out? I’d probably say no, as I’m not sure I would have had the patience for it back in my younger days. The game hardly has the instant pick up and play feel of a Mario Kart or Burnout. It took me a while to get used to the way the rally cars handled at first and often I’d end up careening from one side of the track to the other like a dodgem. There is an option for brake assistance on corners, but I felt that this would make the game too easy, and thus decided not to use it. I wasn’t hearty enough to try manual transmission over automatic however. That being said, I’ve yet to play a racing game that gets the feel of manual transmission right anyway. The natural progression between gears becomes deeply ingrained in you after years of driving, so it’s always jarring and inauthentic when you try it in a video game setting. (Or at least it is to me at any rate)
With practice though, I was able to get a little bit better and I improved gradually until I was relatively competent after a few hours playing, to the point I could finish overall 2nd in the Rally Championship Mode at my first proper attempt. Like most rally games, knowing when and how sharply to brake is the deciding factor on most courses. I often found that I was either braking too much, and thus not finishing the courses quickly enough, or I wasn’t breaking enough and was flying into the scenery as a result. It never got to the point where I wanted to stop playing though, which only stands as a positive for the game as whole. I wanted to keep playing and try to get better, rather than getting frustrated and moving on to something else.
You start out with 16 cars to choose from, with others that can be unlocked as you complete different games modes. The modes on offer are the standard time trial, arcade, V Rally Cup and a full on Rally Championship. Arcade Mode and V Rally Cup are notable because you race with three other CPU controlled racers, where as in Time Trial and Rally Championship you have the track all to yourself. I must admit that I prefer the latter, as the CPU controlled opponents can be real bastards. With precision being so important, getting rammed up the backside by a sneering computerised rival can often lead to instant destruction of both your car and your dreams of victory.
The tracks are atmospheric and make excellent use of differing weather conditions to create variety. For example, in Indonesia you race on a rain soaked muddy track as the heavens beat down upon you. Meanwhile, in Sweden you race in thick snow and ice that causes your car to swerve into danger at a moments notice. The graphics are nicely detailed and the weather genuinely does affect the overall race experience. You can kit your car out with special tyres and brakes when racing in the snow, but ultimately it’s down to your racing skills on whether you’ll finish the course quickly enough.
I personally think the graphics hold up pretty well, even to modern eyes. There’s no doubting that they look a little jagged these days, but I still think they’re relatively aesthetically pleasing. Certainly, they were to an excellent standard at the time of the games release and I feel they still have character and charm even 17 years later.
I’d certainly recommend V Rally 2: Championship Edition. I know I got it on a freebie, but a trip to amazon reveals that you can get the game for a mere penny plus postage and packaging anyway. I’d say that if you’re a hard-core racing fan, you need to have this in your collection. If you’re an outsider like me, I think the game is accessible enough that there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get something out of it. There’s certainly no issue of longevity; as there’s plenty of cars to drive and plenty of races to win. It’s a big thumbs up from me. In fact, I might just go and play it some more once this over!
As always, I’ll post some footage of the game below.
Thanks for reading
Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum
You can watch YouTube Footage of the game, courtesy of World of Longplays, by clicking HERE
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