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     " Even Ronald Reagan could comprehend the simplicity of the controls... "

   Title: Mobil 1 Rally Championship (Rally Championship to our UK readers)

   Format: Win 95/98 PC

   Reviewing Monkey: The Goodyear Chimp

   The Hype: The box practically screams at you from its orange packaging, "Race across the British Isles with terrain, weather, and cars so real you have to wipe the mud off your monitor! The spectacular landscape of the Mobil 1 Rally Championship is stunningly re-created, and the sharp turns, severe rain, and multiple viewpoints add to the rally racing intensity. So strap in, push the pedal to the metal, and prepare to attack the course in the most realistic motor racing simulation ever created." WellÖ

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Graphics: "Waiter, thereís a fly on my screen." Thatís how good weíre talking here. With the exception of some boxiness on less-important car features (headlights), everything is slick. The stages are of a more standard quality than the cars but I wouldnít have it any other way. The cars are all designed to look exactly like their real-life counterparts. You can compare CGI to the real thing by checking out the slideshow on each vehicle on their individual specifications page. By the quality of the rendering, you can tell that someone at Magnetic Fields has a major Jones for the rally. The graphics need to be this picturesque in order to make the included replay function worth your time: trust me, it is. There are moments when car and scenery come together nearly photo-realistically and you have only a second to appreciate it on the road (before you fly through a hay bale), so itís nice to be able to replay it for "oohs and ahs." 4 out of 5

   Sound: Does it really get this whiney in a rally car? A friend of mine, fond of auto racing, didnít seem bothered by it but those suckers hum at the most annoying pitch. The music in the game is standard techno fare but does the job of putting you in the mood. What really cracks me up is the voice of your co-pilot/navigator. Once you select male or female (English only) and get on the road, it will take a moment to adjust to someone hollering directions for the road ahead. True, turns do appear symbolically at the top of your monitor as you race but youíll be able to keep both eyes on the road with a partner. As an added bonus, the British accent makes certain phrases humorous to American ears. The first time my female co-pilot said, "Yure gooing the rung wey," I had to chuckle. 3 out of 5

   Game Play: If youíre going to go to all the trouble of having extremely realistic vehicle damage, make sure that collisions donít look like those of rubber balls. I was so annoyed the first time I plowed another driverówhile jockeying for position of courseóand we repelled each other like bumper cars. What is that crap? Everything else is gorgeous. The force feedback is realistic even down to the different shakes and rattles for different kinds of damage. Even for non-force-enhanced players, races are exciting and require planning and a cool hand. Playing the repair vs. race game takes a decent amount of strategy. Itís all great until you bump heads with another vehicle and just bounce away. 3 out of 5

   Level and Environment Designs: Iíll be straight with you. Iíve never driven any of the Rally courses in Europe. Still, when the box indicates that every track is faithfully transferred straight from the gritty roads to your computer, Iím inclined to believe them. The only lame bit is that you canít drive your car off the side of a cliff though thereís clearly one indicated by the slope of the curb. Driving games with invisible boundaries bother this monkey just a teeny bit. Other than that, everything is properly twisty with a few straight-aways thrown in for throttle junkies like me. One word of warning to future players: you'll grow to hate the word "chicane." 4 out of 5

   Multiplayer: Up to four players can whup ass over the regular TCP connections. Interestingly, thereís an option for two-driver alternating play. With the length of the levels, Iím going to bet that player two could cook lunch waiting for player one to wrap up a rally but whatever. All the multiplayer basics are here but nothing spectacular is added. 3 out of 5

   Replayability: : I challenge all you bastards that hog the Rush machines at the arcade to memorize these tracks. Some of the Rally courses have six legs that all clock in at twelve minutes or more. Itís hard enough to play through everything the first time much less re-play those tracks. Youíll be spinning wheels for months and then the real rallies will be on, so youíll turn into a different kind of couch potato. 4 out of 5

   Story/Dramatics: Once again, my favourite section for this type of game. Uhm, youíre a rally driver in a race. Yeah, thatís it. I could never argue that racing sims are required to have stories but I canít give high marks for the lack of one. The crowds cheering around every turn and the race announcer booming the statistics of the next leg bring the score for dramatics up a bit. 3 out of 5

   Instructions and Learning Curve: Get in car. Step on accelerator. Even Ronald Reagan could comprehend the simplicity of the controls and the manual goes through the motions just like youíd expect. What the included instructions fail to explain clearly is how the hell youíre supposed to operate the replay. I know that itís such a kick ass feature that youíll fiddle with it till dawn but someone should have dropped a clue so that fiddling wouldnít go toward figuring out the basics. 2 out of 5

   Installation and Real System Requirements: Installs quick, runs smooth like Andre Agassiís head. A friend borrowed this and explained that it did perform as indicated on a Pentium 300 with an 8Mb video card. (Pentium 266 w/8Mb video--reviewer tested on PIII 550 w/32Mb TNT2 video) 4 out of 5

   The Verdict:

       You can tell this game is British even before it flashes the alert "Tyres Worn" but itís probably as close as weíre going to get to watching the rallies in America.

   The Good: Crisp graphics, ultra-sweet replay feature, plays forever.

   The Bad: Weird collision mechanics, lack of instruction for ultra-sweet replay feature, plays forever.

   The Overall Ugly: Totally worth putting some time into, particularly for owners of a wheel.

   What it's Worth: All $30, amigos. By Magnetic Fields. Also available for the PlayStation ($40 but I wonít promise anything). http://www.rallychampionship.net/

Buy it now from Amazon.com for the Playstation






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