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Colin McRae Rally 2.0

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Spellbound Studios
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:

Just as I felt when I got done playing my first session of Colin McRae on PlayStation, the exhilaration of rally racing is no less thrilling on Game Boy Advance when Colin's behind the wheel. Or really, when you're behind the wheel.

Not visually stunning, but entirely up to the task, it was a little disappointing at first to see some grainy textures and a level of detail that overall was not too high. But, the cars at least look like complete models instead of shifting clouds of pixels, as I've seen in other GBA racers. The speed and consistency of the race environments would suggest the graphics are optimized for speed. The amount of action on-screen in the H.U.D. can be a little distracting actually. But at no time does anything seem to lag. The instructions from Nicky, your co-driver, are given audibly and also shown on the screen in road-sign looking indicators. If you're not familiar with rally racing, these signs and the commands Nicky gives you are the rally version of a visual map, but better. Listening to the commands, you'll be able to tell how sharp a curve is, what gear you should be in to take the curve, and where there might be obstacles or dangerous spots in the road. As I said, the visual interface is sometimes too cluttered for the little screen, but it really brings the rally world home to GBA.


Rally experience has never been more true than now for the GBA. Colin McRae 2.0 is every bit as engaging as you'd want any racing game to be, but it carries the extra realism and atmosphere you want in a rally game. What is it about rally that makes the difference? Well, for starters, it's a race against the clock and not against other cars. While this might sound boring compared to the jostling you're accustomed to in NASCAR, the purity of beating the clock ends up being more of a thrill and a challenge than any bump and grind speedway. Arcade Mode offers a pretty simple version of rally, with you taking the track to beat the clock in a run where you actually see the other cars. It's similar to the runs you do in some games against a 'ghost' image of yourself, because there's no knocking the other cars around. Arcade mode is really a cheat to rally purists out there, but it's a nice accessible way to get comfortable with the handling and see more traditional action. When you plug in 3 other players via the Game Link cable, you can get even more out of Arcade Mode. Really, there are just 2 modes, Rally and Arcade. Rally, as you might expect, is a single player experience, and home of the Championship mode that unlocks all the 'extras' in the game. Once you have some courses under your belt, it's time to invite your friends over and jump into Arcade Mode for a Championship where up to 3 other players can compete. The options for racing and the way the races are structured is simpler in Arcade, but the action is no less intense.

Some of the important numbers to have at hand when making a buying decision on this game are that you'll have licensed cars from various high-end models like Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Toyota to Colin's own Ford Focus. Just like the one you see on the street...except his costs 500 G's. No lie. 6 countries with multiple rally stages wait for you, along with multiple difficulty levels (some locked) with special challenge and head-to-head races. Before and after a stage, you'll have a chance to customize your car, make repairs and get ready for the next competition. Each time you make repairs, you'll have a limited time to complete everything, so don't beat that car up too much!


The physics and handling these cars display is humbling. Not frustrating in the poorly designed sense, but executed well enough to represent the tricky handling these cars have. Especially in poor conditions, you'll find that handling changes drastically, and the differences between each of the cars is significant according to weight and horsepower. Learning the shorthand Nicky uses to instruct you on the upcoming track takes time, and all those little signals just seem intrusive at first. But, when you get to know the flow and can read the visual and verbal signals, you'll find you're much better prepared to handle even the toughest tracks. Especially the toughest tracks.

Game Mechanics:

Colin McRae 2.0 uses a control scheme out of the box that puts shifting on the D-Pad up/down and uses a shoulder button for hand-brake. In a control scheme such as the GBA's, this is a nice solution. Granted, it doesn't always seem the most intuitive compared to shifting on the shoulder buttons, but it works and you get used to it. Controls are definitely right on target and highly sensitive. None of this mushy handling for the developers over at Spellbound! Push hard on the D-Pad and you're likely to put the car in a spin. Sometimes the realism and accurate handling even gets a bit irritating for a portable racer like this. Going around corners hitting bumps and going up on 2 wheels is disconcerting, as is the 360-degree spins you do sometimes in especially poor conditions. The way cars respond to weather change and conditions on the road is masterful. Without any high level of customization, there is still a chance to monkey around with what's under the hood. Not permanent or deep changes, but enough to get you through the race. A default suggestion always comes up, but you can tweak torque, braking and steering or just change the tires. Experience showed me that most times the game was dead on in its setup, but it doesn't know how you like to drive, after all. In Arcade Mode, you just have to go with the recommendation anyway, so trust me when I say it's smart enough. The game manual goes through an elaborate explanation of how you can decode the signals your co-driver gives you, and everything else about navigating the game is highly intuitive.

Having watched the franchise land and played it with lots of love in the past, I'm glad to see such a worthy version released for the small console. GBA might eventually improve a game like this with graphics upgrades, but I'm hard pressed to imagine a substantial improvement in gameplay or mechanics. Really, for what I remember as the experience of playing Mr. McRae on the PlayStation, this recent GBA release captures the magic and brings hardcore rally racing...into your pocket! Now the question becomes: Is that a 'turn 2 left, care tree inside' in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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