It doesn't take an expert to realise that the N64 hasn?t been exactly graced by several great "realistic" driving games. Only the F1 World Grand Prix games (by Paradigm) spring to mind. However, part of the blame for this could be placed on the Playstation. When I talk to my friends about realistic driving games, they start praising the Colin McRae's and Gran Turismo's of this world. Sadly, the N64 cannot offer these illustrious brands. They have the next best thing. Now before anyone gets excited, Top Gear Rally 2 is no classic - but the developers have created a game that should easily satisfy fans of the genre. Anyone who has played the original game will know that realistic handling/car mechanics and well designed courses played a key part in the game's critical (if not so commercial) success. The game also contained a design your car tool, which was a nice touch. The sequel follows on from this (no designing cars though) with some nice improvements. The sequel now features more cars, more tracks (including a random track generator for multiplayer) and a more complex one-player mode. Of greater importance though is the more involvement the player has with the game. The one player mode is no longer a succession of races where you pick a certain car before the race and then must finish ahead of the 20 or so competing cars (you start at the back) to win the race. The sequel boasts a comprehensively more rewarding experience. Players now pick teams to drive for (and more are unlocked as the game progresses) and can upgrade the performance of their vehicle in several categories. Also license tests are now included as well as several leagues (some of which need you to obtain a certain license beforehand). It is obvious from these adjustments that the developers have taken a lot from the Gran Turismo games (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery my mum always says) and I see no problems with that. Whilst the N64 game doesn
9;t nearly offer the same amount of depth as the aforementioned Playstation title, this game still offers good value for money. In terms of difficulty, this game seems to be relatively normal. (i.e easy to pick up, tricky to master) The two-player mode in the game is almost identical to the single player alternative, and passes the time well. It's not particularly riveting, mind. Maybe the developers could have added a few more modes to improve the durability of the multiplayer. The graphics in the game also make this game feel very different to Gran Turismo and Colin McRae, and whilst the background graphics look extremely fuzzy (and now very dated thanks to newer games) this never really affects the gameplay. The courses are now set up into stages like real rallies, and most of them are well designed. It is a big disappointment that only 4 cars can compete at once (ALTHOUGH THERE IS NO 4 PLAYER MODE I SHOULD ADD) yet you are now competing for the best time, so there is a similarity there with the V-Rally games. The sound in the game is nothing to write home about, with the engine noises and damage sounding distinctly average (don't get me started on the theme tune to the game - man I'd like to punch the guy/thing making that racket). Overall I have found this game a pleasing and welcome challenge. Despite the game moving at a snail's pace to begin with, patience (like with a lot of things in life), will reap its own rewards and the game does pick up after a while. It's no world beater, but Top Gear Rally 2 can hold its own against such high-quality competition - just. I've noticed this review is quite short (by my standards) and I've come to reason that I have little complaint with this fine game yet I don't feel like being swallowed up in adultation either. In the end you just wish there were more to the game, but I certainly recommend taking it for a test drive for this price.