December 08, 2003 - With both Rallisport Challenge and the popular Battlefield 1942 to its credit in 2002, Scandinavian developer DICE became one of the hotter players in the world of videogames. Xbox owners will have to be happy with DICE's talent with racing games because Battlefield is still a PC only franchise and Rallisport Challenge 2 is just around the corner. Enhanced with Xbox Live and XSN Sports functionality, RSC2 also comes with more cars, tracks and customization options than its predecessor. In our most recent look at the game, Rallisport Challenge struck us as even more arcadey and barely hanging on by the grip of its tires. In this case, that's a good thing.
Rally racing fans should really be excited by the car damage system that now affects the performance of your vehicle throughout the race. The severity of the both the damage and the effect it will have on your vehicle can be set separately. That is, a high damage setting means even the slightest tap will wreck big chunks of your car and so a totally disabled wheel or a missing door or hood will happen a lot easier. However, the effect that wheel's performance once it is smashed can range from a little to a lot so that it might take a long time for it to fail or your vehicle may instantly be crippled by that bad wheel. When you play the solo career mode, all of these performance and damage settings will be automated according to the difficulty level you're using. The higher difficulties will make it extremely important to keep your car in one piece because if it fails, that's a tough loss to absorb. You can also smash up your windshield so bad that racing from the cockpit view becomes impossible.
The career mode will have players racing through all different kinds of races including the new crossover duel race. Ice races, rallicross, hill climbs and basic rally races are all back again and all the race types will be presented in branching patterns so that as the player progresses you will have to become proficient at all kinds of races. You'll reach branches in the race progress tree so that after doing a couple of ice races you'll be able to choose from a rally, hill climb or crossover next and even anticipate what type of race you'll want to do after that. This setup means you'll be able to develop your racing abilities across all the race types at a comfortable pace before moving on to tougher races later on in your career. This way you're not thrown off when you're suddenly thrown into an ice race 10 hours into your career. The number of events you'll have to race also increases as you choose higher difficulties so there will be more branching opportunities on the championship setting than the amateur setting.
The new crossover duel race has players racing side by side with a competitor who has a track of his own to follow. Eventually the track you're racing will flow into the beginning of your opponent's track and his will flow into yours so that you eventually end up racing on each other's unique tracks but with in the context of the same race. This type of race makes you worry less about the position of your opponent and more about keeping your eyes open on the course in front of you.
There will be more than 40 vehicles to race in Rallisport Challenge 2 including every championship racer since 1978 according to Microsoft Game Studios. Initially you'll only have a handful of vehicle options for each race type so there will be plenty of unlocking to be done in the solo career mode.
Up to 16 players will be able to race on Xbox Live in hill climbs, rally races, rallicross and ice races. Crossover duels, by definition will only be head-to-head races over Xbox Live. During online races you can use damage/performance settings and car tuning options as criteria for races that you'll be setting up. The advanced car tuning options allow you to micromanage your suspension and brake settings for your desired style of racing. Like we saw in Project Gotham Racing 2, you'll be able to download and race the ghosts of other Xbox Live players who hold records on particular tracks. *
RSC2 feels even more arcadey than the original and the cars feel extremely responsive when you need to quickly reverse or accelerate after a smashing into an object. Handling your car wisely through turns and simply keeping it on the track is going to be the key skill this time around since acceleration seems like it's going to be so even across the lineup of vehicles. Bumps, jumps, ditches and treacherous cliffs are everywhere and so the "Hand of God" reset feature has been refined so that you won't instantly pop back onto the track when you drift a few feet off the track. As a matter of fact, you'll quite often find yourself lodged in trees, between buildings or among rocks and you'll still have full control to accelerate, reverse and steer…if your wheels are still in contact with a surface.
The original RSC was one of the prettier racers on any system and the biggest visual enhancement to this sequel might be the upgraded particle system. In addition to rain and dust being thrown everywhere, you're going to get leaves from the pavement in front of you kicking up onto your windshield. You get lots of debris, bad weather and the dangers of night driving all working at once and RSC2 will be presenting a fairly new challenge. The new crash cam works exactly like the limited cut away system in Need for Speed Underground where you get a 2 second third person perspective on the action when you crash before the game automatically switches back to your driving perspective.
*woo and indeed hoo