I absolutely loved Rallisport Challenge on the original Xbox. The 4-player split screen mayhem felt great for an arcade-style racer that you could just grab and play without needing much knowledge in terms of how the cars worked or what you needed to do before each race. I miss those days. They are basically gone due games like Gran Turismo, Forza, and even the Dirt series moving the genre towards a more simulation-style. V-Rally 4 is no different and causes somewhat of a headache in the process with their repetitive tracks and painstaking car controls.
Sometimes you just want to get a racing game and play it. You want it to control well, be fun and give you a little bit of competition along the way even if you crash. On the easiest difficulty this is a non-issue but who wants to play a racing game and just breeze through the competition, even lapping cars multiple times in the process? Maybe some people but not me.
The last V-Rally title came out during the PS2 era of gaming. That’s a long time ago. That means that there was plenty of time to get this right and even though it is a new developer in Kylotonn Studios, the makers of WRC 7, it’s puzzling how the game is still so underwhelming in many areas.
V-Rally 4 wants to be an arcade-style racing game but comes across as a wannabe simulation title by giving the option to manipulate so many parts of the vehicles. The realism in which a vehicle makes its way around the track is so different from car to car that frustration can set in when doing a six-lap race. You can tune the vehicles to be perfect for you but grabbing a car and just starting a race isn’t practical. One slippery corner basically takes you out of the race and unable to catch up. Speaking of courses, there are twenty-two tracks to race around and for some reason this feels low. Don’t get me wrong, it must take a while to develop the tracks from scratch but there are games out there that have a lot more options than this.
Campaign mode allows you to get lost in menus choosing between events and where to spend your money, whether that’s on hiring engineers, agents or purchasing new vehicles and upgrades. There is nothing original about the flow compared to other games. Find a race, try and win it so that you can accumulate money in order to find yet another race.
The various modes within the game make the package a little more enticing but once again have been explored in other titles before. Your choices include rally racing with a co-driver, rally cross, buggy racing, hill climbs, and Extreme-khana (essentially time-trial) as well as some online and 2 player split screen choices. I would recommend sticking with the co-driver rally races because they offer the most in terms of course variants.
There are over 50 vehicles in V-Rally 4, which is impressive, but it is not the number of cars that players should be focusing on. The issue at hand is the mechanics for driving these cars. I am not convinced that there was a lot of polish put into the development of each vehicle’s systems. If this was truly an “arcade” style racing game then the difficulty wouldn’t be exponentially harder when one slip-up happens. Each vehicle felt either very light or very heavy. Controlling these weights was made even more challenging when even a slight turn of the joystick would questionably cause your car to go sideways into a wall even at slow speeds. I had to ask myself over and over again why it felt like playing on an ice rink for a majority of the tracks rather than a road where traction exists.
On the plus side the graphics are beautiful and the audio design is exceptional. Racing games have always been able to truly showcase environments, tracks, and cars in superb ways. I always find it weird that music doesn’t play while you are racing but it makes sense when you are in co-driver mode trying to listen to someone else talking. I just wish there was an option to turn on some tunes other than playing my own outside of the game.
V-Rally 4 is another racing game to add to the collection. I know that isn’t saying much but it truly is just another itch to scratch. If you have a hankering for some licensed cars and a decent amount of modes you may find some solace in this title. Otherwise, there is nothing too special here and there could have been a lot more work put into it to make it more engaging, especially for the campaign mode.